April 2015


When you have a few hours to kill in Yokohama – Cupnoodles Museum

Entering CupNoodles Museum

Entering CupNoodles Museum

I spent Thursday taking a walk around Yokohama. Before today, as far as I was concerned, Yokohama might as well be Tokyo – but it’s not, in the way that Hartford is not New York City.

It does have a very nice old port and, armed with a map, I headed out from my hotel with four hours to kill. Seriously, I had made no plans for my day – other than knowing that I needed to catch the train to Narita around 2:00.

My eye was immediately drawn to the Cupnoodles Museum – it looked like a reasonable walk, through some nice looking areas (at least on a map; reality matched) and, in the worst case scenario, would help me get some exercise that might help me sleep on a long redeye flight.

CupNoodles Museum: Product Timeline

It wasn’t just me at the museum, school children abounded!

The museum was easily found and after paying my 500¥ entry fee, I was free to wander. There was even a free English language audio guide, which helped me understand what I was looking at. For somebody who hasn’t eaten instant ramen noodles in years, it was still enjoyable.

The first CupNoodles: Chicken Ramen

The first CupNoodles Product: Chicken Ramen

Momofuku Ando started selling Chicken Ramen in 1958, eventually turning it into a powerhouse product that is, as college students the world round know, affordable, fast, and not that bad for you. The company creates and sells an incredible variety of ramen soup.

There was a cute, hokey, video presentation (with an English translation for me) – that traced the history of the product, including how cup-o-noodles were invented: a result of the inventor visiting the United States and seeing how Americans liked things in cups.

What enchanted me the most was that after leaving the film, we were presented with a replica of the wooden shed, exactly like the one that Momofuku worked inside while developing his product. This is the Silicon Valley story all over again, but instead of developing the product in a garage, it was developed in a wooden shed.

Replica of Momofuku's Wooden Shed

It’s not a Silicon Valley garage, but it is a replica of the original wooden shed.

The video, and the museum, also emphasized the fact that Momofuku persevered – although his early entrepreneurial efforts (which were not disclosed) failed, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and he never gave up. The ramen noodles were invented relatively late in his life – he was, as I recall, in his 40s when he finally derived the product that made him famous (and rich).

Although I didn’t actually do it myself (my future travel plans make it awkward), for 300¥, one could actually create your own flavor of Cup Noodles – including you own packaging.

Create your own Cup Noodles Flavor!

Design your own flavor of CupNoodles.

It was a great way to pass an hour in Yokohama – certainly not something for the cultural elites, but nevertheless amusing and educational.

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