A few blocks from the Shin-Yokohama Japan Rail station stands a museum devoted to a noodle dish that has taken over the world. The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum houses not only the history of the legendary dish, but also numerous shops where you can sample some of the world’s favorite late night cuisines.
Originating in China, ramen made its way over to Japan after the country opened its ports in 1859. As Japanese people began to patronize Chinese restaurants they developed a taste for the wheat noodles that made the jump over the East China Sea.
From there, the Japanese ran with the wheat noodles, but made a salty, savory broth all their own. Made with up to forty different ingredients, the Japanese broth, or dashi, is what sends waves of warmth and satisfaction through your bones.
For more than 20 years, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum has stood as a monument to the history and variety of Japan’s premier comfort food. As the world’s first food themed amusement park, the museum houses nine unique ramen shops showcasing the different varieties of ramen from around not only Japan, but the world.
After purchasing a ticket for a few hundred yen (roughly $3), you may enter the inner sanctum of noodles and broth. There you’ll find an exhibit detailing the history of ramen from its inception in China all the way to the present day Michelin Star accolades. An interactive display lets you explore the various prefectures of Japan to learn about their local variations of ramen. But the real centerpiece to the whole experience is downstairs.
Like Marty McFly’s Delorean, the stairs down into the basement sweeps you off to a different time. Modeled after a mid-century Japanese city, the two story basement of the Ramen Museum pulls you back to 1958, the year the first instant ramen was invented. The ceiling is painted with a clear blue sky and the scent of boiling broth wafts its way to your nose as steam from boiling noodles spills out from one of the shops lining the square.
Before diving into a bowl, you can wander a back alley to immerse yourself in a bygone era of Japanese society. The level of detail paid to the decor is astonishing. Clothing lines criss cross over your head as the warm light of lanterns illuminates old advertisements, tiny shrines, and even a vintage phone booth.
You have your choice of nine shops to indulge your noodle cravings. From miso ramen at Sumire to the legendary soy ramen made at Rishiri Ramen Miraku, this basement wonderland has a plethora of styles to offer. Each shop features its own unique take on ramen.
Muku Zweite uses flour used in Italian pasta to make its noodles while Komurasaki utilizes chicken bones and vegetable broth in its tonkotsu (pork) based soup.
Like most of the ramen shops across Japan, the ones in the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum feature a vending machine by the entrance. After slipping in some yen, you can make your choice of ramen style, size, additional toppings, and a drink. Tickets slide out at the bottom for you to hand over to your waiter who will quickly provide you with a piping hot bowl of something that will surely satisfy that umami craving.
With shops in Barcelona, London, Philadelphia, and any number of cities around the world, ramen has taken the world by storm. Making the pilgrimage to The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum should be on every ramen enthusiast’s list. It’s the only place in the world where you can completely immerse yourself in the history while enjoying a bowl.
*This article was originally published in October 2017.