[NOTE: Suzuran has relocated to Ebisu.]

Japan's infatuation with ramen can seem bewildering to the uninitiated. When you see lines around the block outside nondescript noodle joints in remote locations, with waits of up to an hour, it's hard not think the obsession is verging on the pathological.

At least Suzuran looks the part. With its whitewashed clapboard exterior, old-fashioned wood-frame windows and timber signboard above the door, you start to sense that tradition and craftsmanship may be factors behind its considerable reputation among real ramen aficionados.