In his quest to discover the perfect instant noodle, Japanese ramen lover Toshio Yamamoto has tasted over 5,600 varieties from 40 countries, in the past two decades.
He reviews every kind ramen he tries on his website and scores them on a scale of 1 to 5. The best rating heâ€™s given out so far is a â€˜4â€™.
On i-ramen.net, 55-year-old Yamamoto offers detailed information on each of the 5,600 varieties of noodles heâ€™s tasted, including the country of origin, cooking time, sodium content, calories, texture, and flavor.
The website is hugely popular with thousands of fans around the world, and has recorded over 1.4 million hits since 1996. Some of his fans even send him packages of noodles from overseas.
â€œWhen you finish eating the noodles, the content will be gone even though the packaging remains,â€ Yamamoto explained. â€œI want to keep records of the content.â€
He also produces video reviews of instant noodles that he puts up on YouTube â€“ theyâ€™ve gotten millions of hits as well. And his book, titled â€˜Sokuseki Mencyclopediaâ€™, features info on packets of instant noodles from around the world.
Yamamoto said that heâ€™s been passionate about noodles for years, ever since he learned to cook in elementary school. His love for ramen only increased as he got older, and in college he made a film about a guy who goes on a search for a type of noodle that makes the eater immortal.
His own search for the perfect instant noodle started during his travels as an electrical engineer.
Yamamoto came across a unique type of noodle that heâ€™d never seen before in Niigata Prefecture . Since then, he has been using every business trip as an opportunity to hunt for new varieties of noodles.
Having tasted noodles for so many years, Yamamoto says that the quality and taste of instant ramen is a lot different than it used to be.
â€œIn the old days, the focus was on giving consumers practical benefits such as some nutritional value as well as saving time on cooking,â€ he explained.
â€œBut todayâ€™s products incorporate a change in peopleâ€™s palates and culinary trends to better serve consumers.â€
Heâ€™s also noticed that while cup noodles are more popular in developed countries, instant noodles are more common in developing countries.
Yamamoto took an early retirement last year, to be able to devote all his time to his noodle-related activities. Heâ€™s currently writing another book, and continues to eat ramen about five times a week.
He promises he will not stop until he finds that elusive 5-star noodle.
â€œI will keep eating noodles to look for the perfect one,â€ he said.