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Traveling on west Tokyo’s Seibu Ikebukuro railway line — much like slurping a bowl of classic tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen — is a deeply nostalgic experience for me. I called more than one of its stations “home” during the first several years I spent in Japan after moving here from Philadelphia.

As a young cook in Philly, the thing I obsessed over more than anything else was ramen. While instant ramen is common in the U.S., the real stuff was hard to get even as recently as six years ago. Those rare bowls contained such explosive flavor — such control and complexity — that it frankly blew my mind.

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