We don’t even have to ask- we know you love ramen. The ramen craze has expanded all over the globe, and ramen shops can be found just about everywhere. And Yamato Noodle Cooking School is one of the institutions that teaches students how to make ramen like professionals and prepares people to open their own ramen shops.
We here at EnableJapan.com had the opportunity to sit down with Kaoru Fujii, the founder and owner of Yamato Noodle Cooking School. He was able to give us some background on his school, and some tips on how to succeed in the ramen business. “We started as an udon cooking school in 2000 and started a ramen cooking school in 2003. We have school here twice a month here at the Tokyo office, and at the main headquarters in Kagawa. In 2005, we started a ramen cooking school in Singapore.”
If you are not a Japanese speaker, Yamato Noodle School in Singapore might be a better fit for you. “We have classes in Japan and Singapore. In Singapore we teach in English. But In Japan, we teach only in Japanese. So students in Tokyo must pay for interpreters. In Singapore, they don’t need an interpreter.” Although we visited the Japan branch of this school, EnableJapan.com recommends that our readers visit the Singapore branch rather than the Japan branch, so you won’t have to pay for an interpreter (which can be upwards of 40,000 yen [USD$400] per day).
What makes Yamato Noodle School different than other ramen schools in Japan? It’s what Mr. Fujii calls “digital cooking” method, or cooking with numbers. “Students] can study by our digital cooking. French or Italian chefs do not use digital cooking when they cook. They cook by sense or by inspiration. Because we teach students digital cooking, they can easily understand how to make very complicated recipes of ramen.” Yamato Noodle School teaches its students to follow very precise recipes, so that even the most difficult of recipes can be perfectly executed. Every drop of soup base is calculated for a specific taste–guessing is not an option here. This “digital cooking” is what sets Yamato’s students apart from the rest.
Yamato Noodle School not only teaches how to make ramen, but also how to manage a ramen restaurant. “We teach not only how to make very tasty ramen, we also teach the management. The management is more important to succeed in this business.”
Yamato Noodle School graduates are more successful than regular ramen shop owners, and has the numbers to prove it. On average, 70% of ramen shops close after 3 years, and 40% close after one year. For ramen shop owners who attended Yamato Noodle School and use their machines in their shops, only 6.6% of shops close after 3 years, and 0% close after one year. “Many of our graduates have become very famous. Not only in Japan, but students have succeeded in other countries. One-third of our students open their own ramen restaurant. This school teaches you whether or not the ramen business is suitable for you. Students can find out during our five or seven day courses if this is a good business for them or not.”
According to Mr. Fujii, what makes Yamato Noodle School special is the instructor’s knowledge of the cuisine of other countries. “We teach how to make the ramen that students want. So if they want to make ramen for customers in Switzerland, they can. I understand the food in Switzerland, and the taste of food in Switzerland too. We teach about everywhere they might open their restaurants.” No matter where you come from in the world, Yamato knows how to make ramen that will be successful in your country.
We also had the opportunity to sit down with Oliver, a student at Yamato Noodle School, from Switzerland. He wanted to learn the basics of ramen. He’s a chef, but as much as he tried, he couldn’t make the bowl of ramen he would like to eat. After graduation, he plans to open a ramen shop by next year. Although there are a few ramen shops in Switzerland, he says only few really get the ramen right. Oliver likes the atmosphere of this school- in the morning, they even stretch together. “There are really friendly staff working here, everyone is doing a really great job, and I am learning a lot. It’s amazing… how much you get taught here. It’s a great team. It’s just seven days, but after that, I’m sure you’re good to go.”
Yamato Noodle School is also famous for their noodle machines. “In Japan, ramen was introduced from China 100 years ago. After being introduced to Japan from China, this ramen was mixed with Japanese soba noodles, so Japanese ramen is a mix of Japanese soba and Chinese ramen. Our Japanese ramen went out all over the world because ramen noodles are made by machine. To make ramen by hand, you need ramen specialists. But it is very easy to make ramen by machine. Also, the taste is very stable when made by a machine. No matter where it’s made, it will taste the same” These ramen machines that Yamato sells are extremely beneficial when running your own ramen business. Making your own noodles in your restaurant increases your profit, increases noodle freshness, and gives a greater variety of the types of noodles you can sell.
Each course of instruction at the Yamato Noodle Cooking School costs about $4000. However, according to Mr. Fujii, “This price is very cheap, because in Japan, there are many famous ramen restaurants. If somebody wants to ask the famous restaurants’ owners how to make ramen, they will teach you, but for ¥5,000,000 (USD$50,000). The owner can only teach one type of ramen soup, but we teach every type of ramen soup that the student wants to learn.”
Although the price might seem steep now, if you want to go into the ramen business, this is the place to learn the most types of ramen for the lowest price. In Japan, the course is only 7 days, and in Singapore is only 5 days. “Our students usually come from all over the world, and they want to learn ramen making and the ramen business. But one year or one month is too long, because they are very busy. In one week or five days, they can be professional. It is more convenient for everybody.”
So what does a typical class day at the Yamato Noodle School look like? “When students come to class in the morning, first we explain about the mindset. The mindset is the most important thing in order to understand the management and how to cook ramen. This ramen business is a very hard business because there is very strong competition in Japan and all over the world. They must never give up. I teach them to never, never give up every time.”
When asked if he has any last words for EnableJapan.com readers, he said, “The noodle business is becoming more popular because noodles are very easy to eat. They are easy to digest compared to bread or rice. In Japan or other countries, the noodle business is spreading, becoming bigger and bigger. If people have an interest in this business, this is a very good opportunity to succeed.”
So if you want to open your own ramen shop, come to Yamato Noodle Cooking School (in Japan or Singapore). And in the words of Mr. Fujii, “never, never give up.”
Yamato Noodle School also sells how-to books for making ramen. You can find them online here.
Yamato Noodle Cooking School Information
Nearest Station: 6-minute walk from Kitashinagawa Station (plan your route at the link and click on the Google Map below for walking directions)