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A Japanese waitress delivers Ramen bowls, pork and cabbage, and gyoza during a night out at Manhokutei, better known as "The Truck Stop," a noodle shop near Yokota Air Base, Japan.

A Japanese waitress delivers Ramen bowls, pork and cabbage, and gyoza during a night out at Manhokutei, better known as "The Truck Stop," a noodle shop near Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Vince Little / S&S)

A Japanese waitress delivers Ramen bowls, pork and cabbage, and gyoza during a night out at Manhokutei, better known as "The Truck Stop," a noodle shop near Yokota Air Base, Japan.

A Japanese waitress delivers Ramen bowls, pork and cabbage, and gyoza during a night out at Manhokutei, better known as "The Truck Stop," a noodle shop near Yokota Air Base, Japan. (Vince Little / S&S)

Japanese patrons dig into their bowls of Ramen and gyoza recently at Manhokutei.

Japanese patrons dig into their bowls of Ramen and gyoza recently at Manhokutei. (Vince Little / S&S)

Americans at nearby Yokota Air Base call it "The Truck Stop."

The restaurant’s formal name is Manhokutei, part of a chain of noodle shops spread across the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Perched on stools up against a diner-variety counter, patrons can easily see food being prepared in a large, steamy kitchen that occupies much of the facility. If you’re looking for a classic Japanese meal to curb the late-night munchies, you’ve found the right place.

I’m from Georgia, and Manhokutei has always reminded me of a Waffle House or Huddle House, Japanese-style.

Manhokutei specializes in miso ramen but also features an assortment of other great items, including curry ramen, yakisoba, fried rice, gyoza, pork, meat and kimchi. And it’s an easy five-minute drive from Yokota’s West and Terminal gates on Highway 16.

Simply enough, the roots of Manhokutei’s nickname in Mizuho Town can be traced to the fact that so many truckers frequented the spot. Its spacious parking lot is conducive to painless pit stops off the busy highway.

But the restaurant isn’t just a blue-collar paradise anymore.

Today, you’re as likely to find a businessman headed home from the office as you would a construction worker who’s been hauling concrete slabs around all day. Young and old alike, they pop in for a quick bite to eat and then hit the road again.

Manhokutei has expanded over the years. It used to be a counter only, with tatami mats in the back for family and group seating. Now, there are half a dozen tables and chairs.

Manhokutei also has two locations in Tachikawa, including one on the north end of Showa Park.

A 24-hour McDonald’s sits across Highway 16 from the Mizuho Town store. But why go there when you can get a real fast-food treat at "The Truck Stop"?

I’m headed back to Georgia soon and will miss "The Truck Stop." For seven unforgettable years in Japan, my wife, Wendy, and I always made it a point to drop in for a hot bowl of ramen and cold bottle of Kirin. Hopefully, you too can make it part of your regular rotation outside Yokota’s gates.

Location: Mizuho Town, Japan. It’s three kilometers from Yokota’s West and Terminal gates on Highway 16. From the Terminal Gate, turn right and drive straight. Take the Ome/Nishitokyo Exit off the highway. Turn right at the light, and Manhokutei is on the corner, across from McDonald’s.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. weekdays; open until 2:30 a.m. weekends

Prices: Entrees 500-700 yen; sides including rice and gyoza 150-250 yen; large order of gyoza is 500 yen; 200 yen for ice cream dessert and 500 yen for bottled beer

Specialties: Miso ramen

English menu: No, but the proof is in the pictures.

Dress: Very casual

Clientele: From Japanese truckers and construction workers to businessmen and U.S. airmen, with everyone in between

Web site: www.manhokutei.co.jp.

Phone: 042-556-1845

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