There are plenty of places to eat around Kyoto’s Nishiki Market (which is, in itself, an essential stop for any visitor to the city) but some are more memorable than others. Just a few steps north of the market’s covered arcade is the ramen noodle restaurant of Gogyo.
Not all ramen joints are as swish as this one, to be sure. Gogyo sits in what was once the former home of a Kyoto geisha named Oyuki. At the dawn of the 20th century, when the famous beauty was 21 years old, she met the nephew of the insanely wealthy American banker JP Morgan. George Morgan was so captivated by Oyuki that he proposed to her multiple times over the course of two years, receiving rejections on every occasion. Oyuki already had her heart set on someone else, a young Kyoto university student. Jokingly, she told Morgan she would marry him if he gave her ¥400,000. He delivered … Oyuki gave the money to her love and left Kyoto to marry Morgan. After his death, she returned to Kyoto and lived here in this house with her sister. (Not a bad back story for a ramen shop, huh?)
Gogyo’s other claim to fame is its burnt ramen, with a broth made by essentially scorching soy and miso bases in 300 degree lard. (Yum!) I’d heard the soy broth was a bit of an acquired taste so i ordered up a bowl of the miso flavored noodles. It came piled high with sprouts, green onions and some extra nori sheets that I’d requested. An egg and some ground meat (chicken, I believe) swirled in the broth. I’m pretty health-conscious so the lard knowledge put me off for a minute but the smell was too much to resist and after my first bite, there was no holding back. Gogyo serves up one seriously satisfying – and large – bowl of noodles for only about ¥800.
Due to its popularity both with locals and visitors alike, Gogyo often has a line at lunchtime on weekends. You can call to reserve a table in the back dining area (the old storehouse portion) or show up at an off time. I had no trouble getting a seat at the empty bar around 6pm or 7pm on a Sunday evening.
You can find out more information at Gogyo’s website. It’s mostly in Japanese but it lists hours for weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays and gives a map on its Access page. If you’re exploring Nishiki Market, it’s just steps north of the market on Yanaginobaba-dori (say that one three times fast).