Collections: Japanese Eki Stamps and Goshuin

The little stack of books above doesn’t look like much, but of all the Japanese things I’ve collected over the years they are the most precious of all. Each book contains stamps collected from train stations, attractions, and temples or shrines around Japan we visited during our two navy tours and other trips. Encouraged by my English students, I began collecting stamps during our first tour (1980-1983), and dutifully wrote the name and date of each station or place visited on the page to remember the visit, and one of my students wrote “memories of Japan” on the front of my first book (the green one). For the most part the books went everywhere with me because I never knew when I would be somewhere and able to collect a new stamp.

Two stamps from the Mashiko (the famous pottery village) train station. Stamp ink is either dark purple or vermillion red.

There are over 9,000 train stations (eki) throughout Japan. Most of these stations have a unique stamp (or even two) that highlights a particular attraction or novelty that the town or area is known for, from festivals to bridges to food. The stamp designs are detailed, and are a fun to way to collect memories of places visited. The stamp is usually located at the entrance to most train stations, but sometimes I had to do some searching to find it. One other issue that popped up now and again was the provided stamp pad was dry, and I could barely get a print in  my book (some hard-core collectors supposedly carry their own stamp pad). Occasionally I would come across a stamp but I did not have my stamp book on me, but many places had a stack of paper that I could use and I would glued the stamp into my book later. Eki stamps are not limited to train stations though. Most tourist attractions, including castles, museums, amusement parks, hot springs and so forth, have stamps as well.

Goshuin from Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, from our second tour

Goshuin from Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion visit during our first tour

A special kind of stamp are goshuin, obtained at Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. There is usually a special window at bigger temples or shrines where a small fee ($3 or so) is paid, and a monk or priest puts a stamp in the book and then writes the name, date, and maybe a blessing in beautiful calligraphy over the stamp. There are literally thousands of temples and shrines around Japan, and goshuin can technically be obtained at most of the bigger ones. Some people collect goshuin exclusively, but others, like me, mix them with their eki stamps.

Stamp books purchased at temples and shrines are accordion style, with room for stamps on both sides of each page.

Stamp collecting in Japan is very, very popular among all ages. There is often a “stamp rally” going on somewhere in Japan, where special books can be picked up and a prize earned for filling all the spots with stamps. Our grandson participated in one a couple of years ago, filled his book and earned two tickets to see Moana! I think I paid around $4 each for my books back in the day, but the traditional silk-covered accordion books are available for sale at most temples and shrines for around $10 now. Other stamp books, some of handmade paper, can be found in souvenir shops. It’s a small price to pay though to develop a wonderful collection of memories of places visited in Japan.

An Invitation . . .

The inner courtyard of the Meiji Shrine

Just around a year from now Brett and I will be beginning our three-month stay in Tokyo (mid-February to mid-May 2019). We’ll be spending lots of time with family and learning about a new part of Tokyo as well as visiting familiar sights. We’re also going to be in Japan for cherry blossom season, which we’ve just missed by a few days on our last two spring trips.

Brett and I have had an idea for a while now that if any of our readers has ever thought about visiting Japan, we would enjoy helping you arrange some of your trip and also showing you around Tokyo while you’re there!

We would be willing to:

  • Make suggestions for lodging options
  • Suggest transportation options from either Narita or Haneda Airports into Tokyo
  • Serve as tour guides around Tokyo, including showing how to shop and eat for less.
  • Assist with planning transportation around Tokyo (trains or taxis)
  • Set up day trips in the greater Tokyo area. For example, we could arrange or even go along on a walking tour of Kamakura or up to Nikko for the day.
  • Make suggestions for transportation to and lodging, etc. in other areas of Japan, such as Kyoto or up to Hokkaido, for example.

    The Kamakura Diabutsu

This is a very soft outline, and of course can be adjusted and/or adapted as needed. We’ve had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know several readers while we’ve been here on Kaua’i, and would love to continue that tradition and share our love of Japan with others.

Shibuya’s famous zebra crossing

We know a trip to Japan is a big undertaking so we don’t need to hear anything now, but wanted to get this out as food for thought. If now or in the coming months you think you might want to come to Japan while we’re there,and connect with us, just drop a note in the comments and I’ll email you back and we can go from there. We won’t be available the entire three months we’re in Tokyo, but we are willing to set aside some time, and would be happy to arrange a meet up or more.

