Friday, October 26, 2012

The Genki Spark / Pilgrimage to the Past: Tule Lake and the Japanese Incarceration Why it Matters Today

The Genki Spark just sent out updated info on their Tule Lake lecture next week. Looks like it's going to be a great event. I believe this is the 4th Japanese American incarceration-related event in Boston this year. I've posted about Eric Muller and Wendy Maruyama's talks, but have yet to finish my post on Konrad Aderer's film showing at the Boston Palestine Film Festival.

Dr. Sus Ito, a veteran from the 442nd, will be in attendance. 

Apologies for the formatting fail. I just copied this out of The Genki Spark email and don't have the time to figure out how to make it happy with Blogger.

Tule
Pilgrimage to the Past: Tule Lake and the Japanese Incarceration
Why this Matters Today

Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 6:00pm - 9:00pm
(doors open 5:30pm, refreshments served)

Wolffe Auditorium, Tuffs Medical Center
Boston, MA
Free and Open to the Public
Tule
On February 19, 1942, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Executive Order 9066 was enacted which forcibly relocated 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry to camps for up to 6 years. The majority of those incarcerated were US citizens. Tule Lake was the largest of the camps and arguably the most controversial.  www.TuleLake.org
In July 2012, 12 members of The Genki Spark with nearly 400 others, participated in a pilgrimage to Tule Lake, CA to learn more about the history of the camp and to honor the elders affected by the decades of anti-Japanese violence, discrimination, and propaganda. We had the priviledge of being part of a supportive community attempting to face and shed light on this deeply damaging event while celebrating triumph in an attempt to heal. For many of us, this was a deeply personal journey.
"I want to go to honor my father's legacy."
  - Monique Morimoto, performing member
Tule
Come hear the powerful experiences and personal stories of our members from the pilgrimage. Also join in a discussion about the discrimination that continues in our broader communities today.
Program:

5:30   Doors Open, Networking, and Reception

6:00   Welcome and Introductions
         History of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, Slide Show, and 
         Personal Stories

7:00   Honorary Guest/s: Dr. Sus Ito and additional members
         of our nisei/elder community 
         Question and Answer

7:45   Creative and Artistic presentation: In Honor of Our Voices

8:00   Why and How This Matters Today
         Breakout Groups on issues such as: Islamophobia, Immigration and Deportation Rights, Systematic Targeting of Youth, and Addressing Issues on a Personal Level
8:45   Closing, Wrap-Up

Location: Tufts Medical Center-Wolff Auditorium
800 Washington Street, Boston, MA

Public Transit/MBTA:
Orange line: Tufts Medical Center or Green line: Boylston
Bonnibel Drum
The Genki Spark is a multi-generational Asian women's performance troupe that leads workshops, sponsors events, and conducts performances that build community and promote creativity while advocating respect for all. www.TheGenkiSpark.org Like us on Facebook
The Genki Spark is a fiscally sponsored project of ASPIRE, (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence) a Boston based nonprofit organization serving Asian American women and girls.
Bonnibel Drum
Sponsored by
The Genki Spark
Co-sponsored by: 
The Boston Women's Fund and The Haymarket People's Fund
Hosted by: 
Tufts Medical Center
Register
Free and Open to the Public
Useful Links:

NY Times Article
NY times

Herald and News Article
Herald and News




The Genki Spark
Facebook Album

Tule Lake
Questions?
Please Contact 
Van Lee:
Van@TheGenkiSpark.org
Join Our Mailing List

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ramen coming to Central Square?

Some of you may have heard that H Mart, the Korean grocery chain, is coming to Central Square. One of my Japanese friends told me a few days ago that he heard there will be ramen in the food court. No idea if it's true, but just thought I'd mention it. Will update if I hear more.

Boston Asian American Film Festival


The 2012 Boston Asian American Film Festival starts tonight! It runs through Sunday at several venues around town. There are two films by Japanese American filmmakers: Model Minority, directed by Lily Mariye (Saturday @ The Paramount Center) and short film, People Aren't All Bad, directed by Matthew Hashiguchi (Sunday @ The Paramount Center). Sadly, it doesn't look like either of them will be in attendance.

Earlier this month the BAAFF co-presented Enemy Alien, a really powerful documentary by Japanese American filmmaker, Konrad Aderer, at the Boston Palestine Film Festival. He did a Q&A and a few of us went for drinks with him afterwards. I've been meaning to write about it, but have been too busy writing about ramen. I was sorry the film didn't get more publicity in Boston's Asian American community - I think there were only five of us in attendance.

There are many other interesting looking films by non-Japanese Asians and a lot of the directors are planning to attend (see press release for details). Check it out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gyu-Kaku coming to Brookline

Months ago a friend told me that a Japanese yakiniku chain was going to open in Boston but I completely forgot to look into it. Tonight my fellow volunteer at Yume Wo Katare reminded me about it. He heard that it's a franchise and the owner isn't Japanese, but that shouldn't matter. It's going into the former Ginza location. I didn't even know they'd closed.

Update 4/28/13: Gyu-Kaku had their soft opening a couple of weeks ago. I haven't made it there yet, but the report from a friend who ate their a week ago is that Gyu-Kaku in NYC is better, but it's still good. Per their website (and a phone convo I had with them), you should call for a reservation.

Night 6 @ Yume Wo Katare: Craziness in the rain

Please see my Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare post 
for more information.

