Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York all have something in common: each of these three cities fooled me into believing that I had somehow left the country and I was actually traveling abroad.
J-Town was when it started.
I’ve always been a big fan of Japan and many things Japanese. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself as part of that awkward obsessed-with-Japan-because-of-anime crowd that seems to be growing (“Japanophilia”). From less-than-a-year old to three-and-a-half, I lived in Tokyo — my dad worked there for about six years altogether — so naturally, I’m curious about the country I spent my infanthood in.
When my Tita Giselle, who was at the mini-reunion in La Puente, offered us a choice between J-Town (Japantown, or Little Tokyo) and K-Town (Koreatown), I naturally chose J-Town as my go-to place. Not only that, but my dad prefers Japanese food over Korean food.
We went to the Weller Court Shopping Area, a multi-level outdoor shopping center. In the parking lot, Tita Giselle gave us the infamous, small box of donuts she promised me we’d get.
As we looked for a restaurant, there were three main contenders: a curry restaurant, a Japanese barbecue restaurant, and a ramen restaurant. The ramen place, Orochon Ramen, was featured on Man v. Food, so I thought we might as well go there! Besides, I haven’t really had any good ramen; I’ve only had the instant ramen that you can buy at the Asian supermarket.
After waiting a little bit to get into Orochon Ramen, we were seated at the only open table, which was actually chairs on one side and a long wooden “bench” with Japanese cushions on the other.
If you’re ordering ramen on their menu, there are three steps.
- Choose your broth
- Choose your spiciness
- Choose extras and toppings
For your broth, you have a choice between miso, soy sauce, and salt. Normally, I’d always get salt, but I decided to ask which was the most popular. The waitress said that the miso broth was most popular, and I decided to get that one instead.
As for the spiciness, there are a total of nine different spiciness levels.
- Special #2
- Special #1
- (Extreme) Orochon 1
- (Hyper) Orochon 2
- (Impact) Orochon 3
- Orochon 4
- (Osae) Orochon 5
- (Osae-Osae) Orochon 6
- (Non-Spicy) Orochon 7
Osae Orochon 5 is a little spicy while Osae-Osae Orochon 6 is even less spicy. Obviously, the further down the list you go, the less spicy your ramen will get.
Orochon Ramen is famous for its “Special #2” challenge. Featured on Man v. Food, you have to eat the Special #2 bowl of ramen in 30 minutes or less which is known as the spiciest ramen in the world. If you win, your picture will go up on the Orochon Wall of Bravery.
I do like spicy food, but I can’t handle super spicy. And besides, I want to enjoy the taste of the ramen — a food I’ve never truly tried before — not the extreme spiciness that was added! I wimped out and went for Orochon 6.
Finally, the last thing you can do is add extras and toppings. They offer 13 different extras, including a slice of cha-shu pork, corn, garlic, or more vegetables, meat, or noodles. I added egg to my ramen.
When the ramen came, I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to eat the noodles first or drink the broth! I decided on eating the noodles first — that’s what I would always see the characters on Naruto do — and left the broth for the end.
Honestly, I should have trusted that tiny voice in my head that said to have the salt broth. I didn’t really enjoy the miso broth that much, and my only reason for getting that was just because it was the “popular” option. Lesson learned, I need to trust my intuition from now on.
I’ve never really seen bamboo in food before, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. I tried to take a big bite into one of pieces — I was trying to be adventurous, after all — and I was met with a very tough piece of bamboo in my mouth. For some reason, I couldn’t chew it! My mom said just to leave it. Besides, it’s the flavoring of the bamboo you want, not the bamboo itself. (I guess I can’t be a panda after all! Not that I ever wanted to be one.)
The bowl was actually pretty big. I couldn’t even finish all of it! The spiciness was perfect for me — the spice gave it a nice “kick,” but you could still taste the ramen’s flavor. Now I can say I tried Orochon Ramen!
After eating, my dad announced he wanted to go to the Kinokuniya, a large Japanese bookstore, that was next door. That’s okay though, because I love Japanese bookstores.
There’s something I love about places that sell notebooks, pencils, books, and other supplies nerds like me would enjoy. I looked around and decided that I wanted three things: a folder, a notebook, and a pencil.
After looking at nearly every notebook they had on the shelves, I finally decided on one notebook: a Visual Aid notebook with different coffees on the front. I don’t drink coffee and probably won’t start anytime soon — my dad gave up coffee to keep his blood pressure lower and I’d rather have tea over coffee — but I still think it looks pretty cool. How many notebooks do you have that show how much milk foam and espresso is in a macchiato?
My mom was able to find me a folder and I decided to get it. The folder’s print is of Red Fuji, a famous print by the Japanese painter Katsushika Hokusai in his “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” series. After that, I found a cool mechanical pencil to complete everything.
After I paid for the items, we went to the Japanese Village Plaza.
There was this really cool place that served mochi and ice cream, and I decided to get a mango flavor. My brother Jude decided he just wanted vanilla ice cream.
After that, Tita Giselle said she knew a great place that served some Japanese pastry that was filled with a bean paste (or at least that’s what I assumed she was talking about). After running out of the mochi place, we ran around the plaza looking for the pastry place she was talking about.
We finally decided to ask two girls who were sitting down on a bench, and they told us it closed today for the next few days! Darn, I was hoping to try it!
After that, we had to leave J-Town to get to our next location. We walked back to the parking lot near the Weller Court and said goodbye to Tita Giselle.
Then we got in the car to head to the Disneyland Hotel.