The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

Conveniently Eating In Japan

A fun, but often overlooked place to find tasty and affordable meals in Japan is at neighborhood convenience stores (7-Eleven, Lawsons and FamilyMart are the top three). Called konbini in Japan, these small markets are seemingly located just about everywhere and are easy to find. Besides the typical convenience store offerings of drinks, snacks, medicines and other items, convenience stores also have a large selection of freshly prepared foods at very reasonable prices. If you’re traveling in Japan on a budget, a meal from a convenience store can be had for $10 or less.

The biggest difference between the  foods found in Japanese convenience stores and those found in the U.S. is the quality and the variety. In Japan, prepared foods are for the most part stocked fresh every day because they have to be – go into a convenience store in the late afternoon or evening and your selection will be very limited as most everything in the that section will have already been purchased. The quality of the food is also much higher than what you’ll find in a U.S. convenience store.

Here are some of the best and tastiest items or meals (IMO) you can find at Japanese convenience stores:

Oden is a hearty and filling stew filled with various items such as potatoes, boiled eggs, fishcakes, and other items that are served in light dashi broth. It’s usually only available in cold weather. You’ll be charged by the number of items you select.

Karaage is fried chicken Japanese-style, with bite-sized pieces of tender thigh meat twice fried in a lightly-seasoned batter. You can buy it on its own or as part of a bento. Karaage and potato salad is my all-time favorite convenience store meal.

Potato salad all on its own can be a pretty tasty meal as well. Potato salad in Japan traditionally includes very thinly-sliced cucumber and carrot, and the potatoes are nearly fully mashed. It’s amazingly delicious.

Nikuman are Chinese-style steamed buns filled with savory pork and vegetables. They’re big enough on their own for a meal. Pizza- or curry-flavored buns are also popular. Nikuman are kept warm in a steamy case located next to the cash register.

Maybe the most popular food item in any store, onigiri are triangular Japanese rice balls wrapped with seaweed, but inside are different fillings, such as pickled plums, salmon, tuna salad, etc. They’re very popular and very convenient, and more filling than you might think. The plastic wrapper folds back to use as a holder.

Sandwiches range from ones Westerners can easily recognize to some many would find quite weird (like a hot dog roll filled with yakisoba noodles). Dessert sandwiches are now a thing, and are made with whipped cream and fresh fruit. YaYu had one on our last trip and proclaimed it extremely delicious.

Korokke (croquettes) are tasty and satisfying fried mashed potato cakes with other ingredients added which can include cheese, vegetables, seafood and so forth.

Gyoza are Chinese potstickers, typically sold in groups of five. They’re wildly popular in Japan, are found in any market, and can be eaten hot or cold (hot is better).

Convenience markets carry a huge array of bentos, too many to name here. They usually run around $7 or $8 dollars, but can cost more or less depending on the size of the bento and what’s included. Most come with rice, but some have noodles for the starch.

There are lots of higher end places to eat sushi in Japan, but the packages found in convenience stores are perfectly good if you are wanting it.

Yakisoba is fried noodles which are tossed with a Worchester-like sauce. They are usually fried with cabbage and onion, and sometimes have a small amount of protein like shrimp or chicken, but the noodles also available plain, like in the above photo. They’re always served with slivers of red pickled ginger called beni shoga. A small serving of yakisoba noodles is also sometimes included as a side dish in a bento.And of course, convenience stores are where you can pick up all sorts of snack items, Japanese candy (including KitKats!), and all sorts of amazing cold and hot drinks!

Convenience stores also always carry a big selection of ice cream treats, and what’s available will vary from store to store. They are affordable and always worth checking out!












Postcard From: Summertime Japan

Parks are a popular place to stay cool during the summer

Even on the narrowest of streets, summer plants and flowers pass along a feeling of coolness.

Let’s be honest: Summertime in Tokyo can be HOT. And HUMID. And MISERABLE. I complain a lot about the heat and humidity here on Kaua’i, but it’s child’s play compared to what can be experienced during a Tokyo summer.

Mugi cha (wheat tea) was an acquired taste for me. I hated it at first but now find it more refreshing than regular iced tea (and it’s caffeine free).

Visiting Japan in the summer requires a different mindset, but can be enjoyable and a chance to see and experience activities and foods that are not available other times of the year.

