One of the strangest things I encountered in Japan during my first trip was trying to figure out how to order ramen at a noodle house. Many of the cheap noodle shops in Japan want you in and out quickly. They do not have time to take your order and accept your money. Instead, they use a vending machine selling you a ticket of what you want to buy. It may seem strange, but it’s highly efficient.
If there is a menu outside, its also helpful to look before you enter the facility. Otherwise, when you first enter the ramen shop, look to the left or right of the entry way for a vending machine. It will have a list of the names of the food dishes in Japanese, but not to worry if you are unable to read the name. There are usually helpful photos on the buttons. The buttons will be one of two colors, red or blue. Red means the dish is served hot while blue means it is served as a cold dish.
The first step is to insert your money into the machine. There should be a slot for coins and for bills. Many restaurants don’t accept card payments. Once the money is accepted by the machine, the buttons that you can select from will light up. If a dish costs more than you have inserted, it will not light up. Items on the top left of the machine tend to be main dish items (in the event there are no photos on the machine).
Select the button for the items you want. It will print from the machine. You generally need one ticket for each item you order. If the restaurant is larger, you will next give your ticket to a waiter. If the place is smaller, hand the ticket over to the staff member by the counter. They will rip the ticket and give you half back. Place the half they return to you on the table. They will bring you the dish as soon as its ready. It is normally prepared straight away.
You are expected to get your own condiments and chopsticks as you sit down. If the ramen place is a stand up location you may see people eating quickly and then departing. There is no set time limit to how long you can stay, but it is not advisable to stay there if you’ve finished eating and just want to chat, that’s for a higher end restaurant.
You do not need to eat all the food although the Japanese prefer you to. When you are finished, there should be an indicated area for you to return the dishes and other items to. You are expected to clean up after yourself. I hope you’re found this quick post helpful!