Why Ippudo Is Offering Free Ramen Refills To Japanese Citizens

Move over Klondike bars, the new enticing treat is ramen. The age old question of 'What would you do for a Klondike bar?' now has a rival in Japan. The popular ramen chain Ippudo is offering unlimited free ramen noodle refills, or a free egg between July 10 and 24 to motivate Japanese citizens to cast their votes, according to the Mainichi. All Japanese citizens need is some proof of casting their ballot in this Sunday's election to earn the bonus treat at any of Ippudo's 50 Japanese locations (via The Guardian).

Ramen is the endlessly customizable noodle soup that took the island nation by storm in the 1980s and 90s (via The New Yorker). Ramen is such a cultural force in the country today, that Japan has a museum dedicated to the many regional styles of ramen, and a second pair of museums focused solely on the instant cup noodle ramen (via Japan-guide). Ippudo hopes that the power of ramen can be enough to get a young Japanese population to cast their ballot in the upcoming upper house elections.

Ippudo hopes ramen can inspire young voters

According to The Guardian, there has been historically low political engagement from young Japanese voters in recent years. It notes that in last October's more impactful lower house elections only 36% of Japanese citizens in their 20s cast their ballots. This is down from about 43% in 2016. For the past three decades, the youth voter turnout has not risen above 50%.

The Guardian reports that Japanese youth are feeling increasingly jaded by a political system that seems to favor the growing elderly population. According to Japan Today, the nation is aging faster than any other country. Just under one third of the country's population is more than 65 years old, and the birthrate has been progressively shrinking (via Washington Post). Young people in Japan are also coming out of the pandemic into a massively shifted job market from the one their parents and grandparents faced which is prompting feelings of anxiety for the future.

Certainly, all of these problems won't be fixed by some free ramen. Still, Ippudo hopes that it can at least inspire some civic engagement, and the youth's involvement in their government (via Mainichi).