Make them, design them, eat them, be them: The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum is the home of the cup-noodle lover, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Japan is famous for ramen, be it the hot steaming bowls served in the single-seater restaurants or the DIY cups of goodness bought from the convenience store. Both have their perks, and if you’re a devotee of the latter, then the Yokohama Cup Ramen Museum is a pilgrimage you have to make. While it used to be a simple affair with bright displays, weird videos and the famous Cup Ramen Factory, the museum has upped its game and is now a playground for lovers of the cup noodle. With the flashy displays and a new, slightly less-weird video to start, there’s a range of new added rooms that take this from an entertaining hour to a full afternoon of unbridled joy.
You can make your own signature chicken ramen from scratch, try noodles from around the world in the Noodle Bazaar, children can become a noodle in the play area and you can still make your very own cup noodle to round off the day. Perfect for rainy days in Tokyo or something to entertain the kids (or adults, not going to lie) it’s a reasonable and fun day out, right next to the busy Minato-mirai district of Yokohama.
The Cup Noodles Museum
Now, of course you came here to learn about the history of cup ramen, and there is plenty to be learned! You can start with the history cube—a bright timeline display of the development of instant ramen, from the first package in 1958 to the myriad international options we have today. Aesthetically pleasing and very bright, the room is actually really enjoyable, with strange designs and weird flavors as well as some rather old-fashioned advertising styles.
The next experience is the revamped Momofuku theater, with new videos explaining the invention process as well as Momofuku’s business life. Don’t worry though, the video is still unnervingly hallucinatory, with cup-noodle game show hosts and dramatic reenactments. There are multi-lingual audio sets available so you don’t miss a thing!
When leaving the theater you will be presented with a faithful recreation of the famous workshed in which ramen was created, complete with doomed chickens and glowing cooking pot. There are also displays of “Creative thinking boxes,” large sculptures and inspiring quotes along the way, handily glossing over his multiple business failures and focusing on the instant ramen success.
Finish with the cup-noodle marble coaster and watch as marbles follow the route of ramen, doomed for their deep-fried destiny.
Start from scratch at the Chicken Ramen Factory
Often filled with school children, the chicken ramen factory allows you to make your own ramen from scratch, right from the oil and wheat flour to rolling, frying and into a packaged item of chickeny deliciousness. After a lot of instructional videos (English instructions available), you can get your hands dirty as you make noodles in pairs, mixing, stretching, rolling and leaving the dough to settle before a break to design your packet. Soon you’ll go back, roll it some more, cut into noodles and weigh before sending it off to the fryers (unsurprisingly they don’t let kids or adults touch vats of hot oil, but you can watch).
Once fried and placed into your packet (with crunchy left overs to try) you’re given a gift bag with noodles and even allowed to keep your bandanna. The class takes 90 minutes and requires a reservation in advance, which can be easily done online (using Google Translate on Chrome ideally).
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Cost: Children 300 yen | Adults 500 yen
Get your fill at the Noodle Bazaar
The previous cruelty of the museum was being shown the myriad elements of your favorite food, but with no way to satiate the inevitable cravings. Now, our prayers have been answered and you can feast in the Noodle Bazaar—a brightly decorated hall of international noodle dishes. Decked out to look like an East-Asian night market, it’s fun and cheerful with plastic chairs, street lights and even traffic noises to add to the ambiance. With 8 dishes representing the different meals Momofuku Ando discovered during his ramen travels, you can try Korean cold ramen, lagman from Kazakhstan or Malaysian laksa, among others.
There are spicy options and mild ones as well as child-friendly ones like Italian pasta, not to mention the chicken ramen stall which comes in as a secret 9th option. As well as noodle dishes there are desserts from different countries and drinks, as well as ramen-themed ice cream. This is not, in case you were wondering, ice cream made to look like ramen. Those cute prawn-like looking toppings are indeed freeze-dried prawns, and that smell is real curry flavor.
The cup noodle ice cream is … authentic, and by authentic i’m trying to politely say disgusting—but by all means try it!
Costs: Each international noodle dish is 300 yen, desserts are 300 yen, international drinks are 200 yen and a refillable drink set is an additional 200 yen. Chicken ramen is 150 yen.
Get creative at the My Cup Noodles Factory
Available at both the Osaka and Yokohama branches of the ramen museum, the My Cup Noodles Factory is one of the best souvenir options going. Here, you can decorate your own cup—beware the intimidatingly good pictures drawn by small children—before designing your own cup noodle contents. When you’ve finished your artistic outburst, you can start your cup on its journey: from rotating the noodle dispenser to selecting your sauce flavor and toppings.
After that you can seal it in plastic and place it carefully in a protective bubble bag (presumably for when you enter a small war zone on your way out). When you purchase your tickets at the museum entrance, you will be asked to choose a time slot for the factory, so keep an eye on your watch.
Cost: Each cup is 300 yen to make and can be bought from a vending machine in the factory.
Let kids become noodles at the Cup Noodles Park
Sadly, only available for children, the Cup Noodles Park allows you to experience the journey of a noodle, from creation to packaging to shipping. With slides, climbing sections and more, the route takes about 25 minutes and is available for children aged from 3 years old through elementary-school aged.
Tickets are 300 yen and provided in time slots.