One of the “must do” things to do on our trip to Japan was to EAT. And oh boy, our list was long! There’s simple eats at the convenient stores to that special soba in Niigata (my husband’s hometown), summer sweets, curry rice, gyoza and of course, RAMEN! My kids are crazy with ramen which is quite understandable because their parents bonded really well during ramen dates years ago.
While Googling to create itinerary for our short stay in Tokyo, I came across the words: Shin Yokohama RAMEN MUSEUM. For a die hard ramen afficionado, including that in the Japan itinerary is a done deal.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (spelled “Raumen” on the building’s facade) was founded in 1994 as the world’s first food-themed amusement park.
How to get there
The JR Yokohama line is the only way to get to Shin Yokohama station directly from Tokyo. You can also get here via Shinkansen, if you happen to be in Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya or other places on the Tokaido line. The ramen museum is only a 10 minutes walk from Shin Yokohama station.
The museum spreads to three floors with the ground floor a store then basement 1 and 2. There is a small museum section with the history of ramen and such on the ground floor, plus the official museum shop. You can purchase ramen sets to go here.
A walk down a few flights transports you to 1958 Japan – the era when the first instant ramen was introduced to the Japanese market. The place is complete with cramped alleyways, old neon signs and vintage Japanese movie posters. It’s a delightful treat and a huge contrast to the modern scene outside.
Entering the museum was like entering time machine that brought us back to the Japan’s good old days in 1958. There’s a bar at the center, surrounded by ramen shops.
We met a policeman from the past, wearing old uniform popular during those days. It’s a very strange yet fascinating feeling.
And after appreciating the trip back in time, we went on to decide which ramen we’d like to eat!
Ramen varies by region in Japan, and there are at least 30 distinctive types hailing from various regions. There are nine ramen shops at the ramen museum from Sapporo, Tokyo, Hakata, Kumamoto and other local areas, and each of them serves their own flavor of ramen such as soy sauce, miso, pork bone broth (tonkotsu) – my favorite.
Each restaurant has a vending machine outside. This is where you order. Deposit your yen, select your meal, grab your tickets (one for each item you order) and give them to your host. The machines are entirely in Japanese but they do have laminated menus in other languages including English.
At 1,100 yen for a bowl of ramen, I thought it was expensive but also realized, you’re just not paying solely for the ramen but the ambiance while eating the ramen. Okay, you already paid 310 yen for the entrance but then again, I still feel it was worth it in the end when I see how my kids loved every nook and corner of ‘old Japan’. It got me in a very natsukashii mood.
Is it worth a visit?
Being transported to an old Japanese village brought the magic for us at the Ramen Museum. And to explore every nook and cranny was such a joy. Despite some reviews at Tripadvisor saying it’s not worth your time and you can actually have all sorts of ramen anywhere in Tokyo anyway (true) but the quirkiness of the place actually appealed to us. This place is not exactly a museum in my opinion, but more of offers a sample of ramen variety.
If you’re coming to Yokohama for the day, I would suggest combining a trip to the museum and then a sidetrip to the very real and vibrant Chinatown and Motomachi area in Yokohama.