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Efforts of g-Men 8-4-17 Kinuta, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Delivering people-friendly ramen
In recent years, the number of stylish ramen restaurants that even women can walk into alone has been increasing. However, in the typical ramen restaurant, there is little space between the stools at the counter, so people with strollers or wheelchairs are often hesitant to go in. Luckily, in front of Soshigaya-Okura Station on the Odakyu line, one can find g-Men, an accessible ramen restaurant that even customers with strollers or wheelchairs can freely enter. Hideki Goto, the restaurant's proprietor, talked to us about the circumstances that resulted in him running an accessible restaurant.
A big change from bar management
Until last year, I spent 31 years running a bar in Shimokitazawa, but I thought that an accessible restaurant would be necessary to coexist with the people of the community in our shopping district, so I decided to open a ramen and pasta restaurant that any kind of customer could freely eat at.
The first step was to find the right property. I focused my search on properties in quiet environments near residential areas to ensure that they would be freely accessible to nearby elderly people and people with impairments. That's how I ended up finding this property in front of Soshigaya-Okura Station. Next, I renovated the restaurant to make it accessible, and I managed to open it to the public in spring of 2019.
Making the restaurant accessible
In terms of efforts on the tangible side of things, there is a slight difference in grade between the sidewalk and the store. However, we have a portable ramp available to ensure that our restaurant can be smoothly entered from the road. Upon request, we're happy to set the ramp up for customers in wheelchairs. As a matter of fact, our restaurant is designed to give us a clear view of customers from the kitchen, so they never have to wait long. In addition, the height of our chairs can be changed, and there is plenty of space between the counter seats and table, so any kind of customer can easily sit there. Naturally, our restrooms are wheelchair-accessible as well, and there is plenty of room in them for wheelchairs to maneuver. The restrooms also have sliding doors that can be easily opened even by people in wheelchairs. The walls of our restaurant also have handrails, which can be held by customers so that they can walk even without canes.
Regarding the ramen itself, the volume is suitable for satisfying elderly people, and the soup contains little salt and is only lightly seasoned. Depending on the needs of our customers, we can also soften the noodles or cut the grilled pork and bamboo shoot ingredients into small pieces.
We want people to feel free to come in just to use the restroom as well
There's a saying I like: "One who learns while young accomplishes great things as an adult. One who learns as an adult never falls prey to senility. One who learns after growing old never fades away even after death." (Issai Sato, Genshishiroku 42) During my own learning, I constantly think about what I can do to please customers who require special consideration, but the recent support of the Tokyo Accessible Tourism Promotion Counselor Dispatch Project has resulted in a major change in awareness. My restaurant has not been open for long, so few people know that it is accessible. Therefore, I posted a notice at the entrance to indicate that my restaurant is accessible even to customers with wheelchairs or strollers. We also provide free tea even to people who do not eat our ramen, and I hope people will feel free to stop by even if all they want to do is use our restrooms or take a break. The restaurant name, "g-Men", is also intended to seem approachable to any kind of customer, and the "g" is the first letter of both "Goto" and "grandpa". I run my restaurant in an effort to be helpful to everyone. I hope to continue striving in various ways to ensure that our shopping district is a people-friendly one that people can visit without hesitation, even in cases where they struggle or hesitate to go out for various reasons.
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