Am I the only one who gets a thrill out of subscription boxes? Because I was super excited when I received this Japan Ramen Box in the mail. We don’t have a lot of these where I live. Or at least, we don’t have a lot that I feel are consistently good in churning out their boxes. For me, the most important thing about a subscription box is how well-curated it is. Regardless of whatever item a subscription box specializes in, it should make a person want to keep looking forward to the succeeding boxes.
I received this box from the company as a review package. Although I was NOT PAID to do a review for this, I really wanted to go through with it anyway, just to let people know that there are boxes out there that actually ship to the Philippines for FREE. Now how long it takes to get here is a different matter entirely. This box arrived to me a month after it was shipped from Japan, which is technically not bad considering how unreliable the Post Office can be. However I have had other subscription boxes get lost in the Post Office for 8 months, so I guess there is a bit of luck involved here.
I received this box months ago actually, but it took me so long to taste-test everything and put this together! I’m just glad I can get this out before the year ends because I have a feeling these Japanese subscription companies are going to be curating special boxes for January to usher in the new year, and maybe you guys would like to subscribe to those boxes. (New Year is a bigger deal there than Christmas!) In any case, here is the short version of my Japan Ramen Box review:
If you’re curious to know my thoughts about each of the items in this box, as well as a more detailed explanation about my thoughts on this box as a whole, keep on reading!
About the Japan Ramen Box
So the Japan Ramen Box was created by a group of friends from Tokyo, and as you might expect, they all really love ramen. They thought that a great way to share their love for that with people all around the world was to create this Japan Ramen Box. Obviously, they couldn’t possibly ship fresh ramen through standard mail internationally, so the next best thing was instant ramen. Japan has over 2,000 kinds of instant ramen to choose from after all!
The team at Japan Ramen Box is always trying out new ramen to be able to pack each box with a mix of delicious, unique, and sometimes even bizarre instant ramen from Japan. If you’re a lover of instant ramen too, I think it’s a pretty good time to get excited.
The Japan Ramen Box website is simple and pretty straightforward. It’s got some information and a frequently asked questions page, but I feel like it doesn’t get updated as much as the websites of the other more established subscription companies. I noticed their blog is a few months behind. Upon research, I did see that some people received the October 2018 boxes.
They have three subscription plans to choose from. Your opinion on whether each tier is expensive or just right will probably depend on the exchange rate of US Dollars in your country.
For me, considering the rates here in the Philippines, I would say that the 12 ramen option is WAAAAY too expensive for a box of instant ramen, even if imported. Paying 20 dollars for 4 ramen seems a bit steep too. Maybe the best value box here is the 7 ramen option, but it would be awesome if Japan Ramen Box would run some promo prices or have some coupon codes available for their boxes every once in a while. Then again, people spend their money on stranger things!
Anyways, let’s get to the noodles!
Garlic and ginger are added into this cup noodle to give it more flavor. Recommended add-on’s include grilled pork and bamboo shoots.
To cook, pull the lid of the cup ramen back halfway and add hot water up to the line of the cup inside. Cook for 3 minutes, stir, and enjoy!
My thoughts: The taste of this ramen is a bit generic to me. I mean it’s okay, but I feel like I’ve eaten it many times before. It even has a little piece of dehydrated meat in an attempt to make it “filling”. However, because of its convenient size, it can actually be a great office snack-drawer option.
Sunaoshi Shoyu Ramen
This ramen features a balance of both shoyu and tonkotsu in one soup. This combination helps to tone down the normally very strong flavor of tonkotsu ramen, so most people who eat this will add some slices of grilled pork to enhance the taste.
To cook, bring 500 ml water to a boil and cook the noodles for 3 minutes. Add in the flavor packet into the saucepan and stir well. Transfer the noodles into a serving bowl, add toppings as desired, and enjoy!
My thoughts: When they said “tone down” in the description for this ramen, they really meant it! The flavor of this one is really mellow compared to most instant noodles out there. It benefits a lot from add-on’s. We actually ate this with sheets of nori and already it was better. Some green onions and slices of pork would also help. At least the quality of the noodles was good.
Charumera Tonkotsu Ramen
This instant ramen’s selling point is that it can cook in 90 seconds flat because of its thin noodles. The base of the soup is tonkotsu, but lighter and more “drinkable” after you finish your noodles. According to Japan Ramen Box, this is one of Japan’s most popular instant noodles.
To cook, bring 500 ml water to a boil then cook the noodles for 90 seconds. Meanwhile, prepare your serving bowl and add the soup powder plus the seasoning oil. Once the noodles are cooked, transfer the liquid into the serving bowl first. Stir together the seasoning and the liquid to create the soup, then add in the noodles. Stir again, add toppings as desired, then enjoy!
My thoughts: This had a light broth that still carried a pleasant flavor, but I feel like more toasted sesame would do this good. I wasn’t keen on the super thin noodles though.
Mukashinagara no Ramen (in 2 flavors)
My thoughts: As you know, Shio Ramen features a salt-based ramen broth that’s simply a classic. For this version, I thought the broth was indeed salty as expected, but somehow it had some pleasant flavor undertones that you have to look really hard to find. The saltiness of this ramen is overpowering.
Meanwhile, the Miso Ramen variant is a more balanced option flavor-wise. I think it’s my third favorite ramen from this box probably because I am a miso ramen girl. Anyway, the interesting bit about this ramen is that the broth is a mix of tonkotsu, red miso, and white miso. Definitely better than the Shio Ramen, in my opinion.
