Today we are really excited to interview a special guest for our “Expat in Japan” series: the one and only 5AM Ramen guy! Can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Frank. I’m Filipino American and currently live in Tokyo’s Meguro-ku. I actually grew up in Tokyo, spending most of my life in Setagaya-ku and Ota-ku (Southwestern Tokyo).
Why did you come to live in Japan?
After graduating from high school in Tokyo, I decided to go to college in the US. More specifically, I chose a school in the state of Minnesota (where it was as cold as -40°C my first year there). After 4 years in Minnesota, I came back to Japan. Or perhaps I should say that home called me back. I think the loudest call came from the food.
What surprised you the most when you came to Japan the first time? And why.
Even though I grew up here and am used to the country and its culture, Japan still pleasantly surprises me every day. It’s wonderful to live in a country so steeped in history and to live in such a vibrant megapolis like Tokyo.
What’s your Japanese level? Do you speak Japanese or English during your daily life in Japan?
Growing up, I spoke mostly English at home and at school. But I would use Japanese with friends. As a result, my Japanese back then was pretty casual and even rough. Keigo (polite Japanese often necessary in business situations) was something I really had to work on!
Keigo is really difficult yes, even for Japanese people right! What do you prefer about living in Japan?
I think the overall quality of life in Japan is top-notch. Japan is extremely safe, clean, and the food of course is amazing. The Japanese continuously strive for perfection. This dedication, obsessive attention to detail, whatever you’d like to call it – it definitely shines through in the cuisine here. It’s almost impossible to have a bad meal in Japan.
Since you are “THE” 5AM Ramen guy, I guess you love ramen right 🙂 What’s your favorite type of ramen?
Miso and shio (salt based) are probably my 2 favorite types of ramen. But I don’t discriminate – I enjoy all types of ramen, from classic Tokyo shoyu ramen to fusion abura soba (soupless ramen). The ramen type I’ll eat will depend on my mood and maybe even the temperature outside.
What other dishes do you like?
I like Malaysian or Singaporean laksa, Vietnamese pho, Filipino pancit, yakisoba…you may see a pattern here.
Haha, I see. So, were you passionate about ramen before coming to Japan? How did you come up with the idea of having a ramen-related blog? Tell us more!
I’ve been eating ramen since I was old enough to chew. My mother would make the “Sapporo Ichiban” brand instant ramen at home, also adding eggs and various veggies. So I essentially grew up on ramen. As I got older, I started to appreciate ramen on a greater level.
I do enjoy writing and taking photos. The blog simply became an outlet for these 2 things and expressing my love for ramen.
In general, what do you think about food tours?
I tend to think with my stomach. I therefore always book food tours first when I travel. Food tours are an efficient and exciting way to learn about and sample authentic local cuisine. Through food, you get a strong sense of a city or country’s culture.
Do you have a funny anecdote – lost in translation / culture choc experience to share?
I’m not sure if this fits under any of the above categories, but there are some crazy ramen concepts out there. In Tokyo there are ramen shops that serve coffee ramen, pineapple ramen, and even tequila ramen.
We are excited to be offering your Ramen tours to our Arigato Guests and followers, do you have any message for them?
I’m excited to be working with Arigato Food Tours! I’m happy to see how popular ramen has become around the world. This magical dish will continue to evolve and impress. If you’re seeking the ultimate ramen experience, have a look at the Ramen Tasting Tour (Japan’s only)!
Personal message: feel free to add anything you want to share with our readers and followers!
One day I’d like to say that I’ve visited all 47 prefectures in Japan. I suppose the message is that there’s so much to see in this little country. See as much of Japan as possible!
Thanks very much Frank for your time and for sharing your experiences, it is really a pleasure to team up with you starting this year!
Be sure to follow him and his ramen madness here: