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End of $3 ramen? Inflation squeezes Japan's comfort food

Restaurants seek new ways to win fans as cheap eats become not so cheap

A bowl of ramen at Hidakaya. The average price of ramen hit a record high of 617 yen in Japan in June as the Ukraine war drives up the price of ingredients, from wheat to pork.

TOKYO -- Inflation has spread to one of Japan's favorite, most affordable meals: ramen.

The average cost of a bowl of ramen was 617 yen ($4.57 at current rates) in June, Japan's interior ministry said, the highest price since it began tracking the data in 2000. With food costs rising across the board, national chains and mom-and-pop operations alike are struggling to keep price-conscious customers happy while dealing with ever-growing expenses.

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