FREDERICTON – An immigrant Japanese-Korean family has opened a noodle restaurant in Fredericton that offers an authentic Japanese experience – including made-from-scratch noodles and tatami seating.
Tokyo Ramen was born in the United States, when the whole Kamazuka family moved to Oregon a year after their two children had moved to study school abroad.
“We stayed there for one year but then my parents… kinda missed us so much that they just decided to [come], they [had a] restaurant [in Japan] but then they sold everything and they decided to open a new restaurant in the States,” said Fumikiyo Kamazuka, the eldest son.
Hirofumi Kamazuka and Kyunghee Choi, the parents, are both professional chefs and have more than ten years of cooking experience. Kamazuka says his father, Hirofumi, has certificates and qualifications from Japan.
They stayed for five years in the U.S. and did business with two other restaurants, but decided to come to Canada because they saw more opportunity here.
The family came through a government program, offered by the city of Fredericton.
“My mother’s friends, mentioned it’s fairly easier getting a permanent residency in comparison to the States. [My parents] just said ‘okay, we’ll go there,’” said Kamazuka.
They came to Canada two years ago. Kamazuka says even though they were expecting some snow, adapting to it has been difficult.
“I didn’t expect the 20 minus [temperature]. I only knew that [existed] in a refrigerator or freezer so it was very surprising to just feel the temperature,” he said.
At first, the family also struggled with adapting to a new culture. Kamazuka says language was a slight barrier for his parents, as his little brother and him are the only ones who speak fluent English.
Kamazuka says at first they thought it would be hard to merge with the different communities in Fredericton.
“[At] first we thought it may be hard to enter those communities since we were thinking people in the rural area are all connected but are not really used to the outsiders, but on [our] second day, the people in the community approached us [and said] ‘welcome to Fredericton,’” he said.
During their first month in Fredericton, they became friends with their neighbours – who they are very close with now – and a Korean church they went to.
Kamazuka says it was more difficult to find the Japanese community in Fredericton, but now they have friends there too. They even helped them with remodeling the restaurant.
“They are all hiding,” he joked.
The restaurant opened in early June after undergoing renovations since April. On their first day in business, they had such a good reception that they weren’t able to serve all the customers that were waiting outside as the place had reached its full capacity.
Kamazuka says their recipes are original creations.
“Most of the menus [you’ll find here] don’t exist in Japan. We just took the ideas from them, and then we figured out the new ones,” he said.
The restaurant offers Japanese and some Korean dishes. Kamazuka says they make noodles in his house almost every morning with a noodle machine.
“We make each meal from [scratch] till the [end]. We buy the products locally,” he said.
He also says prices are affordable – even for university students.
Kamazuka says Tokyo Ramen was designed to provide customers with an authentic Japanese experience. If customers wish, they can sit in a special area with tatamis.
“As you enter, we say…’welcome’ in Japanese…and ‘thank you’ when you leave,” he said.
He says the staff tries their best to provide customers with a good experience as a way to give back to the community.
“People in the community welcomed us, so now we’re going welcome them,” he said.
Tokyo Ramen is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday at 502 Forest Hill Road.