Yokohama’s Cup Noodles Museum
Minato Mirai is the harbour area of Yokohama. It’s really the feature of this wonderful city, shiny and sleek built over a few small islands with a large mall and a wonderful walkway that you can take from Sakuragicho station. It’s not in the dead centre of Yokohama, but in a district which includes the Landmark Tower and the Nihon Maru boat, which doubles as a museum. It’s also right next to Queen’s Square, a great place for restaurants and shopping. The bay looked really beautiful day, a clear day with a top temperature in the mid to high teens.
The shopping mall is called World Porters, which I found a bit of a strange name. This shopping mall moves the bags of the world to their hotel rooms? Ahh well, English is often different when used by the Japanese. And what I came today to this area to see is indeed quintessentially modern Japanese. Because in this swish precinct is the Cup Noodles Museum! That is right, you have comprehended correctly, a museum devoted to the invention of the cup noodle.
I’ve already blogged, some time ago now, about the Ramen museum, and it should be understood about Japanese culture – it’s very definitely a foodie culture. Sure, cup noodles and ramen are not really haute cuisine, but nevertheless it is hard to deny that they have really left their mark on the world.
For every invention, there is a creator, and just as much as the museum I devoted to cup noodles, and instant noodles, it is also devoted to the inventor of this culinary staple – Momofuku Ando. And there you had it – I had already learnt something new, the name of the person who invented instant noodles and then thought of putting them in a cup. And I learnt that he was Japanese as well! Not only that, I learnt that they come the way they do because they are cooked in all, extracting all the moisture from them.
I learnt a few other things too – the way they got the noodles in the cup – by turning the cup upside down! Well I didn’t know that. Turns out that’s considered pretty amazing too! Ok, it’s all a bit surreal I admit. The museum itself is very cool, although it uses a lot of red which was a bit much in the cinema where a 13 minute animated film told the audience about the invention of the cup noodle. Then on the 3rd floor people sat decorating and colouring in designs on the exterior of the cups. There were even cooking classes.
Then there are the cardboard cutouts of important people in history like Einstein and Edison and of course, Momofuku Ando is up there with them. Again surreal. But let’s be honest, as a seasoned traveller, museums get very ‘samey’ after a while, and as much as I like ancient pots and the like, a museum that’s a little bit quirky is not so bad.
So, get your instant noodle and Momofuku facts straight. 1958 – he invented instant ramen noodles. 1971, to appeal to the American market, he invented Cup Noodles. In fact, when he was 96 he invented noodles in a package that could be eaten in space. The guy loved to invent noodle-inspired products. And who amongst us HASN’T had instant noodles before? Sure, they aren’t the most healthy thing to put in your tummy, but they are cheap and convenient. Did you know the idea was conceived by Ando watching people line up for black market ramen in the years after the Second World War, at a time when much of Japan was starving? And now over 100,000 million cup noodles are consumed across the world every year?
So if you’re in Yokohama why not come down to the Cup Noodles Museum? See the different packaging of different cup noodles over the years, and across the world. Learn about the man who made this all possible. Have your photograph taken next to a silver statue of the guy. Decorate your own cup noodle, learn how to cook cup noodles (most probably can manage that, I admit) and marvel at one of the more unique museums of the world.
World Journeys. Inspiring and informing!
May the journey never end!