Traditional Japanese culture views the seasons a bit differently than in the West – they’re meant to be experienced, both the good and the bad, and not masked. That means in winter you should experience a little cold, and in summer you should experience hot. While air-conditioning abounds in stores or on trains and other public places, it is often not used in the home, or not as much as we would here in the U.S. It’s not just that it’s expensive to operate A/C, but summertime is hot, and the underlying belief is one should appreciate the hot of summer a bit. Also, too much air-conditioning is not considered healthy, especially for children.

The sound of furin is one of summer’s delights in Japan.

Homes in Japan often hang furin (small bells) outside or in doorways and windows during the summer. Made from glass or iron, the bells have a large paper strip attached to the the clapper. The paper moves in the slightest breeze and rings the bell to evoke a feeling of air moving, and thus coolness.

Dirty, polluted air is a thing of the past in summertime Tokyo (thank goodness).

Still, sometimes things can get to the point of being dangerously hot. On days when the temperatures climb to broiling, and the humidity is high, you will hear loudspeaker announcements throughout the city warning residents to stay inside and stay cool rather than risk heat stroke or exhaustion. One thing that has improved greatly since we lived there in the 1980s and early 1990s is that these days the air is clean(er). When we were there the combination of heat and pollution during the summer was awful, but these days blue skies can be seen almost all of the time (unless there’s a storm).

Cool biz outfits from Uniqlo

Following the 2011 tsunami, and the catastrophic loss of the Fukushima nuclear plant (which affected power to many areas of Japan, including Tokyo), the government began a major, nation-wide plan to lower energy use during the summer, called Cool Biz. Government and other offices raised their thermostats, and workers were encouraged to wear special lightweight, comfortable clothing instead of the usual heavier suits and ties for men, and stocking and suits for women. Although Cool Biz seems to be a permanent fixture (and there’s now Warm Biz standards for winter wear), it’s not mandatory and initially caused some awkward moments in protocol between Cool Biz and non-Cool Biz offices.

A traditional festival game for children: if they can snag a ball with a small hook they get a prize.

Bon odori is a popular summer festival, and they can range in size from small to huge. The central platform holds drummers and dancers, and attendees, both men and women, dance around the platform, typically in lightweight cotton summer kimono, call yukata.

Candles are floated down a river, or out to sea, at the end of bon odori, to escort the ancestors back.

The Gion Festival is a massive event held every summer in Kyoto, and is filled with lanterns, floats and portable shrines of all sizes.

Festivals (matsuri) abound during the summer months, from small street fairs to temple fairs to fireworks displays to giant events with crowds of people. I got to a point that just hearing the word festival sent waves of terror through me because of the crowds I knew I would encounter, but in reality the crowds were never unruly, and people were always polite, cordial and helpful. Bon odori season arrives in August, when Japanese families welcome back the spirits of their ancestors for a week, and celebrate with festivals and dancing, then end the celebration by floating candles down a river or out to sea. Many Japanese return to their home villages (furusato) during this time of the year, but it’s not difficult to find a bon odori festival in any city and join in the dancing and celebration.

My grandson contemplates the size of his kaki gori. It came with small pitchers of fresh strawberry syrup and cream to pour over the ice.

This banner, with the word ‘ice’ on it, lets you know kaki gori is available. The waves and small plovers in the design are traditional motifs, and evoke summer.

One of the joys of summer in Japan is kaki gori, or Japanese shave ice. It’s served at festivals, in stands throughout Japan, and even in fancier restaurants. Kaki gori is a mountain of fluffy shaved ice topped with fruit syrups, and is extremely cooling and refreshing. Japan also has the most amazing assortment of ice cream and frozen treats I’ve ever seen. You can stop into any supermarket or convenience store and find something that will refresh you.

Cold somen noodles over ice with dipping sauce are a cool summer treat.

Special foods are also available during the summer, such as cold somen noodles with dipping sauce, or chilled silken tofu with thinly sliced green onions, soy sauce and grated ginger. Summer foods are often served in glass bowls or dishes, some made to look like ice, to evoke a feeling of coolness.

Besides lots of rain and high humidity in June, the summer months also can bring typhoons.

June is the month for baiyu or tsuyu, the rainy season, when humidity is at its peak, and the rain can drag on for days. When we lived in Japan, even though we had air-conditioning and humidifiers going, the humidity was bad enough that things would still mold, including shoes, backpacks, and such. June really can be miserable, but other months during the summer, even with the heat and humidity, can be a wonderful time to visit Tokyo and the rest of Japan, and experience the delights of summertime Japan.















