Ochiai has the most varied selection of ramen restaurants I've ever seen in one area. I've been introduced to types and styles of ramen that I'd never heard of before, let alone tasted. And although I knew that people like ramen after a few drinks, now I've found out that you can eat ramen for breakfast.
Itou Shouten is the closest ramen shop to Rikuzen-Ochiai station (JR Senzan line), opposite a bright yellow pachinko parlor. At the weekend it's also noticeable for the line of people waiting outside. There's a small shelter/waiting room, but customers spill out onto the sidewalk, even in the cold of winter mornings.
It seems that eating ramen for breakfast isn't entirely usual, but perhaps aware of the other ramen shops nearby, Itou Shouten has cleverly adjusted its opening hours. It closes much earlier than its neighbors, but it opens earlier, too, appealing to early birds.
The shop is about as small as the others, with only 4 tables and a counter. There is space for a bathroom, though, which you don't always see in this size of store. Just inside the (sliding) door is a ticket machine, which has pictures to help you choose what you want. After you've bought a ticket, pass it to a member of staff then take a seat. During busy times, instead of heading to the machine, first write your name and the number of people in your party on the list inside, and wait outside until your name is called. When you finally get a seat you won't have very long to wait for your food.
My first order was the intriguing kin (gold) ramen, ¥900. After a taste I had no doubt as to where the color came from – the flavor was strikingly buttery. It was a tasty change from oily ramen, infusing the usual ingredients with a new richness. The meat was very soft, practically falling apart when I picked it up; the whole thing was delicious.
The second time I went I was torn between the “Morning Ramen” (limited amounts are sold every day between 7:00 and 10:00, only ¥500) and the white miso ramen with sweet corn (¥780). Eventually choosing the latter, I was served with a very pleasant bowlful of surprisingly garlicky ramen. There were three pieces of meat, one more than the kin ramen, but besides that and the sweet corn, the toppings were the same. This time, I was able to drain the bowl; the kin ramen was perhaps a little too rich to do it complete justice.
Reasonable prices, great ramen. What more incentive do you need to try noodles for breakfast?