Every college student in America is familiar with ramen noodles. We buy packages of the instant variety with powdered seasoning packets in bulk. But how many know that instant noodles were invented in Japan in 1958? Probably only those who have toured the Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama. Billed as the world’s first food amusement park, this museum strives to “fill visitors with nostalgia” and a desire to eat lots of ramen. It succeeds on both counts.
The ground floor houses a small museum that outlines the history of ramen and the ways each region of Japan put their own spin on the dish. Some regions use pork while others use chicken, lamb and seafood. Some versions include a hard-boiled egg while others include a fish cake or seaweed. Some use soy sauce as the base, some use soybean paste and miso. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of ramen!
The museum’s basement features a recreation of a section of Tokyo circa 1958. The soundtrack of airplanes flying overhead and air raid sirens was eerie and unnecessary since the war ended a decade earlier. I did appreciate the folks dressed up in period costumes and the attention to detail in the displays.
The basement level is also home to nine famous ramen restaurants, each from a different region of Japan. Outside each restaurant there are ticket machines where you can choose the type and serving size of your ramen. There are mini bowls available in case you want to try more than one. I went with Ryushanhai ramen from Yamagata prefecture, which has been run by the same family for 50 years. This delicious ramen is made using soybean paste and miso, with pork and a generous scoop of hot miso on top. This is a museum experience I can definitely get behind!
Have you ever had real Japanese ramen?