A woman prepares a Japanese Christmas cake at the Patisserie Akira Cake shop on Dec. 23, 2011. The sponge cake is drenched in symbolic meaning. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

At Yume Wo Katare, eating ramen is treated as a path to personal fulfillment. Andrea Shea for WBUR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Shea for WBUR

Genuine soba noodles are difficult to find in the U.S. iStockphoto hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto