This is probably not a museum many visitors to Japan know about, let alone would consider visiting on a trip to Japan, but we had a two-fold reason for checking out the Nissin Foods Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama this time: 1) YaYu loves cup noodles, and 2) I taught English conversation at Nissin Foods from 1981-1983. Our son and grandson decided to join us on our visit to the museum last week, which turned out to be a good thing – without our son along we would have gone to the wrong station!
Cup noodles are a big deal in Japan, and come in an amazing array of flavors these days – there are whole aisles in markets dedicated to them. But, a whole museum devoted to cup noodles? As it turns out, instant and cup noodles are more than a quick and convenient meal in Japan – they are also an inexpensive and easy way to provide nourishment all over the world, especially following a disaster, something I had never considered. Momofuku Ando’s invention has proven to be far more than a convenience food, and has been truly life-saving in some cases.
The purpose of the museum is not only to tell the story of cup noodles, but to help stir creativity and curiosity in children, and show the power of creativity, invention, and determination in finding ways to achieve your goals and dreams. Ando’s motto, “Never give up!” is repeated throughout the museum.
The museum has two interactive areas that cost a bit extra to experience: the Cup Noodle Factory, where you can make your own “custom” cup noodles, and the Chicken Ramen Factory, where you make your own instant ramen noodles from scratch and then oil-dry them to take home to prepare later. The Chicken Ramen Factory looked like a lot of fun – everyone from adult to child was wearing a souvenir head scarf and apron while they worked – but there was a long wait for an opening, so we decided to go to the Cup Noodle Factory. Upon entry to the “factory” we paid our 300¥ admission by purchasing a noodle cup. We were then directed to a table to write the date on our cup (the finished product is good for a month) and decorate our cups with our own design. There were also “menus” at each table with all the choices available to create our own cup noodles. We could chose one of four broth flavors, and any combination of four from 16 dehydrated ingredients. After we were done with our drawings we were sent to the “building area” where we presented our cup, and a cheerful employee created our custom cup noodles. Each cup was then given a lid and sealed in plastic, just like you’d find it in a store, and finally placed into an inflated plastic carrying pouch so that it didn’t get destroyed on the way home. The whole thing was a very Japanese experience and a lot of fun, but Brett and I donated our noodles to YaYu, who was happy to receive them.
After making our noodles we toured the rest of the museum, and also spent a while out on the museum’s back deck taking in a spectacular view of Yokohama harbor. We enjoyed all the exhibits (our son translated for us), which include several sculptures. I especially liked the Instant Noodles History Cube, a room filled with all the varieties of noodles created from 1958 to the present. Part of the room was dedicated to all the many varieties available in countries all over the world. Cup noodles can be found on every continent but Antartica!
After our visit to the museum, our son and grandson headed to a large amusement park located across the street from the museum (the huge roller coaster there is named “Vanish” because at one point it disappears underground – no thanks!) while Brett, YaYu and I headed over to Yokohama’s Chinatown, just four more stops down on the train. We met up later at Minatomirai station at Mr. Donut for a snack and then went to the Takashimaya department store to find Hato Sabure.
The Cup Noodle Museum might not be on everyone’s list of “must-see” places in Japan, but it was a unique and interesting place to visit, even if you don’t care for cup noodles. I’d go again!