Like all culturally important feats of human achievement, ramen has a museum. Although museum might be a bit of a stretch.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum describes itself as “The world’s first food-themed amusement park”, although that might also be a bit of a stretch. Glorified food court might be a little more apt.
About a 20-minute train ride away from central Tokyo, the museum opened its doors in 1994 in an attempt to celebrate ramen and educate the masses on where it came from and of important milestones in ramen history.
You enter into the gift shop—a bold move if ever I’ve seen one—which is in many ways quite fitting. What comes next is maybe the most transactional experience you’ll ever have with a museum.
The museum portion is full of interesting tidbits, but if you don’t speak or read Japanese, sadly you won’t be able to get much out of it. There is an English brochure, but the amount of information lying within is sadly lacking.
After wandering through the exhibits, you find yourself in the middle of a streetscape that transports you back to Japan in 1958—the year instant ramen noodles were invented by Nissin foods. The middle area is dedicated to a bar, and there are 9 or so restaurants spread out around it. The restaurants represent most of the differing varietals of ramen from around Japan, as well as 2 international offerings—one from New York and one from Germany. If you’re looking to craft your own ramen degustation, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
The first thing you see when you head to a restaurant is a sign that reads “Adults are expected to order a full bowl”. So, unless you’re a bottomless ramen pit, you’re not going to get through to many. You order from a vending machine outside each restaurant and then take your tickets inside to get made. There’s also no communal eating area—you eat at the restaurant where you ordered the food from. So even if there’s a big group of you, you can’t order from a bunch of different places and share all together. You also can’t bring any of the drinks you order at the bar into any of the restaurants.
It’s not all bad news though. The streetscape is pretty cool and a novel place to eat. And the quality of food on offer is good, with the restaurants featured being some of the more famous names in ramen from across Japan. And there are some half portions, but as mentioned earlier, adults are expected to buy a minimum of two.
The museum is a short walk from Shin-Yokohama station, and cost 310 yen to enter. It’s open 11am – 10pm every day, bar some maintenance days.
You can grab some more information from their website.