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Japan sees rise of 'ramen girls'

Women move in on the male-dominated world of noodle soup

A young woman enjoys her ramen fix on a Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Kaori Shoji)

TOKYO -- Ramen, Japan's ubiquitous noodle soup, has become one of the country's most internationally recognized dishes. In Japan, though, ramen is a dish with largely masculine connotations -- traditionally it is men who get misty-eyed about their favorite ramen restaurants, not women. Now that is changing as a new culture of "girl ramen" takes hold.

Since the 1960s, when ramen served as a cog in the engine of Japan's period of rapid economic growth, ramen has been a largely male prerogative, a source of private joy and the entrance to a man's inner sanctum. Most men enter ramen establishments alone, sit at the counter and talk to no one. Socializing or soaking up the ambience is never the point.

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