The Bassanova story…

Day 139:

Long ago, before the so-called “ramen boom,” there was a popular tonkotsu ramen shop in Harajuku called Basaraka. That shop no longer exists today, but it is what gave birth to Bassanova more than ten plus years ago. Bassanova also began as a tonkotsu ramen shop, serving nothing but the Tondaku Soba (100% tonkotsu) that you see on the menu today. It was originally supposed to carry on the Basaraka name, but some dude in Kyushu stole it and registered it inappropriately. I won’t get into the legal proceedings that followed, but the owner in the end just decided to entwine the name Basaraka with one of his favorite musical styles–Bossa Nova. So for those who keep asking me about its misspelling, that is why it is spelled Bassanova.

Bassanova also began as a collaboration of sorts. It was an experiment that brought together several up-and-coming ramen chefs of that time and allowed them to have a stage to show their work. Most notably was the team from Jiraigen. It was this Basaraka + Jiraigen collabo that married Basaraka’s tonkotsu with Jiraigen’s wadashi to form the Tondaku Wadashi Soba–the most popular ramen on the menu. But after a few years, this collabo had a falling out. I’m not aware of all the details, but the team from Jiraigen left and opened up their own shop just a few miles down the road. So if you were wondering what lied beneath the black marker on all the posters lining the walls…yup, it used to say Jiraigen.

Now you must be wondering how the Green Curry Soba and the Tom Yum Soba came into the picture. Well let me tell you. Back in the early days, Bassanova used to function as a cafe during the day and ramen-ya at night. The cafe was mostly geared towards women, serving cake, coffee and tea, and light food items. Then one day, a chef from Thailand was hired to overhaul the lunch menu. He brought with him several recipes that included green curry rice and tom yum soup. Although the cafe is no longer open, I bet you know where this story leads. Yup! The ambitious crew of ramen chefs became intrigued and instantly began marrying the green curry and tom yum with the wadashi soup. After several years of experimentation, the Green Curry Soba and the Tom Yum Soba have become the ramen that they are today.

Over the years, Bassanova has also seen its fair share of ramen chefs come and go. Each vowed to preserve and protect its ramen until they could pass it on to their successor. There have been several times where Bassanova was on the verge of closing because this successor could not be found. But in each instance, someone emerged who said that they would step up and continue its legacy. Today, I am that person. And I have vowed to continue the Bassanova legacy until I can pass it on to my successor. Are you interested?

11 Replies to “The Bassanova story…”

  1. A friend of mine made a video about this place years ago and I've been meaning to go there since. Now that I'm finally living in Tokyo, I decided to look it up and you're right down the road! I see myself becoming a regular in the very near future.. keep the warm green bowls ready for me!

  2. this is my favorite ramen shop in japan. it's the most special ramen i've ever eaten.

    are you really working there now?
    maybe next time i go, i will say “hello.”

  3. Hi Keizo,

    Wonderful story! 🙂 That's so awesome. I'm sure you're going to make your favorite Green Curry Soba into the most popular item on the menu, ne? (^_~)

    Hope you come back to So Cal some day. 🙂

  4. dang man, that is quite a story. i had no idea. and man, the fact that jiraigen, one of your other main jams originally came from bassa, and used to be located in that space…too wild dude, too wild!

  5. Keizo-kun,

    Was your decision to dive headfirst into bowls of ramen due to a love for ramen and a dislike for coding (I don't know what sort of coding you were doing since “code” can mean everything from Ruby on Rails to heavy duty embedded Linux coding.) or was it just some gamusyara jump into the world of ramen after the opportunity presented itself?

    I, as many others, am fascinated and admiring of the purity of your quest. I'd love to buy you a beer or five at a local Socal joint if you ever come back here.

    I am curious how you can afford to live in Tokyo on ramen shop pay. I'm assuming you're using savings from your previously propeller-head life to make it.

    Best wishes.

  6. That is such a cool story. I think you should totally write a book. If you could ever find time. Maybe I should write the book for you? 😉

  7. @J: haha thanks! speaking japanese everyday is starting to take a toll on my english skills. not that i had any skills in the first place tho. sorry to hear about bassanova being closed. hopefully you'll get a chance to come back soon.

    @beruang buncit: thank you so much!

    @MyLastBite: haha. it's too bad u don't get to see what happens behind the scenes. 😉 someday i'll have to write a book on the untold stories of Go Ramen! lol.

  8. Very cool story!!

    Due to your blog I tried to get down to Bassanova when I was in Tokyo a month or so ago but it was closed!! I don't know when I will be there next but will try again.

    And you probably mean successor, not predecessor ;p

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