6:09pm

I thought that the rain would keep people away tonight but by 5:45pm there were 55 people in line. By 6pm the line was already to the end of Dunkin Donuts. The first guy told me he got in line at 4:30pm!!! That's the earliest the line has started. Doors opened at 5:50pm and the line was closed at 9:25pm, apparently because they were running out of broth. The wait was well over 2 hours for a lot of people. By 7pm, around 40 people had gotten in and received their food, but things slowed down later on. There were some particularly slow eaters tonight. The last customers were in the door by 10:25pm but didn't get their food another 10:45pm.

The crowd tonight was very heavily MIT. Twenty people showed up from Sloan and I saw at least 2 others from MIT (they had an MIT umbrella :). The Sloan guys told me that someone had invited a few friends and then it turned into a chain mail and the next thing they knew there were 20 of them. They had to split up into several groups.

8:27pm

There were a lot more families with young kids than I've seen before. When one family got to the front of the line the little boy was jumping up and down yelling, "Tabetai! Tabetai! Tabetai!" (want to eat!). It was pretty funny. Earlier in the night I'd actually heard an adult in line yelling, "I'm hungry!" Someone in line asked me why there was a seat that had been empty for the hours she'd been standing in line. Just because there's an empty seat, doesn't mean that it's available. The number of people who are let in next is based on the number of each group. They usually only let 5 or 6 people in at a time, but sometimes it's only 4. They generally won't let people jump the queue by more than a few people, so if a group of 4 is followed by groups of 4, 5, 3, and 2, the group of 2 can't move ahead.

I know it's frustrating for people to see an open seat, but they've figured out a system to work for them. The main reason the line moves so slowly is that many people eat slowly, talk, text, and surf the Internet while they're eating, and sometimes continue to sit at the table after they've finished eating. If people ate quickly and left without chatting with their friends for 30 minutes, the line would move more quickly. Being Japanese, the owners are too polite to rush people out the door. It surprises me that after waiting in line for 2 hours people aren't more mindful of the people behind them. 

I asked my fellow volunteer how long it takes him to eat ramen and he said 10 minutes. Even when I hurry and don't talk, it takes me a good 15-20 minutes to eat Yume Wo Katare ramen. He said to me that girls always eat more slowly. I gather that most men in Japan can inhale a bowl of ramen in 5-10 minutes.

9:01pm

People continue to ask me when the best day/time is to come and I still don't have a good answer. I thought the rain would deter people but it seems not. It was surprisingly warm tonight so maybe if it's cold and rainy on a weeknight, maybe that would deter people, but on the other hand, that's perfect ramen weather. You really need to be in the first 6-12, although if the line starts at 4:30pm, then you're still going to be waiting a long time for your ramen. It seems that you ought to get in arrive by 9pm to ensure the line hasn't closed.

10:15pm

This is what the guys eat at the end of a long night.
10:45pm Bowl #5!

Itadakimasu!

I really am beginning to think that getting through a bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen is a process of building up endurance. I did better tonight than I did on Wednesday night and left less broth behind.

Gochisousama deshita!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Original Yume Wo Katare

Please see my Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare post 
for more information.

Just came across a Japanese post with lots of pictures from 夢 を 語れ (Yumewokatare), the original shop in Kyoto that the Nishiokas opened in 2006. The ramen looks exactly the same. In Japan they have nifty vending machines where you buy your ramen tickets/tokens.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Night 5 @ Yume Wo Katare: Less crazy


for more information.

I wasn't at the restaurant tonight but I saw the line as I was driving home, so stopped by to see how things were going. The line was about 15 people at 9:15pm, although it could always jump towards 10pm. The folks doing crowd control outside told me that it was less busy tonight. Ran into a couple of friends who were eating at the counter!

Night 4 @ Yume Wo Katare: Still crazy


for more information.

8:13pm

Rar. Found out last night when I got home after over 7 hours at Yume Wo Katare that there was a hater on Yelp who'd said I was an employee and that my review was fake. I actually like their ramen. If I hadn't, I probably would have just posted some pictures and no review. People have assumed that I'm an employee, but I'm just one of several friends volunteering to help them out. I don't think the Nishiokas had any idea how high the demand for their ramen would be. They already have fans and there were many repeat customers last night. The lines have been insane every night and I get the feeling it's not going to die down any time soon, especially as word gets out and people keep coming back. Which is great, because although this is the 7th ramen shop they've opened, it's the only one they currently own, so it's like starting from scratch. It was certainly a gamble to come to the US and open a shop with a style of ramen (Jiro) that is love it or hate it.  They are looking to hire staff but although they've had some inquiries, nothing has panned out yet.

So, I'm working for free ramen and an all access backstage pass to the workings of an authentic Japanese ramen shop which I then write about here for the public. I try to stay out of the way when I'm taking pictures and not ask too many questions, just watch, listen, and learn as I go. I won't help out forever, but they need the help and it's fun for me.

I had half a spinach knish from Kupel's and some Raspberry Noosa Yoghurt (first time and it was delicious) before heading out to Yume Wo Katare. Early in the evening it wasn't too bad opening the door but as the hours went by I got hungrier and hungrier. About halfway through the night I had some delicious apple cake baked by a friend of the Nishiokas. I was good for a little while, but late in the evening standing inside the restaurant was torture. My fellow volunteer and I couldn't wait until it was time to eat. When the line dropped after 9pm we got very excited, but by 10pm the line had jumped to 27. We closed the line at 10:05pm. The last customers didn't get their food until 11:25pm.