Postcard From: The Fukurou-no-Sato Owl Cafe

If you had told me that one day I would hold an owl on my arm, and pet and ruffle its neck feathers, I would have secretly thought you were perhaps in need of some therapy. And yet, there I was earlier this year, holding a variety of owls on my arm, petting their heads, ruffling the feathers on their necks, and absolutely loving every minute of the experience.

The owls’ faces were very expressive, and they enjoyed being stroked and petted.

Animal cafes are BIG in Japan. Whether you want to interact with cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, goats, or heaven forbid, snakes, there’s a cafe where you can do that. Some are better than others – much better – where the animals are well-cared for versus just a commodity.

The cafe we visited only allows in a few people at a time, and reservations are required. On the day of our visit to the Fukurō-no-Sato (‘owl village’) Cafe we stopped by a little before noon, but the first available opening wasn’t until 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. At some of the more popular cat cafes there can be up to a two-day wait for an opening.

We were served green tea in these cute owl cups while we learned about the owls, and got ready to enter the owl room.

The Fukurō-no-Sato Owl Cafe in Harajuku is located on the fourth floor in a building just to the side of Takeshita-dori in Harajuku, and across from Harajuku station. We paid a fee (1500¥ per person, a little less than $45 for the three of us) when we made our reservation, and then reappeared at our appointed time and were served a cup of green tea in a charming owl cup along with some crackers (other beverages and snacks were available, but cost more). While we sipped and munched an employee came and spoke to us about the owls, the different types and their temperaments, how to handle them, which ones not to touch, and especially emphasized the importance of keeping the big owls away from the smallest ones because they could be seen as prey. We had been concerned about the overall treatment of the owls before we arrived, but it became apparent as we listened that the staff loved the birds and they were very well-cared for. Interaction with humans was as limited as possible, and the owls got ‘down time.’ The cafe is located very close to the Meiji-Jingu shrine, and apparently the owls are taken out several times a week to fly and hunt inside the grounds. We have learned since that other cafes do not treat their owls as well.

This owl looked like he was daring anyone to mess with his girl YaYu .

Brett gets to know a barn owl. He initially just wanted to watch the owls, but eventually decided to hold them and enjoyed the experience.

After the presentation, we sanitized our hands and were taken into the owl room where we spent around a half hour with the birds. It was honestly pretty darn thrilling! The owls ranged in size from over two feet tall (great horned owl) to tiny ones that were only around six inches tall (the little owls were not handled). What was very surprising was how light they all were, especially the big owls, but then again they would have to be light in order to fly.

We loved the expressions on the owls’ faces!

Was it worth the expense? In my opinion, yes – it was an experience unlike any I’d ever had before and am unlikely to have again, and I learned quite a bit. Although I believe that the best place for owls is in the wild, I felt the owls were respected and well cared for.

Animal cafes have opened recently in the United States, but for the most part they remain a quintessential Japanese experience, and can be a fun and interesting addition to a Japan visit (although you will never find me in a snake cafe!). I do recommend though that research should be done before choosing a cafe, as they are not all equal.


Postcard From: Senso-ji

The entrance to Senso-ji temple is the Kaminarimon, or ‘Thunder Gate,’ with the first of three giant paper lanterns, famous throughout Japan. On either side of the gate are large wooden statues of fierce Buddhist gods, who protect the temple. On the right is the god of wind, and on the left the god of thunder. (Photo is from – it was too crowded the day we passed through to take a picture)

On our trip to Japan in March, on our list of places not to miss was Sensō-ji temple. WenYu, YaYu and I had been unable to see it when we visited Japan in 2015, so this time we were determined to go. Not only is the shrine itself a fascinating and imposing site, and the surrounding neighborhood interesting as well, but we also knew we would be sure to find ramen shops there, and YaYu was determined to have a bowl of authentic Japanese ramen before we headed for home.

Located in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, Sensō-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The temple is dedicated to Kannon (Guanyin), the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and is the most visited religious site in the world, with over 30 million visitors annually. The original temple was constructed in 645 C.E., but was bombed and destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt following the war and is a popular destination for both Japanese and foreign visitors. Entrance to the temple grounds is free.

