Nikkei is a Japanese term that means “of Japanese descent”; it commonly refers to people and culture of the Japanese diaspora. Ramen is likewise diasporic in nature, traveling initially from China to Japan a century ago.
In 1922, Wang Wen Cai, a Chinese cook in Takeya restaurant in Sapporo, Japan produced a popular dish of noodles and pork called chankoro-soba. Since “chan” at the time was a derogatory term, the Japanese owners renamed the dish ryumen, and finally ramen.
For over 30 years ramen existed primarily as a street food due to its simplicity and affordability. In 1958, instant ramen was invented and became so widespread that it was named Japan’s first official national food. Then, from about 1970, Japanese began leaving salaried positions to open their own ramen-ya or ramen shops, across the country.
In the last decade ramen has spread quickly from Japan to major Pacific Rim cities. Most western ramen-ya are satellite locations of established Japanese chains. A few however are home grown, often by Nikkei people.
Nikkei Ramen-ya is a home grown original, founded in Courtenay, BC in 2016 by Greg Masuda, a third generation Canadian Nikkei, and his wife Erin. They live with their two young daughters just blocks from their downtown Courtenay shop.