At night, at the entry to Ameya Yokocho, an old market street in the outer Tokyo neighborhood of Ueno, my favorite ramen vendor appears with his yatai, an old-fashioned wooden pushcart on which he constructs steaming bowls of ramen. I don't know the hawker by name, and his cart is unbranded, but his ramen I am intimately attached to; I always order a bowl when I'm in the area. The Japanese are nuts for this iconic soup, built around wheat-flour noodles made with kansui, an alkaline mineral water that renders them yellow and springy. Of the many types of ramen—porky tonkatsu, salty shio, chile-spiked tantanmen--my guy makes just one: Tokyo-style shoyu. He ladles a soy sauce-enriched clear broth over thin, straight noodles, roasted pork loin and belly, bamboo shoots and mung bean sprouts, fragrant scallions and greens, and a creamy, soy sauce- and mirin-marinated soft-boiled egg. A reverent silence surrounds the cart. All that can be heard is the slurping of noodles and the clatter of chopsticks against bowls. It is the music of satisfaction.