Traveling around Japan, we find we spend a lot of time eating, planning what we are going to eat, learning about local foods, and well, eating some more. Planning this trip, we all knew that we wanted to learn more about that iconic Japanese food – Ramen! Luckily, just a few minutes from Tokyo station by train, you can not only learn about these famous instant noodles but make them at the Cup Noodles Museum. Then, when we’ve spent the morning learning about the commercial product, we can head over and have some of the best ramen in the country at the Ramen Museum. So many noodles, so little time.
Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama
There are arguably not many foods that are more iconic than ramen. Although, not a Japanese invention, the country has adopted it to the fullest, from Michelin-star ramen restaurants to the pack of Japanese instant noodles found in every college dorm worldwide – Cup Noodles. So, why wouldn’t we visit the museum dedicated to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles and even make our own packet of them to take home. The best place to learn all you can about this world food sensation is at the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama, less than half an hour from Tokyo.
A museum and interactive soup designing experience at the Cup Noodles Museum is a must do for children of all ages! The building is four stories high, the first floor is the ticket booth and the gift shop. The museum is only ¥500 for adults, and free for high school and younger children. But! You can also schedule your time to make-your-own Cup Noodles at the front desk, so make sure you do that! Registering is free, but you will need ¥300 for each Cup Noodles you want to make when you get there.
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A multi-storied building packed with information, interactive exhibits, and fun; the second floor houses the actual museum. Everything from a video depicting Momofuku Ando’s and Cup Noodles evolution to the Instant Noodles History Cube. All of it interesting, all of it worth seeing! On the fourth floor there is a restaurant, Noodles Bazaar, which features eight ramen varieties from around the world for you to try. Each half-serving is ¥300, so you can try a few! Also, on the fourth floor is the Cup Noodles Park, where you can experience the Cup Noodles manufacturing process through life-sized interactive attractions. This is for children and costs ¥300 each.
The third floor is the best. There are two different Cup Noodles experiences to choose from. The first, Chicken Ramen Factory, allows you to make a Cup Noodles from scratch – including kneading, spreading, and steaming the wheat flour and then using the original Momofuku Ando hot oil drying method to dry the noodles. This sounds awesome, and I will do it someday, but requires reservations to be made ahead of time and takes 90 minutes to complete. The second option is a bit quicker and no less fun! At the My Cup Noodles Factory you can create your own, completely original and unique Cup Noodles. You get to design everything from the outside in, from the packaging to the flavors that go into the cup! We actually spent about 45 minutes in this area; designing a cup is serious business!
Designing your own unique Cup Noodles requires nine steps. Some are easy and faster than others, but nine steps! Don’t skip any! And read all of the directions, I’m not going to name names, but I can tell you that a few of our party may have, accidently, not followed all of the rules as well as we should have… okay, it was me. I drew on the bottom of my cup, but it didn’t really matter in the end.
Getting Your Cup, Sanitizing, and Designing
Purchase a cup from the vending machine. Yes, you read that correctly. There are three vending machines at the head of the line, at the time we had an option of the original cup and a cup featuring a baseball player from the local team. (I honestly could not tell you who it was, sorry!) This is where you will need the ¥300, and you need to buy each person one. The vending machine will dispense an empty, blank Cup Noodles styrofoam cup.
Sanitize your hands with alcohol. Simple step, easy. But, still somehow interesting. It actually says “with alcohol” and the machine sprays a mist of alcohol onto your dirty, waiting hands.
Design your cup. There are a number of round tables, you will be pointed to one by one of the red and while clad employees. The table seats up to eight, and in the center are a bunch of two tipped markers. All the colors of the rainbow. So many options! The rules here, that may or may not have been broken, include not drawing on the bottom of the cup, and not marking above or below the red lines on the side of the cup. Other than that, you have a, mostly, blank slate!
Pick Your Own Flavors for Your Japanese Instant Noodles
These are actually completed by a worker behind the assembly line for you, but you get to watch and pick your flavors. Step four is to place the cup over a bundle of noodles, the machine will then flip the cup over to fit your noodles in perfectly. Step five is to choose your soup flavor (there are four unique bases to choose from) and the ingredients you want in your soup. You are allowed to choose up to four ingredients. I chose the curry ramen base, and garlic, fish crackers, green peppers, and corn: sounds delicious, right?! The fish crackers had little Cup Noodles birds “printed” on them, so cute – so Japanese. Step six is to seal the lid on the cup. Then it pops out of the machine, a little warm, and ready to be eaten! Oh, wait, there are three more steps!
Pumping Up at the My Cup Noodles Factory
Shrink wrap the cup. This means to place the cup in a plastic bag. After, it’s machine wrapped, you get to use the air pump to blow air into the “air package.” Yup, they expect you to use a handheld air pump to blow up the plastic bag, so that the Cup Noodles appears to float in it. This step was very difficult and a little frustrating – I will not say that mine turned out perfectly. But many other people had more success than I did. There was a string to attach, a pump to blow, and a plastic straw to release air when you needed to let some air out to reposition the Cup. Lots of awkward laughing and not a little swearing went into this step.
Balloon Packaging for Your Special Japanese Cup Noodles
You’ve finished, you can eat your Cup Noodles. It is best eaten in the next three months. Actually, we haven’t tried ours. They sit, suspended in their “air packages” just waiting for us to complete their life-cycle. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. They look pretty cool the way they are. Maybe we should have made two each.
Getting To the Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum
To get to the Cup of Noodles Museum which is located in downtown Yokohama, take the Minatomirai Subway Line to the Bashamichi station, from there it is an easy three block walk.
The address is: 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku
How to Make Reservations for the Cup Noodles Museum
For the My Cup Noodles Factory no reservations are needed, however only a certain number of people are allowed to do it, so it’s best to get there early. They will give you a time to come back if there is waiting. This experience lasts 45 minutes and costs 300 yen per cup.
Chicken Ramen Factory reservations are required. There are numerous classes each day and each session lasts 90 minutes and 48 people are allowed to participate. It costs 300 yen for elementary students, and for everyone else it costs 500 yen. To make the reservations, click on the Chicken Ramen Factory picture, and from there click on the red reservation button. It will take you to a calendar where you can choose your date and time. You will know there are still spaces enough for your group, because the spaces remaining are in red. You will have to register on the site before it will confirm your reservation, and you can make them up to three months in advance. We made ours about 4 weeks before we arrived in Japan, and we were the first people called for our group. That’s why we are wearing number 1 buttons.
For younger children there is a Cup Noodles park on the 4th floor, and again they only allow a certain number of kids in at one time and each session lasts 30 minutes. It’s a great way for the little ones to expel some fun energy. This is 300 yen per child. (There is a height limit of 90 cm.)
Other Things to Do In or Near Yokohama
- Attend a Japanese Baseball Game
- Take a Yokohama Bay boat tour
- Play all night long at the Kawasaki Amusement Arcade
- Watch a Sumo Tournament
Osaka Cup Noodle Museum
If you don’t have enough time in Tokyo to do Yokohama, you can also visit the museum in Osaka. This will give you another chance at making reservations as well. Just visit their website.
What do you think? Should we try them? Would you?
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