On our recent trip to Japan, we knew we had to visit the Raumen Museum in Yokohama. Already planning on taking a day trip to Yokohama for the Cup Noodle Museum (see that post here), we stumbled across the Raumen Museum, and started referring to it as the “ramen mall”, because as you’ll see, it’s not much of a museum — but in the best possible way!
When you enter the museum on the ground floor, there’s a gift shop and small display on the history of ramen, but we’ll talk about that later, because who stops at the gift shop when there’s ramen to be eaten? The real treat awaits when you step out of the elevator at the basement level: a full scale replica of sections of Tokyo neighborhood Shitamachi circa 1958, the year instant noodles were invented.
This delightful subterranean village is billed by creators of the Raumen Museum as a “food themed amusement park.”
Out of the elevator, you can go down the large staircase to a collection of ramen shops — each representing a regional variation of ramen, or walk around the perimeter of the first basement level, which recreates the narrow alleyways of Tokyo and includes a couple sweet shops and a bar. Naturally we opted to head straight for the ramen.
Standing amidst the carefully distressed faux vintage buildings, under a surreal painted-on sky in the basement of an office building, the whole thing seems wonderfully insane. THIS is how you do a tourist trap. Jazz music playing in the background was punctuated by the sound of planes and air raid sirens, a strange touch given the supposed year of the setting, but one that immediately brought to mind the movie Silent Hill…maybe not what they were going for.
Ordering at all the shops is done through the ticket vending machines next to the door. Insert your money, select the ramen and drinks you’d like (or press a semi-random button next to an attractive photo if there’s no English), hand your ticket to the waiter and take a seat. Most shops offer a mini size, so you can sample multiple dishes.
While we obviously came to eat, I was amused to see that, after paying somewhere around $5 each for admission to the museum, the machines all had notes on them saying “adult visitors are expected to order one bowl of ramen”!
We tried a couple, the first of which was Ikemen Hollywood…mainly because we could read what we were ordering. More fusion than traditional ramen, my Johnny Dip featured Italian basil in the broth. It was pretty good! Of course, nothing at the museum will compare to the ramen shops that are truly serious about their craft, but even average quality ramen in Japan is tasty when you’re accustomed to eating instant.
With bellies full of ramen, we took a walk around the shops on the second level– there’s just a handful of them really, with gaps decorated and lit to resemble apartments, businesses, even a bath house.
When you’re ready to return to the first floor, the gift shop offers an array of ramen ingredients, dishes and souvenirs. Oh, and the requisite museum wall display off in the corner on the history and variations of ramen (all in Japanese, and really not what I was there for at any rate).
Hidden behind the gift shop is a large slot car racetrack, for those feeling nostalgic for the 60s.
All in all, the Raumen Museum is worth a visit, particularly if you’re already going to Yokohama for the Cup Noodle Museum. I enjoy this type of goofy novelty enough that I would have taken a day trip for it alone (and sitting here pondering my lunch options, I wish I could pop in for some ramen right about now!)