By 5:45 the line was past the edge of the window.

I took some notes but managed to lose them over the course of the evening, so I'll write what I can remember. Last night the line started at 5:15pm. You really want to be in the first 6 or 12 to get in with the first group. By the time they're open the wait seems to be well over an hour. We actually opened at about 5:50pm. The first (repeat) customer was out the door by 6:15pm and I think we started seating the next 12 by 6:30pm. We got 30 people in the door and eating by 7pm, but things slow down substantially as the night goes on because some people eat slowly. You can't judge the wait by how many people are in line because many people are waiting for friends.

The line at 5:59pm after the first 6 people were let in.

I forgot to ask what the count was at the end of the night but I'm pretty sure it was over 100. Saturday and Tuesday were about the same at 110. I noticed it's going to rain this weekend. I'm wondering if that will keep the crowds away.

My fellow volunteer is ready to stuff ramen into his mouth.

11:25pm At last! Bowl #4.

Mine is not as tall as the others.

I was right that you need to be starving to finish. This was the first time I managed to eat all my food and some of the broth. I also learned from reading other sites about Jiro-kei ramen that the way to do it is to eat quickly, eat the noodles first and the rest later. There's no shame in not finishing the broth, although damn impressive if you can.

Gochisousama deshita!

Tsuyoshi-san finished his ramen in 5 minutes flat and went right back to work. I think it took me about 15-20 minutes.

Update 9:40pm: Stopped by Yume Wo Katare and found out last night was almost 130 people, so close to Friday night's crowd. People have asked me when is the best night/time to go and it's really hard to know. I'd guess that when the weather is bad people will be less motivated to stand in line, but so far the cold hasn't deterred too many people. From what I've seen you really need to be first or last in line to have the shortest wait.

Yume Wo Katare original Yelp review


for more information.

Update 10/20/12: I just got home to a message from Yelp that my review was removed on the 19th for violating their Content Guidelines. I admit it's been a while since I read them and I didn't know that I wasn't allowed to post because I'm friends with them (nevermind that I only met them last Thursday). So, my bad for posting. My original review and the disclaimer that was up for less than a day addressing accusations in a negative review are below.

My first bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen.

I'm going to cut my Yelp review when it's not down for maintenance to address some complaints. This was my original review posted on 10/12/12.

4 stars

I was privileged to have a preview bowl of ramen a few hours ago (around 1:30am). It was very tasty, but I couldn't finish. The noodles are thicker than what other ramen shops in Boston serve - closer to Okinawa soba, but not quite as thick as udon. I had Okinawa soba at Sunrise last time I was in Hawaii - I think the texture is similar but it was a few years ago so I can't be sure. The noodles are chewy (their sign refers to it as being al dente), which is the preferred Japanese preparation. I'm told that they're using flour imported from Japan, although when it runs out, they'll be switching to US flour (11/26/12: They're still using Nisshin Seifun). I got mine without garlic (allergic). Veggies were crunchy and went well with the chewy noodles. I'm sad to say I couldn't really taste the seabura, I think because I'm congested. I really enjoyed my ramen, but it's a little too rich for me to have regularly.

Yume Wo Katare offers only pork ramen - Ramen (2 slices - $12 tax included) & Buta Ramen (which is extra pork - 5 slices - $14 tax included). Both come with more than double the amount of noodles most other ramen shops serve - 350g, thick slices of rich flavorful pork, plus a heaping serving of cabbage & bean sprouts, and generous servings of fresh minced garlic and seabura (pork back fat) if you want them. The veggies and seabura are free and if you want additional, you can ask for it, although I really can't imagine why anyone would need more!

If you like the pork so much you want more, you can get 500g to take home for $15. It's both salty and a little sweet. Quite delicious.

The man behind the counter making the ramen is Tsuyoshi Nishioka. This is his 7th ramen shop (5 still open in Japan and they've been bought by the guys who managed them for Nishioka-san). He's passionate about ramen and has wanted to open a ramen shop in the US since 2008. His wife Naomi will also be working until they can staff up.

The restaurant is very tiny - 16 seats. If you can get a seat at the counter, that's where you want to be.

You'll notice lots of frames on the wall - they're for rent to post your "dreams". There are 3 main sizes - 1 month ($10), 3 months ($30) 6 months ($50), 1 year ($100). Then there's one 10 year frame for $10,000! Some folks have put in stuff like "girlfriend" or "make friends from music business" but there's one enterprising golf performance coach who is using it for advertising. If your dream comes true by the end of your rental period, you win stuff. 3 months is a bowl of ramen, I think 6 months may be a t-shirt and 1 year is a special clock.

Bring your appetite, bring friends, bring your dreams, and bring cash! They don't take credit cards.

Update 10/13/12: 2nd bowl of Yume ramen tonight. I've decided that Yume Wo Katare ramen is like ramen on steroids, with crack (seabura). I could taste the seabura tonight - delicious pork fat, but I can only handle a few pieces and I'm done. My mistake last night was that I was only eating the smaller bits. You really can't get a sense of it unless you eat one of the big hunks. There was one brave vegetarian tonight (he later explained he is Muslim). He requested noodles and veggies only. Nishioka-san wasn't about to serve just noodles and veggies so he dressed it up with some soy sauce and a heap of bonito flakes. I also saw them give him some black pepper. :)

I forgot to mention drinks - bottled water $1, iced unsweetened green or oolong $2, Red Bull $3.

