Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum
I know how good it is. How much the first taste on my lips make me tingle, how my body warms with a glow as it goes down my throat, how the smell fills my nostrils so my stresses evaporate, how the sounds of the slurping feel like a Japanese angel choir is surrounding me. OK… that last one might be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point – I love ramen.
But even for someone who loves hot bowls of ramen as much as anyone, I find it a bit odd that Japan would have an entire museum dedicated to the noodles.
In the city of Yokohama – an effective extension of Tokyo but a modern metropolis of its own – the museum opens its doors each day for the hungry and the curious. To step inside is to be transported back to Tokyo in 1958. This was the year instant noodles were invented and a culinary transformation began in Japan.
The main part of the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum has been designed to recreate a Tokyo street in the 1950s. An evening sky is painted on the ceiling and in the main square there are facades of shops and restaurants on every side. The barber, the beauty salon and the cinema – they’re all just decorative. But the restaurants – they are all real and each is doing its own noodle specialty.
Vending machines outside each shop let you choose and pay for your bowl of ramen. You then take the ticket inside, sit down, and wait for the steaming bowl of brothy noodley goodness to arrive. The procedure for payment may have changed a bit since 1958 – even in an ‘authentic’ recreation the Japanese can’t forego their technological gimmicks – but the taste of the food is genuine.
Ramen were being eaten well before 1958 – this was just the year that they became more accessible for daily consumption. The noodles originally came from China and it’s not quite clear exactly when or how they made their way to Japan or why they became known as ‘ramen’. But the Japanese still spell the word using special characters reserved only for foreign languages, reminding everyone constantly that it is not originally a local dish.
What separates Ramen from the traditional Japanese varieties is the way the noodles are made – with wheat, flour, salt, water and a special alkaline mineral water called ‘kansui’. There are then four types of broth commonly used: A salty clear one which is the most common, a creamy one which comes from boiling pork bones and fat for a long time, a brownish one with lots of soy sauce, and one based on miso soup.
So much effort goes into the preparation of ramen and getting it just right. (If you don’t believe me, just ask Brittany Murphy. Oh, except she’s dead. Never mind.) And a lot of effort has also gone into making this museum an experience which is about much more than just the food. Above the main square are little alleyways with some hidden restaurants and authentic old phone boxes, television sets and posters.
There are some local businessmen who clearly come here regularly to get their lunch, there are families who have come for a daytrip, and there’s just a smattering of foreign tourists like myself. If my stomach could have handled it, I would have stayed all day and eaten as many types of ramen as possible. But I didn’t. I can’t wait to go back, though.
26 thoughts on “Worshipping at the altar of noodles”
This is too cool! I love ramen. Definitely a must visit when I head to Japan.
Put it on the list – you won’t regret it!!
A ramen museum? This is amazing. I love how they’ve recreated a typical Tokyo street from the 1950s! I became a ramen addict in South Korea and would love to try some of the stuff they have on offer in Japan.
How different do you think the South Korean ramen would be to the Japanese? I haven’t been there myself so would be interested to find out how they compare.
There’s nothing quite like the real thing, and it’s easy to see why it’s a regular place for people to sit down for lunch. Great shots and coverage as always!
If I lived and worked near there, I reckon I would go in almost every day for lunch! Even though all ramen noodles are quite similar, there are enough differences in the various types that you don’t easily get sick of them.
Wow, these photos look amazing!
Thanks, Jules. From the outside it just looks like any old building so it’s such a shock to get in there and see the whole place decorated like this. There are so many little authentic bits as well – like posters and phone boxes.
Okay so a noodle museum sounds a bit ridiculous but THIS LOOKS AWESOME. Thanks for sharing!
Happy travels 🙂
I know!! How can such a silly idea actually be so fantastic. That’s the magic of Japan!! 🙂
I just love how whacky Tokyo is. I might head there later on this year. Will definitely check out some ramen when I am there.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself eating ramen far too often when you’re in Japan. It’s easy, cheap and tasty. Yum…
Neat. I love the idea that is almost a theme park with the painted sky and 1950’s stuff. I will likely forget by the time we go, but this definitely needs to get on our visit list for Japan. I quite like Ramen, but only ever had it in the dry square blocks beloved by college students.
The idea that Japanese has foreign characters for such things is interesting. Language and culture are so bound, that to remind at ever read that this dish come from elsewhere is kind of neat. Though exactly what it says about them I don’t know.
The characters for foreign words are used mostly for more modern things. For instance, the characters are used to spell the word ‘hanbaaga’ which means hamburger. ‘Hotto doggo’ is hot dog and ‘pan’ means bread (from the Portuguese ‘pao’). It is a bit strange they still uses these characters for ramen… but at least it’s consistent!
Now that is a museum I would be sooo into visiting! I’m not a big fan of Ramen Noodles, but what a fun place.
You would enjoy it even if you’re not a huge fan. I’ve got a feeling you will be a bigger fan by the time you leave, though!
Too much fun! The 1950’s set is amazing and your descriptions are mouth watering! What a incredibly odd and yet wonderful museum!
It was so wonderful. It was nothing like I was expecting but was absolutely brilliant. My mouth has been watering ever since I started writing about it – it’s like visiting all over again!! 🙂
I just had ramen for lunch, though the kind that comes in a little package. How fun that they actually have museum dedicated to their noodles!
You’ll never go back to the package ones after you’ve tried the real stuff from this place!! 🙂
Oh we’d go there in a heartbeat. We love ramen. The mistake I made, though, is reading this while hungry. Oyvey.
I get hungry every time I think about this place. I wish I lived there… or every city had one. I would be there every day!
How interesting! Somehow I haven’t tasted ramen noodles yet – whenever I make it to Japan, or a Japanese restaurant. I loved The Ramen Girl by the way, Brittany Murphy was one of my favorite actors. She had this charming way about her that I found totally endearing.
Now I’m off to googling ramen noodles in KL!
Oh, Brittany Murphy really annoyed me in the movie. She was such a self-entitled little brat – I just wanted to hit her every time she was rude to the ramen chef!!
Anyway, let me know how you go with the ramen in KL. I imagine there would be some good shops somewhere there!
There are plenty of places for ramen here, not good for vegetarians though as they were all based on pork broth. My quest continues!
Wow! I didn’t know that this museum houses a lot of ramen restaurants. Love the ambiance. This place surely beats the ramen street in Tokyo station. I will visit this ramen museum next time I’m in Japan.