Despite feeling rather worse for wear with a cold, I dosed myself up and went out in Osaka for a few hours this evening. Earlier in the day I'd dropped my brother at Osaka Itami airport for his internal flight up to Tokyo, ready for his flight home tomorrow morning, and arranged to meet Han-san. Han-san was a student in my class at my Japanese language school, and since graduating alongside me in March he moved to Osaka to continue his education. He's Korean, but moved with his mum to Nagano a couple of years back, and his Japanese is great. Especially now, since he has part-time jobs in a couple of hotels in Osaka - hence the good room rates for staying.

Our first stop was Ichiran, his favourite ramen restaurant. It's a chain restaurant, and its ramen was very tasty. However due to my cold unfortunately my taste buds weren't in optimum condition, so I will have to have another visit to confirm this verdict 100%. (Oh what a hardship.) It somehow felt like it had been a while (久し振り) since I had eaten a ramen, and indeed it had - five days since the last one. Ha!

Upon entering the restaurant (we had to queue outside for 10 minutes) there was a machine with just a single button labelled ラーメン (ramen) which made me laugh. Underneath that were more buttons for extras like an egg (which I chose) and beer (which of course I also chose). We inserted our money and it spat out our meal tickets. The seats inside were arranged in a single line, and on the wall of the waiting area was a panel with flashing LEDs showing the empty seats. When a row of three became empty we were told to file in and find our seats. Once sat down we were greeted with effectively a questionnaire of how we wanted our ramen to taste. The questions/options were:

- soup flavour strength (味の濃さ)
- soup thickness/oiliness (こってり度)
- amount of garlic (にんにく)
- onions (ねぎ) - either white (normal) or green
- noodle hardness (面のかたさ)
- spiciness / mystery sauce (秘伝のたれ)

I went for normal (基本) for everything except for noodle hardness, as I like my noodles slightly harder than normal. For spiciness I opted for 1/2 - the recommendation for newbies - whereas Han-san chose 2x, and you could soon tell as the sweat started pouring off his face!

I'll definitely be back to try their ramen again, probably next month at one of their many branches in Tokyo.