If you've visited your share of ramen shops in Japan, especially the older ones that have been around for a while and don't belong to a chain or franchise, then you've probably had a chance to observe the traditional ramen master in his natural habitat. The stereotype is of a stoic, often reticent man of a certain age who devotes himself tirelessly to his craft, moves quickly and efficiently, and doesn't smile or talk much except when barking at assistants. He's proud of his way of doing things and doesn't intend to change it. Why should he? He knows he makes a damn good bowl of ramen and has a loyal clientele.

Even some of the younger ramen chefs seem to be inspired by the old-fashioned machismo of the traditional ramen chef, and you'll often see them in food magazines looking into the camera while striking a tough pose standing with their arms folded.

Cat ramen master figurines

Now, you can buy figurines inspired by the quintessential Japanese ramen shop master, with the fun twist that they're all cats.

The 猫のラーメン屋 (neko no rāmen'ya-san | lit. "cat ramen shop") series by Kitan Club has a total of five versions to choose from.

Koneko-ken, home of the original Fumifumi-men noodles

Name: 元祖ふみふみ麺 子猫軒 ganso fumifumi-men koneko-ken.
子猫 koneko means kitty and 軒 ken is a traditional suffix added at the end of restaurant names. As for ふみふみ fumifumi, it's a mimetic word for kneading, very appropriate for a cat.

Ramen Nyaro

Name: ラーメン にゃ朗 rāmen nyarō.
Probably a parody of the famous chain Ramen Jiro.

Tsukemen Ganshin

つけ麺 頑寝 tsukemen ganshin.
Probably a parody of つけ麺 頑者 Tsukemen Ganja, with the kanji 寝 (sleep) replacing 者 (person).

Kitty Tanmen Extra Spicy Cat

猫ちゃんタンメン 大辛猫 neko-chan tanmen ōkara-neko.
猫ちゃん neko-chan is an affectionate way of calling a cat and 大辛 ōkara is a "extra spicy" when used as a spice level at restaurants for things like ramen and curry.

Neko-kei Ramen Jaraya

猫系ラーメン じゃら家 neko-kei rāmen jaraya.
猫系 Neko-kei is an obvious parody of 家系ラーメン Iekei ramen, many representatives of which have the suffix 家 ya in their names, which is also ie in Iekei, meaning "house," in other words a shop. As for じゃら jara, it's a reference to じゃらし jarashi, a cat toy.

Product Information

  • Product Name: 猫のラーメン屋さん (neko no rāmen'ya-san | lit. "cat ramen shop")
  • Sold by: 株式会社キタンクラブ Kitan Club Co., Ltd.
  • Release date: Late November, 2022
  • Size: Approx. 54 mm tall
  • Price: 300 yen per figurine, 5 kinds in total
  • Product page on Kitan Club's website

Look for this series in capsule toy dispensers all over Japan.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.