Tales from the Runway: New Chitose Airport (CTS) in Japan

Posted in Asia, At the Terminal, CTS, International

Tales from the Runway features stories of air travel terror and delight from the Fly&Dine community. Here’s Esther Tseng, LA blogging superstar of e*star LA, on finding ramen nirvana at a regional Japanese airport during a recent snowboarding trip:

The mere idea that I would choose to eat at an airport is ludicrous, really. But that is the situation with most airports in America. Who ever thinks: “I want to spend $15 on a hot dog at the airport and it will be worth it?” Although Angelenos now have great food and drinks to look forward to if they’re flying out of Tom Bradley terminal or Terminal 4, it’s been a long time coming – and one decent option doesn’t even apply to half the terminals.

On the way back to mainland Japan from Hokkaido, where I had been eating and snowboarding in the ski town of Niseko, I had a few hours to spare before my flight at Chitose airport, but as I started walking around, I wish I were staying at the airport overnight. There were just too many eye-opening things.

A lot of it is retail therapy – with more awesome, strange or cute things than you know what to do with. A Calbee store, a
Doraemon-themed “entertainment zone,” a Royce chocolate store, stores selling fantastic Japanese snacks, luxury clothing stores and the list goes on. The place is its own mall. But as far as airport food, there is a glorious Ramen Dojo.

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Ramen Dojo

Half the available places to eat in the airport are basically ramen stands in this Dojo. My friends and I did a walk through to see what was available as employees called to us to come to their stand, but we went with good ol’ fashioned mob mentality and stood in the longest line. And what I mean by the longest line is that this place was the only stand with a line – 10 people in all – and as we got closer, we saw why.

We’ve had miso ramen every single day in Hokkaido, the north island’s specialty, since our condo was literally next door to a ramen house. Tonkotsu ramen was also readily available. But this stand in the front-right corner of the Ramen Dojo served shrimp ramen. The two main kinds of broth were either shrimp-based or shrimp-and-pork-based.

I went with the shrimp broth, and it did not disappoint. What can I say other than it was shrimpy deliciousness? It took the saltiness of ramen to another level, to another depth of umami. Even though I wished I had more time to explore the airport, I easily concluded that this bowl of shrimp ramen was one of the best things in the ramen dojo, and even the entire CTS airport.

A bowl of shrimp ramen sure does a layover good.

Esther Tseng, of e*starLA, is a Los Angeles-based freelance food writer, snowboarder, traveler and dilettante.

(All photos by Esther Tseng.)

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