PIERRA WILLIX discovers a museum dedicated to this worldwide kitchen staple.
A steaming-hot bowl of ramen, a delicacy Japan has become known for, is an essential culinary experience for anyone visiting the country, but a museum with a difference allows visitors to take part in the process themselves.
Standing in front of a counter filled with an array of toppings that will be added to a cup of noodles, I marvel at yet another of the weird and wonderful attractions Japan has come to be known for.
I am in the port city of Yokohama on a daytrip from Tokyo, just a short 30-minute train ride away.
The Cup Noodles Museum is dedicated to instant noodles and although its main museum is based in Osaka, it has an outpost in Yokohama.
Housed in a huge building, just a few minutes walk from the Port of Yokohama, the Cup Noodles Museum recognises the founder of precooked instant noodles, Momofuku Ando, who in 1958 created “chikin Ramen”, which was initially considered a luxury item.
After a trip to America inspired him to package the noodles in a cup, Cup Noodles was born in 1970, with the cumulative sales of the Cup Noodles brand reaching 40 billion servings worldwide in 2016.
The main attraction for the museum’s many visitors is the chance to take part in the process of creating a personalised package of Cup Noodles.
For 300 yen, about $4, visitors are given a styrofoam container and are then encouraged to decorate it before the noodles are added.
Once you are finished decorating your cup, the production line process begins, with the noodles placed into the cup before you are given the choice, from an array of toppings, to add to your original creation.
The toppings include lobster, shrimp, corn, eggs, cheese, chilli and chicken, among others.
Once your four toppings are chosen, the container is sealed, ready to take home.
The museum also offers a range of other activities, including taking part in a noodle cooking class, as well as an indoor park, while a creation of Ando’s workshop also adds another interactive edge to the museum.
An astounding display of instant noodles also takes out a whole room, tracking the very first incarnation of the invention, right through to the various brands and types of noodles enjoyed around the world today.
Although Ando died in 2007, he lived to the age of 96, claiming that the secret to his long life was golf and eating chicken ramen almost every day, a statement that ensured his global dietary culture lived on.