T-shirts also for sale for $15. Unfortunately, size M only. They appear to come in at least a dozen colors.

If you get cold while waiting, Dunkin is conveniently right there.

Lastly, if there's a line, please wait on the sidewalk behind the "line" at the corner of the stairs. Blocking the stairs is a fire hazard. There's a little bit of room for customers on deck for ramen to wait inside - about 4 or 5 people.

Update 10/14/12: I forgot to mention that these aren't your average slices of ramen pork like Pikaichi & Sapporo serve. These are much thicker. The pork is rolled and tied, marinated for a few hours in a soy sauce-based marinade, then cooked.

I wanted to write some notes for the allergic since as someone with food allergies, I'm always having to figure out where I can safely eat. There are more ingredients than just the ones posted on their menu sign. They're still learning English so if you have a severe food allergy it might be risky. Ingredients I know are involved: wheat, soy, pork (the broth is pork broth and there's no alternative available), cabbage & bean sprouts (cooked together), garlic (also in the broth), corn starch, potato starch, shiitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, MSG.

A very important note for the strictly observant & pork-allergic - the same tongs are used to handle the noodles, veggies, and pork, so even if you request only noodles & veggies, the tongs will have touched pork. It's possible that if you request they use different utensils, they might, but because of the fast pace, I wouldn't count on it.

Disclaimer added 10/18/12:

10/18/12: I had to cut a bunch of my review to include this disclaimer. I feel I have to say something due to another reviewer's incorrect assumptions. For the record, I'm not an employee of YWK, although I am friends with the owners. I met them the day before they opened and ended up helping out by accident, in part because I'm fluent in English and they're not. I keep going back because I've been having fun. They absolutely didn't solicit this review or any others (anyone who knows Japanese culture would know that they would never do that since it would be totally impolite) and had no idea that I posted it until after I told them. One of our friends asked me why I didn't give it 5 stars and I said that 4 stars was my honest review because the ramen is a little on the rich side for me. I do love it, but I just can't eat it as often as Pikaichi. Although it's possible it's an acquired taste. I turned down ramen on Tues because I left early but then was thinking about it when I was trying to fall asleep. I had my 4th bowl on Wed and was able to finish all the food (although not all the broth). YWK currently has only 1 employee and I don't think he's even on Yelp.

A lot of people have complained about the lack of variety. I think it was Eater that described their thing as "do one thing really well." Yume Wo Katare is a Jiro-style ramen restaurant. That's all it is and that's all they plan for it to be. If you don't like it, you can vote with your dollars by eating at other establishments. They get that not everyone will like their style of ramen and the people who really do will thank you for not making the line longer.

Follow all the drama:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yume Wo Katare runner-up in NY Street Ramen Contest!!!


for more information.


I tried to find this info earlier but couldn't. I just did one final search before turning in and found out that Yume Wo Katare got runner-up in Round 3 of the NY Street Ramen Contest! Yay! That means they'll compete against the 3 winners and 2 other runners-up.


That's Tsuyoshi-san in red on the left. He looks really excited. 

Date and location of the 2012 Championship Round have yet to be announced.

Tsuyoshi-san's cap

More photos over @ GO RAMEN!.

Wendy Maruyama: Executive Order 9066 - Artist Talk & Exhibit @ SAC

If you don't know about the Japanese American incarceration during WWII, you may find my introductory post helpful.

This post is way overdue. There's still time to see the exhibit. It closes 11/3/12.

On Saturday, September 22nd,  I attended Wendy Maruyama's artist talk about her work on Executive Order 9066, an exhibit currently on display at The Society of Arts & Crafts Gallery on the second floor at 175 Newbury St., Boston, MA. The exhibit is free and worth checking out. It's small, but very powerful. It's unusual to have this kind of exhibit in New England. I don't know if we've ever had an exhibit about the Japanese American incarceration in Boston before. This is the first one I've ever heard of. Wendy attended BU, so she said that in a way this was like coming home for her.

Wendy's talk and exhibit dovetailed nicely with the talk I went to on Friday - Professor Eric Muller spoke at UMass Boston about his book, Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in WWII.






Wendy's talk covered her earlier work when she was studying furniture-making, and the work she created after she was done with school, a brief explanation of the Japanese American incarceration and her family's experience, and how she came to recreate the 120,000 tags that were issued to Japanese and Japanese Americans when they were shipped off to the camps. Wendy has a great sense of humor which sometimes shows up in her work (a chair inspired by Mickey Mousea cabinet featuring Godzilla, and a tea house featuring Hello Kitty sliding doors). Interspersed between the serious subject matter she showed us pictures of her dogs and cats. 

Wendy is a sansei and like most Japanese Americans, her family didn't talk about their camp experience. Most of what she learned about the incarceration she discovered when she was doing research for E.O. 9066. At the end of her talk she showed us this fantastic video by Xavier Vasquez of Studio 6608 documenting the making of The Tag Project.


