Back to Japan…
After we stuffed ourselves at the Ramen Museum, we decided to make a noodle day of it and visit the Cup Noodle Museum. We just made it with an hour to spare, so we didn’t have time to read every word in the museum, but we had a good time learning the history of our favorite late-night snack*. The museum is really spare and modern. The lobby is huge, open and only decorated with an illumination of a Cup Noodle. You take a giant staircase upstairs to the museum. The first part is the Instant Noodles History Cube where you can see the history and the packaging of 3000 instant noodle products. It was crazy to see the subtle changes in packaging over time and all of the regional flavors that were introduced as Cup Noodle took over the world. Much of the Museum is devoted to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the instant noodle. (You may be familiar with Ando because he recently was honored with his own Google Doodle!) Because he invented the instant noodles later in life (he was 48) after two failed careers (he was even jailed for tax evasion!), Ando is the perfect example of how success can come at any age. Charming illustrations take you through the history of instant noodles. It took over a year of trying and failing every single day (and only sleeping four hours a night), but in 1958 Ando invented Chicken Ramen (which is like the packaged block of noodles we have today.) Later, in the 1960s, Ando came to the U.S. and saw people breaking up the blocks of ramen into styrofoam cups and adding hot water and eating them that way. Ando figured, why waste time with a separate bowl when the ramen could come in its own bowl! Cup Noodles were introduced in 1971. Ando’s last invention and lifelong dream invention was Space Ramen–instant noodles that could be eaten in space. (They are thinner so they cook quickly and have a thicker broth that won’t float around as easily.) It was fun to see the annual consumption of Cup Noodle around the world. Ando passed away in 2007. (Isn’t the drawing sweet?) I loved reading the New York Times obituary. In the next part of the museum, we got to make our own Cup Noodles. (It was an extra ¥300, so less than $3US.) There were stations set up in another huge room where you could decorate your cups. (I’ll share ours tomorrow, but we didn’t go too crazy with the decorating!) Next, the Cup Noodle guy sanitized our cups and we each turned a crank that and added a block of noodles to our cups. Then we got to choose from four different soup flavors and twelve different toppings to personalize our cups of ramen.The guy seemed excited about my choices, but now I’m not so sure: spicy tomato soup flavor, scallions, corn, cheese, and little bird wafers (I can’t remember what they are). Naoto played it safe: chicken soup flavor, ham, bacon, corn, and little bird wafers.
Then our cup noodles went through a machine that sealed the tops on and shrink wrapped the cup. (Please enjoy my mediocre video.)
“Noodle Day” was definitely one of my favorites on our trip. I really left the Cup Noodle Museum feeling thoughtful about failure and age and invention. Ando’s determination to turn his life around and his success at midlife was really inspiring. Momofuku Ando said, “It is never too late to do anything in life.” and I couldn’t agree more.
Do you eat Cup Noodle? Have you ever tried the spicy tomato flavor?
*We’ve slowed down our instant noodle eating because it’s not the healthiest diet (though Ando supposedly ate it every day for his whole life and he lived to be 96), but we still enjoy a cup now and again.
P.S. This bit about the Cup Noodle Mascot shoveling snow made me smile.