Both ramen have the same cooking instructions: Bring 500 mL water to a boil, then cook the noodles. It’s 3 minutes for the Shio Ramen and 5 minutes for the Miso Ramen. As the noodles cook, add the flavoring packets into a clean bowl. Now add the cooked noodles with the water into the bowl of seasoning, mix well, then enjoy! Recommended add-on’s are onions, cabbage, and some meat of course.
And now we have reached my TOP 2 FAVORITE RAMEN from this box. It’s not much of a top two really because one only edged out the other by a little bit, although to be fair, the quality of my number one pick beats all the other instant noodles here by a good mile.
#2 Toyama Black Ramen
This ramen is the signature of Toyama prefecture, with a strong peppery broth that brings a bit of spiciness to the tastebuds.
To cook, pull back lid halfway and take out all the packets. Add all the packets EXCEPT the liquid sachet and pour hot water up to the line of the bowl. Place the lid back and put the liquid sachet on top to warm it up. Wait 5 minutes, and once the noodles are ready, add the liquid sachet, mix, and enjoy!
My thoughts: I REALLY like this one. I was unsure at first about the black soup, but one sip was all it took to win me over! There was a sour tang from the black soy sauce base, then a nice smoky kick from the black pepper. It’s not too spicy, but spicy enough to stimulate the appetite. The dehydrated pork it comes with is a little funny though.
#1 Ippudo Akamaru Tonkotsu
This was no surprise, although it didn’t win by that much over my #2 favorite. Ippudo’s famous tonkotsu ramen in instant form, found only in select 7-11 branches in Japan.
To cook, pull back lid halfway and take out all the packets. Add the contents of the vegetable sachet and pork, then pour hot water up to the line of the bowl. Return the lid and let cook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, place the rest of the sachets on top of the lid to warm them.
My thoughts: This was the most elaborate cup noodle I have ever encountered and eaten. It has so many packets inside, helping to build up the anticipation of eating something with the words IPPUDO on it. (FYI, Ippudo is my favorite Japanese ramen chain so I had high expectations.)
For a cup ramen, it sure did not disappoint! Toppings were generous, and even the dehydrated meat was bigger than usual. The flavor is obviously not as nuanced or have as much umami as real tonkotsu broth (or the broth from their premium line of instant noodles) but again, for what it is, it’s not bad at all! It’s tasty enough, and some soft-boiled eggs would’ve made this a perfect bowl of instant ramen.
I will start by saying I think this box is a bit expensive if you consider how it contains just instant ramen. I think if everything inside was premium instant ramen, like the level of Ippudo, that would be a different story. It would be easier to convince lovers of instant ramen to shell out the money for this box, BUT like I said in the video, if you do enjoy discovering Japanese ramen brands and you have the extra funds, I do think this box is interesting to try at least once. If you haven’t gotten the chance to go to Japan and always wanted to try these things out, this box is also a really great option because of the variety of the ramen it contains.
I can’t say I was disappointed that I discovered some new favorites from this box, but I did receive this box for free after all.
There are always pros and cons to paying for any subscription box, and this one is no different. Of course the first con would be how you are never sure if you would like everything that’s included in the box. It’s also not really a necessity, but more of something you would buy if you had some extra money. That said, to me personally, the charm of a subscription box is in how it allows you to discover new things. The only problem is, it is hard to tell whether a surprise is worth it or not until after you actually experience it.
In that aspect at least, I think the Japan Ramen Box tries really hard to live up to people’s expectations. I can tell it does want to add some excitement, or in this case, some umami to its subscribers’ lives. Maybe in the future, they could partner with Japanese noodle brands to lower their costs and also lower the subscription rates? And you know, they can get their hands on more limited edition stuff too!
At this point, I can’t help but compare Japan Ramen Box to other Japanese subscription services available. It is here I can see where they can improve on. First, as I mentioned above, they need to keep their website updated. Also, it would look better if they replace this piece of Thank You paper with an actual list of the things included in the box because that’s what other boxes already do.
Add to that, I would love to see the market prices of each of the ramen included in the box so I can compare it with the price of the box. At least then I would know that I got a good deal out of the subscription.
Another thing I found alarming about this subscription company is that it does not seem to be consistent in their customer service. In their notice box on their website (screenshot below) they indicate there that if you want to have your subscription cancelled, you must e-mail them. Considering that it’s their own instruction to the subscriber, I was surprised to read how some people who have tried to cancel their subscription due to problems with their local Post Office/Customs did not get any e-mail response from the Japan Ramen Box team. That should not be happening!
My suggestion would be for the company to add an option on their website that allows people to subscribe for just one month as a sort of trial of their service, rather than have it automatically recur monthly. Or at the very least, they should put in place an automated way for subscribers to cancel their recurring subscription to avoid missed e-mails or delayed responses. Perhaps at the moment, for anyone who plans to go for a one month subscription to try the box out, it would be safer to e-mail FIRST expressing such an intent before actually subscribing.
I’m actually not sure if this is a new-ish company still trying to figure these things out, but I really hope they improve their service because it would be a shame if they get overshadowed by issues before they can fully realize their potential.
Full disclosure: I was sent a PR package by Japan Ramen Box for review. All opinions reflected in this post are my own.