Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum
I finished the second quarter of my intensive language program last week, so I’ve been taking the opportunity to explore some of the sights and tastes that the Tokyo area has to offer. I recently made a trip to the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum, one of Yokohama’s most well-known attractions. In 1994, founder Yoji Iwaoka decided to combine his love for his hometown with his passion for ramen by opening the Ramen Museum, which, according to the official brochure, was “the first food amusement park to be created anywhere in the world.”
There are two separate sections to the museum. The entrance on the street level leads to a small exhibit illustrating the history and types of ramen, a souvenir shop that’s nearly as big, and a giant slot car racing circuit (a past-time that was evidently very popular in the 1960s). But if this were all there were to the museum, it’d be pretty disappointing (especially if you can’t read Japanese, since nothing is written in English). The real attraction—and the part that makes it utterly worthwhile—is downstairs, where the ramen shops are nestled within a 1:1 replica of a section of Tokyo in the year Showa 33 (1958).
Pretty cool, huh? The museum features 9 different shops, selected as the best representations of various regional types of ramen (Tokyo, Kurume, Wakayama, Kumamoto, Saitama, Sapporo, Yamagata, and Yokohama). Regional styles differ in noodle thickness, noodle length, soup ingredients, etc. You have to pay to eat at the shops. For 500 yen, you can get a “mini” bowl (which may not be so mini, depending on your appetite), or you can pay 800 yen for a full serving. I recommend getting the mini bowls and trying a few different varieties. Definitely check out the Ramen Museum website for more information on the ramen shops—here’s a screenshot from their site to whet your appetite:
Screenshot taken from the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum website
Anyway, we had fun walking around in the late 1950s setting and soaking up the wonderful smells. In the end, we settled on trying Eki, the Sapporo ramen restaurant. The first photo in this post (above) gives you a close-up of my mini-ramen bowl. The restaurant offered miso, shoyu, or shio-based soups. We tried the miso and the shio (pictured above), which proved to be a nice contrast—the miso was amazingly rich, while the shio was quite light. The restaurant itself was simple, featuring long counters to seat customers—it was tucked away in a cool little hallway above the other shops:
Anyway, I highly recommend a trip to the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum if you’re in the area. It’s fun, and it’s incredibly tasty. The restaurants in the museum are supposed to be exemplars of their kind, and they’re typically long-established family institutions. So, if you’re looking to introduce visitors to the wonders of ramen or perhaps sample a few varieties yourself, you can trust that these shops won’t lead you astray. Plus, the décor is so cool!
Tip: You can get a 50 yen discount on admission by printing out the coupon available here.
Cautionary Note: This museum is located near Shin-Yokohama, not Yokohama!
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