May 21, 2021

The Vegan Ramen Restaurant in the Spotlight

Takashi Shimokawa
President, Vegan Bistro Jangara

Takashi Shimokawa
Is Mr. Shimokawa an educator or company owner? Or is he an author and artist? He’s a man of many parts, including being the manager of eight restaurants and bar, particularly ramen noodle restaurants, in prime locations in Tokyo. Shimokawa is the author of six books and three poetry collections on DVD so far, as well as presenting talks and classes. Amid that busy life, we talked to him at Vegan Bistro Jangara, one of his new restaurants.

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I graduated from the Faculty of Law at Keio University. I like kids, and, influenced by the TV youth dramas I loved, I opened a preparatory school in Tokyo in 1979. A year later, seeing households struggling to make ends meet and the plight of children in that position, I thought I couldn’t exclude children from the school just because their parents or guardians couldn’t pay for tuition. I decided to waive tuition fees for children in financial difficulties. But shifting to a volunteer basis and ignoring profitability left the school’s operation on shaky ground.

So that’s why you started a ramen restaurant?
That’s right. I was looking for a job that would stabilize my own finances while allowing the school to carry on operating properly, and the answer I got to was operating a ramen restaurant. I made ramen noodles by day and ran the school by night, and I was really putting my heart into making ramen. I wanted to convey a message to the children about “living”, by showing them how hard we were striving.

Can you expand on that?
I carried on operating the school as well as the ramen restaurant, wanting to teach the children “relaxed confidence, liveliness, spirit, and enthusiasm”.

Why did you decide to open your new Vegan Bistro Jangara?
I wanted people like me, who feel themselves to be healthy but are under physical strains, to eat there. Sometimes I want them to build a healthy vegan life cycle.

What does “true omotenashi (hospitality)” mean to you?
I want to fill the place with that “relaxed confidence and liveliness”, so that people who visit catch that spirit, not coronavirus, and take it home with them.

Popular Dishes at Vegan Bistro Jangara

Patty Burger
Juju Grill ~Soy meat grilled on an iron plate~

May 25, 2020

Vegan Noodles are getting noticed as a way to accommodate food diversity

These noodles, for vegetarians and vegans, are supervised by T’s Restaurant. Since its launch in 2015, this product has been improved and updated three times, eventually being reborn as “VEGAN NOODLES” on September 9th, 2019. It is earning the support of foreign visitors to Japan, who enjoy it as a midnight meal in hotels, or as a gift. We asked president Shimokawa of T’s Restaurant about it.

Masako Shimokawa
President of T's Restaurant

What is the secret behind the popularity of VEGAN NOODLES?
For a start, it’s the first instant noodle product in the industry that doesn’t use animal-derived ingredients, chemical flavorings, or alcohol. We use non-fried noodles, which are not fried in oil, to reduce calories. Another secret behind its success is the fact that people can eat it as a quick and healthy meal even when they’re busy. It also has a great reputation as an emergency food reserve for offices.

How did you improve it to reach the finish product?
It was a tough challenge at first. Yet, imagining the smiles of people taking our noodles in their hands to create a new future kept us going. Our persistence led to two different kinds of flavor. One is Tan Tan Noodle Soup, which has a rich, deep soup. It is based on ground sesame seeds, accented with the spiciness of Chinese chili bean sauce, sweet soy sauce, and Szechuan pepper. The other is Hot and Sour Noodle Soup. It has a refreshing taste which stimulates the appetite with aroma of sesame oil and fresh tang of vinegar.

I hear it’s popular among foreigners traveling to Japan. Is it true?
We feel like these instant noodles have taken on a life of their own before we knew it. They have triggered encounters with people around the world. Customers visiting Japan immediately buy them by the box. They put the boxes in their suitcases to carry with them as they set out on journeys to everywhere from Hokkaido in the north to Fukuoka in the south. There are even customers who come to our stores carrying large backpacks, in which they pack our instant noodles and head straight out to climb Mt. Fuji. We get feedback from people who send us pictures with our VEGAN NOODLES. For example, eating on an ascent of Mt. Kitadake, before boarding a flight at Narita Airport, or at ryokans.

What do you aim to achieve with VEGAN NOODLES?
We care for not only human health and the global environment, but also for a society in which everyone can easily choose to eat food they trust, wherever they are.

While we’ve been talking, I started to feel like eating some VEGAN NOODLES. Where can I get some?
They are available at T’s Restaurant (Jiyugaoka, 03-3717-0831), and at T’s Tantan (JR Tokyo Station, 03-3218-8040; JR Ueno Station, 03-5826-5618; Ikebukuro Station, 03-5958-0375, Tokyo Food Bar Narita Airport (Terminal 1), 0476-33-2920 and Narita Airport Terminal 2, 0476-32-0031). They’re also on sale on the T’s Restaurant website and T's Tantan website . They are also available at some convenience stores and supermarkets.