Ramen Restaurant Onisoba Fujiya Overcomes Adversity, Wins 3rd Victory in N.Y. Contest

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Takuro Fujiya, three-time winner of a ramen contest held in New York

Onisoba Fujiya, a popular ramen restaurant in Tokyo, won its third victory in a ramen contest held in New York in October. For Ta-kuro Fujiya, the restaurant’s owner, this victory was unforgettable. He overcame adversity to become the champion just two weeks after his Shibuya restaurants caught fire and he was forced to suspend operations.

The ramen contest is one of the most popular events in Japan Fes., the world’s largest Japanese food festival, which has been run in the United States by Japanese residents since 2016. The ramen contest, held on Oct. 7 and 8, had six restaurants participating, including famous shops in Japan and a New York restaurant listed in the local Michelin Guide.

Fujiya, who also works as an impersonator called “Hey! Takuchan,” was the winner in 2019 and 2022, too. This year, he cooked an improved version of his signature lobster miso ramen. His ramen was crowned the winner with 3,605 points, nearly double the second-place winner.

During the award ceremony, Fujiya, 42, shed tears while recalling his recent predicament.

On Sept. 23, a fire broke out on the first floor of a Shibuya building, where Fujiya’s restaurants were located on the third and fifth floors. There were no casualties at his restaurants. However, many cooking utensils, such as pots and porcelain spoons, were melted by the heat or turned black with soot.

The stench of smoke lingered in the building. Fujiya, who believes in the importance of ramen’s aroma, realized that it was impossible to reopen in the same location where he had operated his business for 11 years. He said that he has devoted himself entirely to making the best ramen he can.

Regular customers of his restaurants and other comedians alike have been encouraging Fujiya. Hanawa, a 47-year-old comedian who belongs to the same entertainment agency, told him before leaving for the United States, “Grit your teeth and throw yourself into it entirely, as if you have no intention of returning.” Fujiya is satisfied with the taste of the ramen he so enthusiastically cooked in New York, calling it the best he has ever made.

Courtesy of Takuro Fujiya
Premium lobster miso ramen, which Fujiya cooked for a ramen contest in New York

Fujiya will open a new shop, refusing to give up on his ramen restaurant after being a three-time champion in the New York contest. An acquaintance of his happened to find an available property near the Asakusa Toyokan theater, where the Manzai association holds a yose theater for traditional spoken comedy routines. Fujiya, also a member of the Manzai association, was excited.

Feeling close ties with the district, Fujiya said, “In Asakusa, such a sacred place for comedy performers in Tokyo and one of the most popular tourist spots in Japan, I want to hurry up and leave my mark as a ramen shop owner and comedian.”