You may have had ramen from a Japanese restaurant in your home town, but you haven't had ramen until you try one in Japan. This dish is extremely popular, and has such a rich history, that you can find two museums dedicated it.
Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish that was originally introduced to Japan from China. Ramen is hugely popular in Japan, that it's a challenge to go through any major train station and not find a little ramen shop where you order via vending machine! It's a quick and easy meal that will rarely cost you more than a few hundred yen. All cities in Japan are littered with little ramen shops which are largely recognisable with having a large red lantern with ramen written in Japanese.
These small stalls are usually lined with stools and bench tables along the kitchen, and filled with busy Japanese business folk getting a nutritious and delicious meal. The energy in these stalls is electric with lots of sounds of slurping, kitchen clanging, yelling of orders and the intoxicating aromas from the fresh batches of ramen coming up.
The dish has two key ingredients: noodles and broth, however it varies from the thousands of small stalls, to chain fast food outlets that sell it -- and it even varies from region to region in Japan. The broth (or "soup") is usually made from stock based on chicken or pork flavours, combined with a variety of ingredients. Some of the most popular ingredients used to enhance the stock are kelp, beef bones, shitake mushrooms and onions. Lastly, they are also usually finished off either with salt, miso or soy sauce. Each restaurant usually prides themselves on their specific soup recipe, making every store's bowl of ramen distinctly different.
Tasting some of the local ramen on offer all over Japan is a must do while travelling throughout Japan.
It's so loved, and has such a history that there are two museums dedicated to this delicious meal.
The first of which is...
This museum is over two floors, with the entry floor filled with the history of the dish and it's origins and spread throughout Japan. The majority of the history exhibit is in Japanese, so you'd better brush up before going! For those who don't speak the local tongue, you can still admire all the artwork and models, or just browse the gift shop.
Although, the main reason to visit is what you'll find on the lower floor...
In the lower floor is a re-creation of 1920's Tokyo. It's like stepping into yesteryear, with alleyways and stalls everywhere. The museum has winding lane-ways filled with small shops selling period specific souvenirs and other treats. You can even find an old-timey Coke vending machine with glass bottles! In the centre of this re-creation is nine ramen stalls which sell the best-of-the-best-ramen from all across Japan.
The regions represented are:
- Yamagata - Ryushanhai Ramen
- Saitama - Ganjya Ramen
- Tokyo - Toride Ramen
- Fukuoka - Taihoraumn Ramen
- Kesennuma - Kamome syokudou Ramen
- Kumamoto - Komurasaki Ramen
- Hokkaido - Eki Ramen
- Kanagawa - Shinasobaya Ramen
- Tokyo - Genkotsuya Ramen
The ramen is simply out of this world amazing! Be prepared to eat and try out all the stores ramen on sale. Each store sells both full size and "mini ramen" bowls; the mini versions are the best deal, as they will ensure you get to try much more before you get too full!
They regularly change up the stalls from all over Japan selling in the museum, so be sure to check out their website for the latest regions represented.
This is a truly unique museum and worth a stop for a long lunch, and uniquely Japanese cultural experience.
Shinyokohama Raumen Museum is located at ２丁目-１４−２１, Shin-yokohama, Yokohama-Kohoku Ward, Kanagawa Prefecture. To get to the museum from Tokyo, it's best to jump on a Tokyu Tokyo / Minatomirai train at JR Shibuya Station, then change trains at Kikuna Station and then off at Shinyokohama station. From Shinyokohama, it's a 10 minute walk to the museum.
Official Site - http://www.raumen.co.jp/ (in Japanese)
The other Ramen museum is a bit more focused on one type of ramen that we think you have all heard of...
That's right -- it's a museum dedicated entirely to the empire of Nissin foods' worldwide hit, Cup Noodle.
This fairly new museum goes through the history of Cup Noodle, and it's creator, Momofuku Ando. Momofuku created instant ramen in 1958, and birthed an industry based on instant noodles. 10 years later, he turned this industry upside down with his greatest innovation, the Cup Noodle.
The museum also has various exhibitions, including a recreation of Momofuku's work shed where he created the worlds first instant ramen. The other key objective of this museum is to promote creativity in everyones minds with many exhibitions focussing on how to get your inner creativity to come out in everything you do.
The most popular sections of this museum would have to be the interactive features, such as making your own Chickn Ramen in their factory, and the very cool MY CUPNOODLES factory, where you can make your very own cup noodle in a cup that you design, select your favorite soup from among four varieties and four toppings from among 12 ingredients. All together, there are 5,460 flavour combinations!
Cup Noodle Museum is located at 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama. To get to the museum from Tokyo, it's best to jump on any train that goes on the Minatomirai line in the direction of Yokohama, and get off at Minatomirai Station. From Minatomirai station, it's an 8 minute walk to the museum.
Official Site - http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english
Take Japlannings word when we say ramen is a dish that must be tried while in Japan. The rich flavours and distinct differences in each bowl from each store, to region, is sure to give your tastebuds an amazing culinary experience.
Do you love Ramen? What's your favorite place in Japan? Tell us in the comments below!