The temple area was extremely crowded the day we visited, although we never found out why other than it was a nice spring day. It was difficult to take pictures as well as get through the crowd, and we missed getting to see the temple’s impressive five-story pagoda. Still, everyone visiting was polite and at times it seemed more like we were participating in a festival than visiting a religious shrine.

After passing through the Kaminarimon, we headed down Nakamise, “Center Street.” It’s a long, straight road lined with souvenir shops on either side. There are lots of fun things to look at, but we didn’t buy anything (mainly because it’s mostly geared to tourists and overpriced).

At the end of Nakamise is the Hōzōmon, or “Treasure House Gate.” It contains the second huge, distinctive paper lantern in the center, flanked on either side by two large black and gold lanterns. One the sides of the gate are two more of the large statues of gods -these two are Nio, the guardian deities of Buddha.

Hondō, the main temple hall, is straight ahead and across a paved courtyard after passing through the Hōzōmon.

We passed under a third giant lantern as we made our way into the main hall to view the altar. The lanterns at the temple are replaced around every 10 years.

The interior of the main hall is protected from visitors, but you can still view the main altar. There was a ceremony being performed while we were there, but we could only watch for a few moments as there were long lines waiting behind us for their turn to view the altar.

In the courtyard in front of the main hall is a giant brass urn where worshipers burn incense. The smoke from the incense is wafted over parts of the body that are ailing, while prayers are said.

Because of the crowds, we weren’t able to make it over to the pagoda, which is to the left of the main hall (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

On the right side of the main hall courtyard visitors can catch a view of the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest structure in the world. Completed in 2011, the tower is used primarily for broadcasting, but contains a restaurant and observation platform and is a very popular attraction in Tokyo.

Cherry blossoms at the temple were just getting ready to open.

The Asakusa neighborhood is ‘old Tokyo’ and there are many restaurants and shops in the area serving or selling traditional foods and folk crafts. At one ramen restaurant, in an old-style building, a statue of a peasant from the past can be seen perched on the roof with his umbrella.

We saw several people carrying ‘melonpan,’ or melon bread, so called because its shape is reminiscent of a cantaloupe. These large loaves of sweet bread could be enjoyed plain, or split and filled with whipped cream.

The little Inu Hariko figure I bought, my favorite Japanese folk character. He looks like a cat, but is actually a dog.

We walked back to the main road, to get back to the station, down a side road that had the backs of the Nakamise souvenir shops on one side. One of the things I remembered from past visits to Sensō-ji was a wonderful gelato shop at the end of this road, but when we got to the end we discovered the gelato place was no more. The small shop selling folk toys and paper that I remembered was still there though, and I bought myself a small Inu Hariko made of papier-mâché. Back on the main street we found a ramen restaurant, and after standing in line for a while were finally seated. YaYu and Brett both got ramen, and I ordered stir-fried pork and cabbage – delicious!

Our outing was an adventure, a very Japanese one with the crowds of people present, but well worth the effort. We were all glad we had gone, and hope to go back again next time we visit Japan so we can see the pagoda.

Japan Giveaway #2 Winner & Japan Giveaway #3: Ultimate KitKat Tasting Experience

The randomly selected winner of the Japanese Kitchen Set in Giveaway #2 is: UnwrittenLifeBlog – congratulations!! I will be contacting you by email this afternoon and will get your prize off to you as soon as possible. Once again, I want to thank everyone that entered for the lovely comments. I have the best readers, and wish I had a prize to give to everyone that entered.

I’ve saved what I think is a very fun prize for the last giveaway this week: the Ultimate KitKat Tasting Experience! Inside the red cloth pouch above are 13 different flavors of snack-size Japanese KitKats.

The flavors the winner of this giveaway will receive are:

Top Row: Shinshu Apple, Japanese Strawberry, Dark Chocolate, Rum Raisin, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Middle Row: Matcha (green tea), Wasabi, Cherry Blossom-Green Tea, Sake, Roasted Tea

Bottom Row: Strawberry Cheesecake, Melon, Raspberry

This giveaway will end on Wednesday, April 19, at midnight HST, with the winner announced the following day. The rules for this giveaway are the same as for the first two plus one new way to win an entry:

  • Comment on this page. You can comment every day until the giveaway, but just once a day. The more entries you have, the greater your chances of being chosen the winner! I will post the link a couple of extra times during the week. Commenting in another post will not count.
  • Subscribe to “The Occasional Nomads.” If you are already a subscriber, you will receive one extra entry. Please comment below and let me know that you are already a subscriber or that you just joined.
  • Post about the giveaway on your own blog, if you have one, and receive one additional entry.
  • There’s also an extra way to earn an extra entry this time: Guess which one is my favorite! I won’t answer in the comments, but if you guess right I’ll add an extra entry to your total.

