Ramen vs Chuka Soba vs Shina Soba : What is the difference?
There are 3 different given names for the shops that offer Ramen noodles in Japan. They are Ramen-ya (ラーメン屋), Chuka Soba-ya (中華そば屋), and Shina Soba-ya (支那そば屋).
As you might know, the last word in each name, “ya (屋)” means “shop” in Japanese, so Ramen-ya is the shop that serves Ramen noodles. Then, what do the other 2 shops mainly offer? Chuka Soba-ya and Shina Soba-ya also serve Ramen noodles? or Chuka Soba and Shina Soba?
Actually, there exist the noodle dishes called “Chuka Soba (中華そば)” and “Shina Soba (支那そば)” in Japan, but do you know how Chuka Soba and Shina Soba are different from Ramen?
The Difference between Ramen, Chuka Soba, and Shina Soba
To get straight to the point, Ramen, Chuka Soba, and Shina Soba are actually the same thing. The reason why there are 3 different given names for Ramen shops in Japan comes from the difference of the periods when each of them started being used.
The origin of Japanese Ramen dates back to the early Meiji period (Meiji : 1868 to 1912), when present Ramen noodle soups were called “Nankin Soba (南京そば)”. After that, in the middle Meiji period, they came to be called “Shina Soba (支那そば)”, then after World War 2, “Chuka Soba (中華そば)”.
It is after the release (1958) of the world’s first instant ramen “Nissin Chicken Ramen” (Amazon.com) that Chuka Soba began to be called “Ramen”.
As for the Japanese words, “Shina (支那)” and “Chuka (中華)”, both have a meaning of “Chinese”. However, Shina Soba and Chuka Soba generally refer to Japanese Ramen noodles.
Finally, regarding the reason why even now Ramen noodles are also called “Shina Soba” or “Chuka Soba” in Japan, it comes mainly from the difference of the periods when the noodle dish spread to each region of Japan.
(Reference page of this article : Shinyokohama Ramen Museum)