After the talk we walked over to the SAC Gallery to check out the exhibit. The exhibit is comprised of 3 elements - one of the ten groupings of tags from The Tag Project, Wendy's E.O. 9066 pieces, and artifacts from camps on loan from The Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego's collection. The artifacts include art created by internees, including paper flowers which they made because flowers couldn't grow in their desert location, and a pile of luggage.

I really don't have the words to explain how powerful it is to see just one of the ten groupings of tags. I wish I could have seen all 10 together. Wendy described them as ghostly figures that rustled when people walked past them. Very appropriate since she intended for them to represent the spirits of all those who were incarcerated.








Tag 03565 - Mochizuki, Atsuko
The Tag Project was originally exhibited at the San Diego State University University Art Gallery. It took Wendy and her many volunteers, two years to complete The Tag Project. They painstakingly recreated each tag using the list Wendy got from the National Archives, custom made tags, stamps, red ink, pens, and tea & coffee (for aging).


The groupings are hung so that they can rotate (see right). Wendy also collaborated with the Purple Moon Dance Project who performed a piece titled When Dreams Are Interrupted--San Diego at SDSU (see other videos of previous iterations of When Dreams Are Interrupted. Jill Togawa talks about the piece in the second video.) You can see the eerie movement of the tag groupings in the video. 

Boston is only the first stop for Wendy's exhibit. It will travel to Arkansas, Arizona, and California over the next three years. Executive Order 9066 closes on Saturday, November 3, 2012.

More photos from Wendy's talk and the exhibit.

Night 3 @ Yume Wo Katare: The craziness continues


for more information.

I helped out at Yume Wo Katare again tonight! I got there around 5pm when Tsuyoshi-san was fielding a phone call from what I think was the press. Unfortunately, someone seems to have published his personal cell phone number as the restaurant's number. If you're press, please try calling earlier in the day if you can. If you're the public, please don't call. Imagine you're in the middle of preparing to cook & plate (bowl?) dinner for over 100 people without any sous chefs and people keep calling you to ask random questions in a language you're still learning.  If you have a question, please post it in the comments and I'll try to answer.

Those who went last week have mentioned that there were a lot of staff - that's because 10 guys came over from Osaka to help with the opening. Sadly, they flew home on Sunday (their shop was closed while they were gone). From now on it will be just the Nishiokas and 1 staff person. A few of us have been volunteering to help with crowd control.

The first guy was in line at 5pm and within a few minutes there were several people behind him. By 5:30 the line was past the edge of the window.


Tonight they reduced the number of seats from 16 to 12 (6 counter, 6 table). They were really busy when I got there so I didn't get a chance to ask why. First group was in the door at 6pm and some were eating by 6:15, although the last people in the first group didn't start eating until almost 6:40pm, so the wait to get your food seems to be about 1.5 to 2.5 hours, possibly longer during peak times. By 7pm, the line stretched to halfway across Dunkin Donuts.


Tonight there was already a repeat customer. She hadn't planned to come back so soon but said she was already craving Tsuyoshi-san's ramen. She came with a friend who hadn't been there yet. I'm sure he had to twist her arm really hard to get her to come. :)

Someone stopped by and bought take home pork for the first time. They said they planned to eat it with rice. I learned that it's available in very fatty or less fatty!

500g (17.64oz) delicious pork - $15

Their cute shiba inu was with them. I wonder if she'll get some?


We also had some out-of-town guests from New York City. I didn't work the line last week so don't know if they were the first out-of-town guests. One guy, a Japanese American, told me they work for the Japanese government and had come to inspect the restaurant. He kept a very straight face and it took me a second to realize he was joking. They do actually work for the government (JETRO) but had just lucked into finding out about Yume Wo Katare last week and happened to be here on business this week. I'm sure their coworkers will be jealous, although New York does have a lot more ramen than we do.


I wasn't able to stay all night and took my leave shortly after 8pm, so I don't know how the rest of the night went. Tsuyoshi-san tried to feed me but the line was so long I didn't think it was fair for me to have ramen when I've already had it 3 times, so I declined.

On opening night they served over 130 bowls of ramen (with staff and friends it was over 140). On Saturday I think it was around 110. I suspect it's going to remain busy for a little while. It seems like almost all of Boston's Japanese population is coming to check it out and every night some people give up because the line is too long. Now that word is getting out, there were more non-Japanese tonight. I've heard that Ippudo in New York still has waits of 1-2 hours so maybe it will be the same at Yume Wo Katare.

Hoping to write a long post about opening night soon, but I've been too tired/busy to get to it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bananas @ Yume Wo Katare


for more information.

Bananas???

The other night I posted a picture of someone receiving a banana on his way out. I said I would explain later but I've been too tired to do my opening night write up, so I'm just going to write about the bananas.

WTF?

In the afternoon I saw a case of bananas in the front of the shop. I thought it was odd but assumed that maybe they had been delivered by accident. I finally asked someone about them and he told me that it was a joke. I think it was pretty much, "You've just finished the largest bowl of ramen you've ever had in your life and probably can't even think about eating again. Have a banana for breakfast!" Everyone on staff thought it was uproariously funny and most customers also appreciated the joke although some were just very confused.

When they were chasing down customers to give them bananas I heard them explain that it was omiyage (souvenir) and for asagohan (breakfast). We actually nearly ran out of bananas. Someone was dispatched to Shaw's partway through the night to buy a few dozen more!

