By Sophia Cheng '25
Dreams of Ramen
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a college student in possession of a good appetite, must be in want of ramen."
Luckily for us, Boston is chock-full of it. Ramen is a straightforward experience, too—it’s a meal where you sit at a table with your friends, order, eat, and leave. Reader, as a college student in possession of an exceptionally good appetite, I’ve had many meals like this, and don’t get me wrong—they’re comfortable, fun, and above all, safe. But allow me to tell you about Yume Wo Katare.
After you’re done eating, the hosts pause the upbeat music that fills the room, and each customer has the option to introduce themselves. Afterwards, they are encouraged to share their dream, and after that, everyone congratulates the dreamer depending on the emptiness of their bowl. It was the most profound restaurant experience I’d ever had. From the room layout to the action of sharing, Yume Wo Katare follows a simple “introduce yourself to the class” concept.
But why is it so impactful, and why do hordes of college students like me flock to it?
In a word, it’s the challenge. No one is immediately up to divulging their dream. Just as it’s not a walk in the park to finish off a hearty bowl of noodles, opening your heart up to a room full of strangers on a Thursday night isn’t easy. Jake Vo, who runs the restaurant now, knows that better than anyone. According to him, it was his dream to run a Yume Wo Katare. However, after his master Tsuyoshi Nishioka passed Yume’s torch to him in 2017, he realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as the previous owner made it out to be. Years of struggle and innovation have led him to where he is now.
Tucked inside Cambridge’s Porter Square Shopping Center, this restaurant’s name loosely translates to “To Share Your Dreams”, and boasts “over 150k dreams shared”. Braving the line and stepping inside presents you with a scene straight out of an elementary school classroom: it’s a small space, consisting of an open kitchen space and three rows of seats. The walls are painted cobalt blue; a sprawling timeline covers one wall, detailing the story of Yume Wo Katare’s conception and how the current host, Jake Vo, came to run the restaurant. Painted clouds adorn the ceiling. On them are handwritten hopes and dreams, ranging from the relatively mundane to heart wrenchingly hopeful.
The only thing on the menu? Pork ramen. Yes, it’s amazing. How could it not be? Each bowl heaps with Delicious Garlic, tender pork, fat, bean sprouts, and cabbage. The tonkotsu broth is cooked for hours on end, and it shows: its flavor is deep and intense. Pork, garlic, soy sauce, and a lovely layer of fat dances on your tongue, nuanced in a way that simply cannot be packaged. The noodles are freshly hand-made each day. They soak up the broth and break apart the bowl, which is crowded with toppings. Yume Wo Katare’s ramen, to be blunt, is beautifully made. But as you might’ve guessed, it’s not the main selling point.
Yume Wo Katare’s Instagram– presumably also run by Jake– states in a story post that if he could serve anything other than ramen, he would. Rice balls, maybe? Anything, as long as people continue to come together to share their dreams like they have at Yume Wo Katare. So, it’s not about the ramen. It’s about keeping everyone’s dreams alive and well. And if they’ve dried up somehow, then it’s about bringing them back to life.
As for me, what was my dream? That’s between me and everyone else in Yume that day. And now? Another bowl, probably.
Yume’s target audience is students, people who have yet to fully achieve their dreams, but are still struggling to reach them. Boston is full of them. To both Vo and Nishioka, Yume Wo Katare is a place that challenges everyone to both realize and cultivate their dreams, no matter how challenging it may be. When I visited Yume Wo Katare myself, I waited in line for about 20 minutes. That night, I squinted at the hand painted sign that decorates the door, and noticed an “until 2030” painted in the top right corner.
Later, when I made it inside, I asked Jake about what it meant. “The shop will close in 2030”, He said, “and then I’ll move on to the next dream.”
I didn’t probe further. When I left, though, I joked to my friends that I would follow wherever he ended up going. But maybe that wasn’t just because the ramen was good (which it was!). Maybe it was because I hadn’t experienced something like that before, a liminal space where people from all walks of life came together to share something deeply personal yet awe-inspiring, and walked away carrying each other’s dreams, perhaps never to meet again.