A short walk away from the Shinkansen station in Shin-Yokohama rests the world’s first food-based amusement park. Established back in the 1990s, the Ramen (sometimes spelled Raumen) museum hosts a small museum to ramen and an extraordinary food court that serves varieties of ramen from all across Japan.
History of Ramen
You pay a flat fee for entrance and once inside, you have to buy at least one bowl of ramen. The good news is that you’re probably there to eat ramen anyway, so it’s not a really big ask of you. The first floor has the historical documents and artifact for you to explore. You can see an incredibly detailed history of how noodles came to Japan and how Japan distinguished their noodles from Chinese noodles. The big difference, as their main website will tell you, is in the broth. See, Chinese broth can be used as a base for other dishes, while Japanese noodle broth is designed specifically for use with noodles, specializing the crafting of said broth.
On this floor, you can also do some tastings near the cashier for the gift shops. While there, we got to have a tasting of different ramen broths and learned about the difference between clear and white broths. Turns out the white broth was made by mistake when a ramen chef accidentally left his broth overnight, allowing the marrow inside the pork bones to add its deliciousness to the broth. After tasting both, I have to say I think I prefer the more mellow clear broth. It just has this great drinkability to it that doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish. It’s a little detail like that that I really cherish going to places like these: They give you an insight into how your own tastes work and gives you the working knowledge to competently discuss finer details.
Historical Ramen Street
Downstairs, you’ll find the amusement park itself: A faithful recreation of “the good old days” of Japan, which I assume are early 20th-century, based on the amazing retro movie posters and billboards that line the dark streets. The lighting also changes from blues to simulate day, to reds to simulate sunset and sunrise. On the first basement floor, you can visit and old-fashioned cafe, a dagashi-ya (old-fashioned candy and toy shop), and tons of little narrow alleyways you can navigate around to see fine details like old tobacco shops, hanging laundry, rusted bicycles, and more.
On the second basement level, you can find a majority of the ramen shops. This place brings unique and rare ramen from all across Japan into one location to be sampled by all who visit. The great thing is that you can order a half portion if you’re not there for a complete meal, and it evens out to roughly just over half the price of the full serving. You order like you would at mos ramen restaurants: Via a machine that dispenses a ticket that you give to the staff to complete your order. You can get additional toppings and sides as well for a nominal fee. The lines at the museum are very long; usually 20-40 minutes on average. You can find the times listed outside each restaurant and on the main board on the half level as you descend from B1.
This visit, we decided to get Kumamoto-style ramen at a branch of Komurasaki, a famed ramen shop in the city. Their noodles are distinct because they use white broth and top the noodles with lots of tasty garlic, usually browned into tiny crispy bits. I opted to try the vegetarian ramen (which I’m not 100% about the vegetarian nature of the broth I got) while the Mrs. got a nice bowl of clear broth ramen with ground pork. The vegetarian take on Kumamoto ramen was pretty good! Their tofu chashu was not stable at all, falling apart after a minute or two in the broth. The noodles were well cooked and the garlic added a nice dimension to the flavor. It was also amusing to see all the Kumamon decorations around the shop. After enjoying our noodles, we left Komurasaki and walked around a bit.
If you want to try some unique ramen but don’t have the time or money to hop all across Japan, this museum is an essential visit! It’s relatively close to Tokyo, so I can’t wait to go back and give it another visit to try another tasty regional ramen!