However, don't expect a banana if you go. This was just for opening night.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Everything you need to know about Yume Wo Katare

This page is a work in progress and will be updated when I have new information.
Last updated: 8/16/14

8/16/14: Now that Yume Wo Katare has been open for almost two years (!) and they're on social media I've decided to stop updating this page. It seems they keep making changes to make dining there more interactive and I'm not eating there often enough to keep up with the changes. For a while now they've been critiquing diners' eating performance. If you finish everything in your bowl the staff will shout out, "Perfect!" and other diners are asked to applaud. If you finish all your food but not all the broth you get a, "Good job!" and if you don't finish all your food, you get a "Next time..." I always get a "good job" and have no desire for a "perfect" (I'd rather enjoy my food than be ill),  but some diners have found this offputting. I'm sure it's no fun having everyone in the restaurant know you didn't finish your meal. A friend told me that they just changed things again so you'll now be asked to stand after your meal and say your name and what your dream is. Might be a bit nervewracking for those who have a fear of public speaking!

You can keep up with their changing schedule and procedures on Facebook.

"A bowl of steaming, pure joy."


I've written several posts about Yume Wo Katare, but I keep learning new things so the info is scattered everywhere. I'll try to collect all the pertinent info on this page.
I highly recommend this hilarious All Things Considered segment on jiro-keiRamen Jiro Noodles: A Test of Greatness. Some guy in Japan decided through trial and error that the best thing to eat before going to a jiro ramen shop is an Asian pear for breakfast and then nothing else until you eat your ramen.

Yume Wo Katare (夢 を 語れ or  ゆめ を かたれ) [Listen] is pronounced you-meh o ka-ta-re (short vowels, w is silent, Japanese r). It translates roughly to "talk about your dreams."


Yume Wo Katare
1923 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Tel: They prefer not to publish it. Try asking them on Facebook.

Website: http://yumewokatare.com/

Closest T stop: Red Line - Porter Square
Closest bus stop: Massachusetts Ave at Davenport St (directly in front of Yume Wo Katare)
See Yelp for more bus info.

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 5pm to 11pm
[Note: Other blogs have mistakenly reported their hours as 11am - 2am.]

Closed: Sunday & Monday
Pleas check Facebook where they publish their schedule every month. Since September 2013 they've been closing a few days additional days every month. I gather Tsuyoshi-san has been returning to Japan to hone his ramen craft.

What to Bring

  • Your appetite!
  • Your dreams
  • Friends, family, coworkers, strangers
  • Anything to amuse you while you wait in line: book, laptop, iPad, knitting, sketchpad
  • Camera (to take a picture of your monster bowl of ramen)
  • Warm coat, gloves/mittens, scarves (yes, multiple), hat/earmuffs/earwarmer, coffee/tea/hot chocolate (if it's cold)
  • Umbrella (if it's raining or snowing)
  • Breath mints/gum (for after - you'll need it if you say yes to garlic)
  • Antacids - if you manage to finish your whole meal, you might need it!
  • Tissues - You'll receive a plastic wrapped oshibori with which to wipe your hands. Paper napkins are available upon request, but you might find it easier to have your own tissues. According to Ramen Tokyo, it's common for Jiro-kei ramen shops not to have napkins. I'd forgotten that in Japan it's verboten to blow your nose in public, much less at the dinner table.
  • Cash!!!



The Rules

  • CASH ONLY. Nearest ATMs are Cambridge Savings Bank next to CVS & Sign of the Dove, Bank of AmericaCitibank.
  • No reservations.
  • No take-out. Ramen is best when it's fresh, so in order to preserve the quality of Yume Wo Katare ramen, it's eat-in only. However, you can buy pork to take home. See below.
  • No sharing, unless you're under 12. One bowl of ramen per customer.
  • No taking home leftovers.
  • No cell phone use or reading inside the restaurant.

The Food

    JUST PORK RAMEN. (For those familiar with ramen, this is Jiro-kei ramen. I consulted with Ramen Tokyo and we believe this is the first Jiro ramen shop in the United States.)
    • No non-pork broth substitute.
    • No vegetarian option (although some vegetarians have asked for just noodles and veggies and paid the Ramen price - see below under Food Allergies for more details).
    • No appetizers.
    • No dessert.
    • No alcohol.
    • No condiments.

    Ramen

    All ramen comes with:
    • thick al dente noodles made in-house. If you want your noodles softer, ask and they'll cook them longer.
    • a heaping serving of cabbage & bean sprout mix
    • fresh minced garlic
    • seabura known colloquially as just abura (pork back fat)
    • soy sauce-pork broth

    Choose from:
    • Ramen $12 (including tax) - 2 thick slices of pork <- Recommended for Jiro-kei beginners!
    • Buta Ramen $14 (including tax) - 5 thick slices of pork (Buta means pig)

    Toppings (veggies, garlic & abura) are free. You can have as much as you want, but please don't ask for more than you can eat. It's mottainai. You might want to wait until you see what you're dealing with before asking for more! A lot of people are surprised by just how big their ramen is.

    Drinks



    Procedure

    • If there's a line, get in line.  Once you're in line, you're definitely getting ramen. The owner gets updates on the line count and the line is cut off if he's running out of noodles or broth. Please wait on the sidewalk until you're called.

    • NOTE: When you're at the front of the line, please wait on the sidewalk behind this line. Do not block the stairs - it's a fire hazard and also just annoying for the folks who live in the apartments upstairs.

