• Kyodo

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Nearly 12 million customers so far have slurped noodles at the Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku (Republic) food park, which will mark its 10th anniversary on Oct. 1.

Housed on a rotating basis, eight ramen shops on the 10th floor of a commercial complex near JR Sapporo Station are enjoying increasing popularity.

At first the park featured only ramen shops from Hokkaido. Since shops from outside the prefecture joined the lineup in 2009, 42 in all have set up there.

According to the operator, 5 million people had visited the food park by April 2008, and more than 10 million by December 2012.

The operator attributes some of the park’s success to the rating system. Customers are asked to rate the eateries on a scale of 1 to 5. The top-rated shops are recognized each month with the title “King of Ramen.”

The operator added that the negative feedback the store owners occasionally receive helps them improve the taste and increases the competitiveness. For example, based on what customers say, the chefs can adjust the flavor of their broth, the operator said.

“We have worked to ensure that customers never get bored with the same taste, for example, by suggesting to our shop owners that they introduce seasonal menus,” said Takahiko Asanuma of the food park’s operator. “Hokkaido is a place where tourists can enjoy a variety of ramen alongside local residents. We want to help increase the popularity.”

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