The winner will be announced in the blog and also notified by email. You must respond by comment to the blog or to the email to receive your KitKat Tasting Experience (I will email you back to find out where to send them). Also, I can only mail to addresses in the U.S. and Canada.

Looking forward to hearing from you – you know you want to try them!

Giveaway Winner & Japan Giveaway #2: Japanese Kitchen Set

First, the randomly chosen winner of the bird cookies is Laurel – congratulations! I will contact you via email later today to get your address and will have the package off to you as soon as possible. I want to thank everyone that entered for all the many lovely comments – I wish I had cookies to send to everyone!

But, you have a chance to win again!

This week’s giveaway includes some fun (and useful) kitchen items from Japan:

  • Two hashioki. These blue & white chopstick rests are hyōtan (gourd) shaped. Hyōtan are a popular design motif in Japan – in the past the gourds were emptied and dried and used to carry sake. The hashioki can also be used as knife rests.
  • A set of four chopsticks (called “ohashi” in Japanese). Each chopstick has a different color and design: brown/sliced lotus root, blue/Mt. Fuji, red/hyōtan, green/mosquito coils (a sign of summer). The chopsticks could also be used as hair sticks or decorations.
  • A small floral tea caddy. The small red metal caddy (it’s just 3″ tall) has a tight seal, and could hold a few tea bags, some spices, or whatever you like!
  • A tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel). The colorful cotton towel is printed with a design of koinoburi, Japanese carp kites. Koinoburi are displayed throughout Japan in early May, for the Children’s Day holiday (May 5). The tenugui can be machine washed, and becomes softer over time, or could be used as a wall hanging.

This giveaway will end at midnight HST on Wednesday, April 12, with the same rules for entry as last week’s giveaway:

  • Comment on this page. You can comment every day until the giveaway, but just once a day. The more entries you have, the greater your chances of being chosen the winner! I will post the link a couple of extra times during the week. Commenting in another post will not count.
  • Subscribe to “The Occasional Nomads.” If you are already a subscriber, you will receive one extra entry. Please comment below and let me know that you are already a subscriber or that you just joined.
  • Post about the giveaway on your own blog, if you have one, and receive one additional entry.

The winner will be announced in the blog and also notified by email. You must respond by comment to the blog or to the email to receive the kitchen set (I will email you back to find out where to send them). Also, I can only mail to addresses in the U.S. and Canada.

Postcard From: The Cup Noodles Museum

Welcome to the Cup Noodles Museum!

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 Cup Noodles museum is located next to Yokohama harbor, an eight-minute walk from Minatomirai station.

Not everything is as it seems!

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.

I loved this interactive exhibit: When you touch the item on the wall, a picture of the item appears above it as well as the thing that inspired it, encouraging children to think creatively. The steam shovel, for example, was inspired by a bird (crane).

One of the beautiful sculptures in the museum. I looked closely and still couldn’t figure out what’s holding it up.

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.

The many dehydrated selections to add to your custom noodles

My noodles are done! I chose a seafood broth, and added crab, garlic chips, green beans and green onions.

The noodle cups are lidded and then sealed in plastic.

YaYu and her inflated cup noodles protection bag!

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!

Inventor Momofuku Ando invented “oil drying” for ramen noodles, and in 1958 the first instant ramen was introduced in Japan. It was an immediate hit.

So many varieties of cup noodles these days!

Cup noodles are popular all over the world – these are noodles from Russian and Spain. The U.S. sells the largest variety of Nissin instant noodles outside of Japan.

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.

A small portion of the amusement park across the street from the museum. Our grandson refused to ride either the ferris wheel or the roller coaster – smart boy! There were some other rides that scared me just to look at them.

The entrance to Yokohama’s Chinatown.

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!

Japan Giveaway #1: Keep Entering!

(the broken cookie in front is one of ours)

Once is never enough!

You can leave more than one comment on the Giveaway post to increase your chances of winning. The Giveaway is open until midnight HST on April 5.

If you haven’t entered, what are you waiting for? The bird cookies are delicious!!