    • When you get to the front of the line you'll be directed inside to pay for your ramen & drink (see options above). This is when you should ask for extra veggies, if you want them. Update 5/15/13: It seems that you may need to wait to ask for extra veggies. Note that asking for extra will double your veggies.  The average diner probably doesn't need extra veggies. You may have read elsewhere that at this point you'll receive a plastic ramen ticket but they've started giving them directly to the chef to speed things up.
    • If you're in the first group of the evening you'll be seated immediately. 
    • Please wait to be seated. Do not grab the next available seat. When your seat is available, you may be spoken to in Japanese (even if you don't speak Japanese). You should listen for ___ mei sama, douzo. This translates roughly to, "Party of ___, please." The word in the blank will be the number in your party. 
    • Once seated, wait eagerly for your ramen.

    • When your ramen has been assembled, Tsuyoshi-san will call out "Ninniku iremasuka?" in Japanese. He's asking if you want garlic in your ramen. If you don't speak Japanese, that's okay, simply answer "yes" or "no". If you answer "yes" you'll get a very large serving of fresh minced garlic heaped on top of your already heaping ramen. You can also ask for extra garlic and extra abura at this time, although you may want to see what you're getting into before you ask for it.

    • Your ramen will be served.



    • Take a picture if you must, but ramen is best eaten quickly, so hurry!

    • Inhale. Slurp. Repeat.

    • Roll home in a "porky haze." (Customer quote from 10/16/12.)


    Other Random Info/Advice

    • The restaurant seats 18 - 6 at the counter and 12 at two long tables (they changed the set-up from a large communal table in May 2013). If you're lucky enough to get a counter seat, those are the best seats in the house. You can watch Tsuyoshi-san in action and he'll serve you your ramen.

    • If the crowds continue to come at the same pace as they have for the first four nights you can expect a 1-2+ hour wait. If the line is the length of the restaurant, the wait it probably around an hour. If the line is to Dunkin Donuts you're probably looking at 1.5 to 2 hours. If the line is the end of Dunkin Donuts, the wait is probably over 2 hours. Update 5/15/13: I ate at Yume Wo Katare a few days ago and they've changed their procedures a bit and the line seems to move more quickly now, so I don't think my estimates from October 2012 are accurate anymore. It used to be that they would rarely let anyone jump ahead in the queue but now it looks like if you're a party of 1, there's a chance you'll get in faster. How quickly the line moves all depends on how quickly people eat and leave, how many people ahead of you are waiting for their friends to arrive, and how many people ahead of you give up and leave. Note that bad weather sometimes makes the line shorter, but it may not be substantially shorter. I've seen many people wait in the rain and snow.
    • Please be considerate and concentrate on your ramen so you can eat quickly and allow your fellow diners to get in and enjoy Tsuyoshi-san's amazing ramen. Ramen is best enjoyed quickly because the noodles get soggy if you eat too slowly. I recommend eating the noodles before everything else. Keizo Shimamoto, inventor of the American Ramen Burgertunnels into jiro-kei ramen and then lets the vegetables collapse into his broth. In Japan, there's usually no talking, just eating. Tsuyoshi-san can eat his ramen in 5 minutes flat. Please don't dawdle. Thanks!
    • If you start to feel ill, don't force yourself to finish. Tsuyoshi-san's ramen is very heavy and they'd rather you enjoy what you ate than be sick.
    • There's no wifi. This isn't the kind of restaurant where you can hang out as you can see from the line above.
    • Forks are available upon request.
    • Kids are welcome! Two high chairs are available.

    • Don't plan on doing anything else afterwards except trying to waddle home and digest!
    • Drink water before you go to bed or you might end up dehydrated from all the salt.
    • Devotees of jiro-kei ramen are known as jirorian (ジロリアン). 

    What else can I buy?

    • $15 - 500g (17.64 oz) of cha-su pork to take home. Available in very fatty or less fatty. If you like the pork, you can take some home! Please note: a limited number will be available for take home. The number may vary from night to night, depending on supplies on hand. Cha-su should be eaten within 7 days. You do not need to wait in line - just go inside and ask for it at the register.


    • $15 - T-shirts - Size M only; assorted colors. Blank on front, text on back. As of May 2013 new t-shirts in English are available. Forgot to check on sizes and price. Colors available: pink, sky blue, black. (August 2014 - The t-shirt info is out-of-date. They've produced at least one if not more than one t-shirt since. If you'd like to buy a t-shirt I'd inquire at the shop about what's currently available.)





    Dream Frames




    You'll notice that the walls are covered in frames. You can rent each frame to post your "dream" (what you hope/wish for, not what you were dreaming as you slept). If it comes true in the length of time of your frame you win different prizes. Smallest frames are 1 month rental. Largest frame is 10 year rental (pictured above). This is something Tsuyoshi-san started doing at his very first ramen shop in Kyoto, which had the same name. Note: frames cannot be shared. Don't forget to sign and date your dream, leave your full name and email address (in case other customers want to reach you), and come back to claim your prize if your dream is achieved! When you return, you're supposed to point to your dream and announce to Tsuyoshi-san that you achieved it.
    • $10 - 1 month: One Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $30 - 3 months: Yume Wo Katare t-shirt + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $50 - 6 months: Custom ramen bowl with your dream written on it and then baked in a kiln + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $100 - 1 year: Special Yume Wo Katare clock + Ramen or Buta Ramen 
    • $10,000 - 10 years: A hug from owner & chef, Tsuyoshi Nishioka + Ramen or Buta Ramen 

    Food Allergies

    Food allergies are less common and less widely known in Japan. Like all restaurants they do have MA Food Allergen Certification, but the staff may not be as aware and since they're still learning English, as much as I'd love for everyone to try it, I wouldn't recommend anyone with a severe food allergy eat here unless you're confident with your Japanese or can take a friend who can translate. They posted a number of ingredients on one of their signs but it doesn't cover everything that goes into the broth and the pork marinade.

