Ramen might be more than a trendy dish, it might also be a persuasive tool, at least if a new program launched in Japan proves successful. In the Aichi prefecture police launched an initiative aimed at getting older drivers to give up their licenses and use public transit or taxis instead. If drivers over the age of 74 agree to forgo their time behind the wheel, they will get a ramen discount for the rest of their lives. At 176 Sugakiya ramen restaurants throughout the area, the formerly licensed drivers will get a 15 percent discount on the already bargain basement noodle soup—with the discount a bowl of ramen, rice and a salad will only cost approximately $4.39. Other discounts will also be available at public baths, barbershops, drug stores and taxis, which will become quite a bit more important in the absence of a driver’s license.
The effort comes, at least partly, in response to Japan’s rapidly aging population—currently more than 25 percent of Japanese people are over the age of 65 and that number is expected to be close to 40 percent in the next 40 years. The concern from local police is that with more older drivers on the road, accidents will become more common.
The program, which went into effect last week, hasn’t been in place long enough yet to assess the results, but so far this year in Aichi 12,000 people surrendered their licenses with 270,000 doing it nationwide.
That’s a small number when you consider there are 4.8 million Japanese over the age of 75 still holding driver’s license. Maybe they need to start giving away ramen for free. Or at least putting big vats of it on the busses.