The invention of cup noodles/ramen or instant noodles in the 20th century was ingenious. It’s inventor Andō Momofuku, a Taiwanese-Japanese inventor and businessman, went on to found the Nissin Food Products Co. Ltd. Cup noodles/ramen has become synonymous with comfort food in Asia and the varieties and competition in various parts of Asia is astounding.
In 1971, Andō’s invented cup noodles/ramen, at the age of 61, only came after an almost life-time of several trial and error with instant chicken ramen. Andō certainly shows that it is never too old to learn something new and it is amazing that he managed to find a way to get instant noodles/ramen to work.
The idea for cup noodles/ramen came after he observed Americans eating noodles by breaking the noodles in half, putting them into a paper cup, and then pouring hot water over the noodles. Notably, he noted that the Americans consumed their noodles with a fork instead of chopsticks, which is commonly the eating utensil of choice in many parts of Asia. Following these observations, Ando was inspired. He thought the use a styrofoam cup, with a narrower bottom than the top, would be ideal to hold noodles and keep its content warm. Simply eating the noodles would then be as easy as opening the lid flap, adding boiling water and waiting a couple of minutes. The simplicity of this form of instant noodles ultimately transformed Andō’s business and fortunes.
The Cup Noodles Museum celebrates Andō, achievements and the history of the Nissin Company.
I had a great time visiting the Cup Noodles Museum in 2017. I highly recommend visiting when it opens around 10:00 am to avoid the big crowds that appear in the middle of the day. The museum itself is located really close to World Porters and the Yohohama Ferris Wheel. A word of caution, if you intend to visit the museum later in the day, the last admission time is 5:00 pm (even though it closes at 6:00 pm).
As soon as you walk up the stairs, you can visit the instant noodle wall. Behind see-through glass is a display of all the variants of instant noodles/ramen created by the Nissin Company and the year it was introduced. There is a lot on display. It is amazing to see how the noodle/ramen packaging has changed over the course of several short decades.
We were also able to create our own cup noodles during the visit. For a small fee, we were allowed to go from selecting the noodle cake to sealing the lid on the cup. The process is very orderly and heaps of fun to do. You are allowed to choose and add ingredients into your cup. There were plenty of flavors and dried seasoning to choice from. You could add dried prawns, meats, corn and other vegetables.
Before we put our ingredients into the cup, there were several tables with colored markers for us to decorate and color our cup. The tables were kid size. You can imagine that it’s not ideal for an adult to use. However, we had to use the table as it was our only chance to personalize the exterior of the cup. Me and my wife were surrounded by young school age kids, each taking their jobs very seriously. The cup I managed to personalize ended up with several colors and a drawing of an odd looking chicken that could only be loved by me, in other words, it was so bad it’s not worth sharing. The others kids, probably a quarter of my age were creating masterful works of art. Clearly the Japanese kids had a knack for drawing and creativity.
We took part in the museum tour, which can be self directed. We watched a film about the history of cup noodles/ramen and then given the chance to freely roam around the museum floor and look at the various displays. The museum spans several floors and there a lots of things to read and look at.
The display below was really interesting. To this day, I still don’t know how the cup is suspended in place by the noodles on the ceiling. On the day, this display proved to be popular and several people were taking selfies and photos of it.
In 2005, the Nissin Company invented space ramen. Now our space explorers can enjoy ramen above our atmosphere. You have to wonder how this was invented and how many trial and errors they went through to get to that point in 2005. (Not sure if you need to add boiling water and whether the water would float in mid-air in space. Certainly worth visualizing.)
The museum is definitely a kid friendly space. There were plenty of interactive elements and enough English signs to help people understand what is happening. You will learn something new and you may even appreciate instant noodles more.
If you were keen to take more things home, at the entrance is also the Cup Noodle Museum store. Here, you can buy various merchandise and ramen. You can buy a plush of their yellow chicken, souvenirs for friends and family or even instant noodle/ramen packs/sets (like the one below).
I also shot a video of the Cup Noodle wall. Here is the video:
The Cup Noodles Museum is open most days from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and is closed on Tuesday. It is located here: 2 Chome-3-4 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 231-0001, Japan: