Saturday 18 January 2014

Japan's soul food - Ramen (Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum)

Japan has museums of many kinds from the Salt and Tobacco museum in Shibuya (Tokyo) to the Instant Ramen museum in the city of Osaka to the Parasite museum in Meguro (Tokyo).  Some of the strangest museums in the world are here in Japan, but then so are some of the most delicious!

Ramen has made appearances (and even received it's own post) on this blog from time to time, and rightly so as it is a dish loved and enjoyed by most Japanese, and when you consider that the population of Japan is over 120 million, that's a very popular dish (there are websites that say there are over 40,000 ramen shops in Japan).  The origins of ramen are debated.  Some say that it originates from China while others say that it was invented in Japan in the early 20th century.

Down in the city of Yokohama (about 30 minutes by train from Tokyo) there is a museum dedicated to ramen.

I have visited the museum once before but that was about 7 years ago, so during my recent New Year's holiday break I decided to pay it another visit.  I met my sometimes blog companion, Dan (who happens to be returning home to the USA soon), at Shin Yokohama we made the short walk to the museum.

The interior has a few different floors.  The first or ground floor (depending on where you are from!) has the entrance and the museum shop where you can buy any kind of ramen souvenir imaginable.  Going down to the B1 floor, this is where the fun starts.  The museum is set up in a replica street-scape from 1958 Japan which is the year that instant ramen was invented.

The street-scape contains 8 famous ramen shops from around Japan (and the USA this time) and you can buy tickets to eat at whichever ramen shop you choose.  And yes, those people are lining up to go in and eat at each of the shops!  Yes, each of the shops had long lines snaking around full of hungry people.  I guess I picked the wrong day to go!  Dan took one look and apologised saying that the lines would drive him insane and wished me good luck and left.  I can't really blame him, under normal circumstance I would never wait in lines that long either!  I already knew the shops I wanted to try (yes, shops!  They have mini serves if you want to try more than one, although the mini size wasn't very mini......)

So I headed down to have a look around.  First place was Ryu Shanghai which does a spicy miso ramen.

Next was Ganja which does a very fishy tsukemen (where you dip your noodles into thick soup rather than the noodles sitting in soup).

I then walked past Komurasaki which does tonkotsu (pork soup) ramen.

Next in line was Kamome Shokudo which makes shio (salt) ramen.

Up next was Ikemen Hollywood which is a tsukemen shop that originates from the USA.  It must be good for it to be invited to the ramen museum, but I wasn't stopping here.

The one I wanted was Ikemen's neighbour, Men no Bo-Toride which is another tonkotsu ramen place.

I had waited in line for about 30 minutes to get inside, but finally I was in!

Handing my ticket to the shop staff I waited eagerly for my bowl of porky goodness!!  Sorry to all of the vegetarians reading this.....  Finally it arrived!

It looks quite simple, as tonkotsu ramen often does, but it isn't.  Toride slowly simmer their soup for 20 hours to create a very thick complex tasting soup.  It didn't last long in front of me!

Feeling very content I decided to have more of a look around to allow the first bowl to settle before attacking my second bowl.  I went upstairs to the museum shop to see what was there.

 As I said at the start, there are ramen souvenirs of every type imaginable and a giant slot car set.........yes, a slot car set.

I don't really know why it was in a ramen museum, but it was popular, so i didn't question it.  Suddenly my eye spotted what I had come looking for.  The "make your own ramen" place!

First, you choose your preferred flavour.  I went with miso.

Next, choose your soup.  I decided on a tonkotsu soup.

After that, choose your oils to add extra flavour.  I went with chicken and the last little packet of leek flavoured oil.

Then choose you noodles.  I went with a nice straight thin style that is popular with my preferred style of tonkotsu ramen.  As you can see, there is a large variety of noodles that can be used in ramen.

Finally you choose your toppings.  I decided on some char siu (sliced roast pork) and menma (fermented bamboo shoots)

All together, it looks like this.

I haven't cooked it up yet, but will let you know when I have, how it tastes!

Having satisfied my inner ramen chef, and with the first bowl of ramen having settled somewhat I decided to go back downstairs to try my second ramen shop.  Before going to the shop I decided to wander around the "streets" some more for a closer look at the 1950's style Japanese street scene.

A big billboard probably advertising a movie,

mini shrine,

old telephone box.

The detail was amazing, from the overhead power lines and TV antennas,

to the aged faded looks of the doors.

From the old electricity meters (hang on, don't we still use these in Australia?),

to signs advertising clubs,

hostess clubs

and, I'm not sure what this one is, but the old style neon looked nice.

Finally I decided that I should join the queue for my next bowl of ramen.  This one moved pretty quickly though,

and before I knew it,

I was at the ticket machine of Sumire, reportedly Japan's most famous miso ramen shop.

I selected another bowl of mini ramen and made my way in, handed over my ticket and sat down to wait.

Pretty soon my order had arrived and it looked pretty good.

Now miso ramen originates from the north island of Japan called Hokkaido where it gets pretty cold in the winter.  If you look closely at the next picture you may be able to see a clear layer of oil on top of the soup.

The reason for this is to insulate the soup to stop it from going cold too quick.  After waiting for what I thought was enough time to cool down, I took my first mouthful and proceeded to burn my tongue!

The ramen was good, but it had nothing over Kururi from a couple of days ago!  That ramen was.....well, I'm planning to go back there again!

Finishing off my ramen, I threw an ice cube into my mouth and made (or that should be rolled, I was feeling so full) my way back to the station to go home.

And that's it for the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum, one of the more normal museums in Japan.

I hope you enjoyed it, thanks for reading and see you back here again soon.


  1. I can't believe the line up! I can understand why Dan left. And that first bowl of Ramen looks awesome.

    1. Hey Matty,
      yes, it was great, all 20 hours of that porky flavour was amazing!
      Yes, people here will line up forever to be able to do something they really want to do, and the great thing is there's no-one losing their temper and causing trouble, everyone is just waiting patiently.

  2. Hi Jason,it seems that you may one day get a job as an apprentice Ramen chef.;just in case the teaching becomes tiresome.After reading so much about Ramen from you,I must see if there is a place here that can knock up a good Ramen and give it a try.By now I imagine you are experimenting at home..then again,it may be more fun checking out the "thousands" of Ramen Ya,throughout the streets of Tokyo and elsewhere.As usual,interesting pictures and comments.All the best in the land of Ramen! noel.

    1. Hi Noel.
      there is actually a ramen school in Osaka that I know of, so, you never know! One of these days when I'm out for my blog, I will wander into an Udon place for lunch. I don't mind a spot of Curry Udon.
      What's the news with the Bombers this off-season? Hopefully not as newsworthy as last off-season!
      As far as ramen in Adelaide goes, there are a couple of branches of a Japanese chain shop in Adelaide that do a reasonable bowl. They are called Ajisen and there was one on Leigh St between Hindley and Currie and another in Regent Arcade. At least, they were there a year ago, but the one on Leigh St had been there for a number of years so I don't think they would have closed down.
      Take care,

  3. Hi Jason,as you probably know,Bellchambers will be out for 3 months,but other than that,no major dramas.Ajisen(both) are still in operation.Tried the one in Leigh St. shortly after it opened..can't remember what I had...but was below par.Had an Udon dish at Simply Sushi at the Bay a long time back..just okay.They are still running and their Sushi is nice,but nothing out of the ordinary. I think this is operated by a Chinese family.The Sushi Bar,run by a Korean family has always made good Sushi in David Jones,but they have been forced to close down,as the DJS food court has closed down.I tried their Udon a few times, which tasted ok.They have found premises nearby and will open again in late March..Melissa's daughter Amber chan, had her first birthday 27th Jan.Kanpai,noel.

    1. Hi Noel,
      I had heard about Bellchambers, that is unfortunate. I hope he can return sooner than expected.
      Ajisen, it is not as good as what is available in Japan, but compared to what was available in Adelaide, it was pretty good. I enjoyed going there to scratch an itch.
      Give Amber a little Happy Birthday kiss for me.

  4. Hi Jase,

    Try this when you have time!
    東京都渋谷区道玄坂1-14-9 ソシアル道玄坂 1F

    1. Hi Masa,
      thanks for the link! I have seen that ramen place in Shibuya but have never tried it! I definitely will now!