In my previous post, ‘another one‘ , Wulong kindly commented about an interesting loan word which has kanji: ramen – 拉?.

This reminded me of a question which has bothered me for a long time. Why is ラーメン also written らーめん? It was my belief that ‘ー’ is only used in katakana words, but here it is sandwiched between hiragana! We never see the word らあめん, do we?


  1. Hello,
    I’ve never seen the word “らーめん” before, and the word should be written “ラーメン”, you know.
    But I admit we sometimes use Hiragana on purpose even though we know it’s wrong way of writing. I don’t know the reason well, but maybe it’s because…
    1 インパクトがあるから。
    2 おもしろいから。
    3 ひらがなの方がやさしい印象を人に与えるから。
    (Sorry, I find it hard to write these sentences in English. Hope you understand them.)
    In any case, it’s very informal.
    Also it’s true that “ー” is only used in Katakana and that’s the grammar rule and formal style, I’m not sure though.
    But we sometimes use “ー” in Hiragana in an informal letter or email.
    Here are some examples:
    But these examples are not for a noun like “らあめん”and I guess you might already know this kind of things…
    Sorry for my poor explanation.

  2. Hi Miyo – thanks a lot for your information.
    I can’t believe that you’ve never seen “らーめん” before. I’ve seen this word many times. Try keeping an eye out the next time you are out.
    From what I’ve seen, katakana is usually used for impact, rather than hiragana. Your points, especially 2 and 3 are very interesting. Hiragana does have a softer feel to it than kanji and katakana, doesn’t it.
    Yes, in informal writing there are many people, myself included, who break the rules. But my English e-mails are far worse.

  3. Hello, Darren.
    “Hiragana does have a softer feel to it than kanji and katakana.” Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted to say! Maybe it’s because we use curved lines to write Hiragana letters.
    It’s true that I’ve never seen “らーめん” before but probably I just don’t remember it. I might have passed through “らーめん” shops many times.

  4. Thanks for replying – please post a comment on this page when you see “らーめん”! By the way, I recommend tantan-men =)

  5. Here I go again… 🙂
    Tantanmen also has kanji:
    担担面 (simplified)
    擔擔? (traditional)
    It’s a Sichuanese dish that became popularized in Taiwan and made its way over to Japan.

  6. Thanks wulong, you really know your food kanji!
    Isn’t that the 担 kanji from たんとう and 面 means ‘face/side…’ right? What does ‘bearing/carrying/shouldering+face/side have to do with noodles?

  7. Yeah, they’re both simplified 🙂 A lot of characters became ambiguous as you point out after the simplification process took its “toll” on Chinese characters in Mainland China. Most people who study Chinese in the US or those who are from Hong Kong or Taiwan feel that these simple characters betray their true meaning, and they actively reject using them.
    I personally think both have their uses, but it certainly helped me as a student to learn simplified. Traditional looks way better for calligraphy and for street signs, so I’m somewhat agnostic on the issue.

  8. I’ve seen ramen written らーめん plenty of times over the past three months I’ve been living in Tokyo… but I don’t think I’ve seen らあめん more than once. There’s a place in 高円寺 that writes it that way, including large banners. It does bother me a bit, despite knowing essentially no Japanese.

  9. Thanks for that Owen (I was sent a picture as proof!). Ramen is clearly written in every way possible…