The Instant Ramen Museum, as is becoming its name, is a huge building. Not Mall Of America-big, but large enough that it really stands out in the mostly residential neighborhood where it stands.
Without the benefit of a logo, it could be just about anything. Its a plain beige-ish stone facade rectangular box with tiny slits for windows. It could be….a roller derby-style fortress where 2 teams enter, but only one leaves, Thunderdome-style. Or the headquarters of a cartel of donut producers, where they have met in secret for decades to collude and keep the price of sprinkles artificially high.
The truth, however, is that the Instant Ramen Museum is actually the holding center for 1/3 of all children currently in Japan, which comes out to, with rounding, eleventy billion. And that is approximately the number that were there when we arrived.
A very nice English speaking lady came over and asked if we wanted to make our own custom Cup Noodles (duh!) and then showed us on a TV the approximate wait time for the upstairs new lab: 40-minutes. Which I suppose is fine……but what struck us was that this activity was SO popular there are TWO “kitchens” running flat-out full-time to let everyone put coloured salt on dried noodles in styrofoam.
The upstairs lab is laid out in 2 lines separated by colouring stations. When you first come in you line up to buy your empty styrofoam cup for ~$4. This had 2 switchbacks, but in typical Japanese effeciency fashion the line moved in maybe 10-minutes and everyone was through.
From here you move to the colouring phase. Sitting at small tables with special markers you design your Cup Noodles cup with whatever you want. I went with the classic dinosaur and bird with mohawk being attacked by a snake while jumping over sushi (based on the classic Norman Rockwell painting), Holly went with….well…bowls of ramen.
After that you move onto the flavour line. In this line there is a nice lady showing you how they get the noodles in the cup (hint: upside down). Its interactive and you get to rotate a giant whell that turns your cup upside down and plops a birdsnest of noodles in, while a very nice Japanese lady repeats the same rote script over and over again with a completely genuine smile through a microphone and speaker like a bank teller
Next your cup (and you) move to the flavourings section! You choose your base (Cup Noodle base for me, Seafood for Holly) and up to 4 flavourings, one of which are edible duck faces, which pretty much scream at you to get them. For the record the flavours we got are:
- Cup Noodles base
- Duck Faces
- Puffed Shrimp
- Puffed Pork
- Seafood base
- Duck Faces
- Puffed Shrimp
From there you move over to another lady who packages it for you while talking you through the process over a speaker. She foil seals it, puts it in a bag and puts it through a Easy Bake oven to shrink wrap it down. From there you take it over to another station where you get an enormous bag to fill with air. Seriously. You put the ramen in a bag and then inflate it and add a little red string to carry it around like a giant airbag purse. The whole process was crazy and amazingly fun!
The rest of the museum is really non-existent. Its a wall of old ramen flavours, another full kitchen to make these cup noodles and a couple displays. But clearly this entire building is really just for this activity.
So we left. On the way to the museum we passed a little ramen place with a sign that read “Your happiness of eating this makes us happy” which seemed like an invitation to try our first bowl of ramen and we were not at all disappointed. Flavourful roasted pork, a gorgeous broth and the single most perfectly cooked egg we had ever seen. The place was called Ippudo Ramen and I highly recommend it!
But we had a food tour to get to! So we left there, walked back to the subway and headed to Umeda station to check that out before heading to eat more Osaka fare. But that deserves its own post……