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,
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,
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.