THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RAMEN
In the gift shop, you can assemble a customized package of ramen to take home, choosing from different kinds of vacuum-packed fresh noodles, soup flavor and flavored oil, with even a personalized label. The shop also sells prepackaged ramen, bowls, spoons and other souvenirs. Nearby are exhibits about ramen in Europe, regional ramen around Japan and historic ramen-making tools.
Ramen, to those who are unfamiliar with this Japanese national dish, seems only like a simple bowl of noodle soup. But just a short train or subway ride from Tokyo to Yokohama, which also has a branch of the Cup Noodle Museum, will explain the seriousness of ramen. Where Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum is a food theme park for adults, Cup Noodle Museum is designed for kids. The small print on its brochure says that it was formally named the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, after the inventor of instant ramen. Run by an educational foundation that Ando started, the fun here is designed to support exhibits about creativity and invention.
Non-Japanese speakers get to skip the lessons except for what's printed in the English brochure. Exhibits include a reproduction of the modest shack where Ando invented instant chicken ramen. There is also a display of the astonishing number of varieties of instant ramen that the Nissin Food Products company has produced since the invention of instant ramen; as well as a food court called Noodles Bazaar, said to reproduce an "Asian night market" and "eight varieties of noodles that Ando encountered during his travels in search of ramen's origins." The food stands include Italian pasta, Vietnamese pho, and dishes from Kazakhstan, China, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. And there's a play area where kids can experience the Cup Noodle manufacturing process from the point of view of the noodle.
The main attraction here is the make-your-own section. For a separate fee for a timed ticket, kids (or adults) can make their own personal Cup Noodle, decorating the cup, then putting in the noodles and choosing the soup and toppings. Watch the lid get sealed and the whole cup shrink-wrapped. Your creation is then enclosed in a cool protective package that you pump air into to cushion it on the trip home. There's also the much more involved Chicken Ramen Factory, a 90-minute session where participants make the noodles from scratch.