Morning Ramen – Tea Farmers’ Favorite Breakfast
Where the Sugimoto Story Begins
In the summer of 2021, I, Kyohei Sugimoto, visited Sugimoto headquarters and while visiting, I learned and rediscovered the beauty of my hometown, Shimada City. I wanted to conclude my 4-part blog series by sharing a unique concept of a popular Japanese food that originated there.
I’ve introduced some of my favorite local foods of Shimada City, but there is one food in particular that stands out from the rest. If you are a Japanese tea lover, you may have wondered what a tea farmer’s typical breakfast may look like. Morning ramen, or Asa-rah (朝ラー), is a unique food culture that was popularized by tea farmers in Shimada and neighboring Fujieda City, but is now shared among other regions of Japan as well.
During the harvest seasons, mornings start early for tea farmers as they begin work at 3:00 a.m. / 4:00 a.m. or work throughout the night to produce crude teas. Hungry tea farmers would line up in front of a ramen shop in the morning, which began the start of the Asa-rah culture. Some may refuse to eat a heavy dish for an early morning breakfast, but traditionally-made ramen in Shimada is soy sauce-based, which makes it very light and not too oily. There are over 20 morning-ramen shops within the area, and each one offers a different style but is generally a simple yet delicious ramen that anyone would enjoy.
Something very unique about Asa-rah in Shimada is that people generally eat 2 bowls of ramen – hot and cold. The cold ramen is often served with wasabi and/or red pickled ginger, and is similar to traditional soba (buckwheat) noodles which is very light and refreshing. No one knows when and why the cold ramen trend started, but my brother Masaaki, President of Sugimoto headquarters, imagines that it is probably due to tea farmers wanting to avoid feeling sweaty at work after eating hot ramen. He is a true Asa-rah enthusiast and often takes his son with him to his favorite ramen shop on weekend mornings for breakfast.
Shimada - The Home of Sugimoto
As this was my first time writing a blog series based on my hometown of Shimada, I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading and learning about my personal background, Sugimoto headquarters, and local delicacies and activities. I highly recommend visiting and exploring this beautiful city to experience the culture first hand.