    If you're gluten-free, unfortunately, you can't eat here. Ramen noodles are always wheat noodles and there's soy sauce in everything.

    If you can't eat pork due to allergies, religious observance, or preference, you can't eat Yume Wo Katare ramen. The broth is a pork broth and they don't have any alternative broth. Some people have requested to have only noodles & vegetables which they think is nuts since they don't think it's tasty if it's not a proper bowl of ramen. The one vegetarian bowl I saw was dressed up with bonito flakes (fish) and soy sauce. The Muslim guy I talked to on opening night seemed to enjoy his noodles so if you're feeling brave, go for it. You'll pay $12.

    Please note that even if you request only noodles & veggies, there will likely be some pork fat in there. Hot water from the noodle wok is ladled into the bowls to warm them. The same ladle is used to get the pork broth, so there's a transfer of pork to the wok in which the noodles are cooked. The same tongs are used to handle noodles, veggies, and pork. So there's no way to avoid the pork. You can only limit your exposure.

    Ingredients I know are in Yume Wo Katare ramen:
    • wheat
    • pork - lots and lots of pork & pork fat
    • soy sauce
    • cabbage & bean sprouts (cooked together)
    • garlic
    • corn starch and/or potato starch (used so the noodles won't stick together)
    • shiitake mushrooms
    • bonito flakes
    • mirin
    • MSG (Ajinomoto) - I saw a generous pinch thrown in the bowl before serving. I haven't yet found out if it's also in the broth.
    There may be other ingredients.

    What's definitely NOT in Yume Wo Katare ramen:
    • sesame
    • eggs

    Stuff Near By

    If you're freezing your ass off waiting in the 1-2+ hour line, you can get hot green tea in a can from Yume Wo Katare or coffee a few steps away at Dunkin Donuts or around the corner at Panera.

    If you decide the line is too long, there are many other restaurants in Porter Square. If you absolutely must have ramen, you can check out Sapporo in the Porter Exchange Building aka University Hall (it's a Lesley University building). There's often a line, but it probably won't be as long as Yume Wo Katare's and it's indoors. If you just want any kind of Japanese food, there are many great options inside the Porter Exchange. Several tiny restaurants: Café Mami (owned by Carlos Garcia whose brother & uncle own Ebi Sushi in Somerville), Tampopo (no website), Ittyo Restaurant (also owned by Carlos) and Blue Fin, a full-size restaurant.

    While you're in Porter, check out Miso Market, the only Japanese grocery store in Cambridge. It's only 300 feet away from Yume Wo Katare. (Unfortunately, Miso Market closed on 8/30/13.) You can also go shopping at Tokai, a Japanese gift shop inside the Porter Exchange.

    Other Reviews

    Also check out WBUR's segment: Porter Square Ramen Shop Wants To Make Your Dreams Come True


    History

    The very first jiro-kei ramen shop is Mita Honten (三田本店), which means Mita Head Office. From Mita, several other shops were born, including one originally known as Maruji. After a branding fight with Maruji's "father," Mita Honten, the name was changed to Fujimaru. Tsuyoshi-san apprenticed at Maruji for three and a half years before moving to Kyoto in October 2006 to open his first ramen shop called 夢 を 語れ (Yumewokatare). So, in the lineage of jiro-kei restaurants, all of Tsuyoshi-san's restaurants are "grandchildren" of the original restaurant. [Source: Naomi Nishioka] In 2008 he dreamed of opening a ramen shop in America. Five more ramen shops followed before his dream came true:


    [10/16/12: Consulting with friends on translation of names. Will update once there's consensus on each one.]

    This year, they sold the five ramen shops to each of the managers so they could open Yume Wo Katare Cambridge!! By 2030 he'd like to have ramen shops in all 195 countries!

    Naomi & Tsuyoshi Nishioka

    Why I know so much

    I met the Nishiokas the day before Yume Wo Katare opened. I wandered in with a Tewassa brochure in hand (so I wasn't just some crazy person off the street) to introduce myself and say how excited my friends and I were about their restaurant. I happened to arrive just after Naomi-san's English conversation partner, who invited me to help with the afternoon's English lessons which were mostly about what customers might ask and how to respond. We discovered we had friends in common and I ended up helping with signage and hanging out talking to the guys who had come from Osaka to help with the shop opening. I stayed so late I was able to take part in a dress rehearsal, so I got my first bowl of Yume Wo Katare ramen after midnight. Wanting to see what opening night was like, I offered to come back the following day and help with English-speaking customers. 

    I'm not receiving any monetary compensation for writing about Yume Wo Katare. I'm also not speaking for them in an official capacity. I'm just writing for fun and as a public service for other ramen-lovers. I photograph and write about what I'd be curious about.