An Ode to Naruto’s Ramen Guy: How a Hot Bowl of Ramen Helped Save the World
Making the world a better place, one bowl at a time.
Among the many openings and endings tied to the Naruto anime, one found near the series’ end stands out among the rest.
While it may feature a bevy of the show’s cast and characters, it doesn’t have glimpses of fights to come or tragic scenes of despair. There aren’t set pieces featuring terrain getting torn apart by over-the-top techniques, and there’s not an ounce of foreshadowing for an upcoming villain. Instead, the cast is shown going to Ichiraku Ramen to enjoy food with one another; either as friends celebrating a job well done, lovers enjoying a date, or isolated village pariahs eager to escape the rain.
This glimpse at the more low-key and relaxed aspects of the characters’ lives is a welcome break from the story’s shift toward non-stop fights in its conclusion. More important, though, is the fact that it highlights the character who facilitates all of this, and hints at just how important to the wider world and narrative he truly is.
I’m talking, of course, about Teuchi; better known as the Ichiraku Ramen Guy.
Though he may never play a massive role in the story, he is a constant fixture among the citizens of the Hidden Leaf Village. His shop is a gathering place for the hungry, and an oasis amidst the endless power creep of new villains and evil organizations.
This doesn’t change as the series goes on either. Despite the many headcanons that exist wherein he is a dormant master Shinobi on par with the Sage of Six Paths, he is officially just a normal man who runs a restaurant in a village inhabited by supernaturally-gifted warriors. He boasts neither the rank of the village’s more prestigious elders or the power to alter the fabric of reality with ancient arts passed down over millennia. Instead, he seeks only to provide a service to the hard-working Shinobi of his home town.
And in the grand scheme of things, this is what makes him stand out. He has no master plan he is putting together behind the scenes, and isn’t working a specific angle by being kind to the people around him. He is a caring and considerate provider, and will offer a warm bowl of ramen to whoever finds their way into his shop. Which might not seem like the most impressive feat; or at least, not until one stops and thinks about the enormity of this fact, especially given the trials endured by the series’ main character.
When Naruto begins, the titular protagonist is hated by most everyone around him. The ones who are willing to give him genuine attention and compassion are limited to say the least, and he spends most of his time acting out for attention or weathering the insults of the village’s residents who despise him due to his housing the Nine-Tailed Fox spirit. He has few places where he feels truly welcomed and happy, and one of those locations just so happens to be Ichiraku Ramen.
Part of this is due to the fact that he loves ramen and is rewarded with it by his mentor Iruka, but as the aforementioned ending theme shows, it’s also because of Teuchi. When others treated him like garbage for even being alive, the Ichiraku Ramen Guy treated him the same way he would anyone else. He offered the Hyperactive Knuckleheaded Ninja in the making a place where he could be treated with warmth and kindness, and welcomed him back over and over again as time went on.
He gave Naruto a place where he could feel like a person, and did so without ever belittling him or making him feel like a crime against the wider world. This was all while never being a main character or receiving explicit credit for doing so as well. For all the attention other characters receive in regards to seeing past their biases and supporting Naruto in his adventures, few of them are as consistently compassionate toward Naruto, and especially before he proves his worth with a slew of impressive feats.
One could even argue his kindness and role in Naruto’s life are a big reason he was able to reach the heights he does. Without a place to feel welcomed and wanted, his journey would have been that much more difficult, and may have even ended long before he managed to become the Hokage of the leaf village.
Honestly, that’s kind of the whole point of Teuchi’s character, and serves to impart an important message — be willing to be kind. No one can ever be sure of what someone is going through or what they’ll become, and the difference could be made with a small gesture of acceptance and understanding.
So here’s to Teuchi the Ichiraku Ramen Guy. Though he may not have been an all-powerful character waiting in the wings, he still proved himself to be one of the most valuable people in the series. May his shop stand eternal among the Village Hidden in the Leaves, and may it continue to offer a place for even the most disastrous Shinobi to feel welcomed with open arms.
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