My trip to Japan always includes Ramen feast. I usually had my bowls of Ramen in Osaka, but this time I went to Yokohama to try ramen sold in Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum as suggested by my friend who lives in Yokohama.
Inside Ramen Museum
Talking a little bit about ramen, ramen actually has its roots in China but the fame of this noodle dish spread to Japan since 1859 when Japan opened its ports to the world. That time, many linguistic interpreters from China and Western came in and foreign settlements were set up in Japan’s major port towns, where Chinese restaurants began to mushroom in many streets forming China Town. The Chinese noodle dish integrated with the local-food culture and become the source of Japanese ramen. Japanese locals began to eat ramen at these Chinese establishments; some also began to establish their own ramen stalls or carts on the streets.
What makes it different from Japanese ramen and Chinese noodle is the soup stock (dashi). In China, the soup usually is used in other dishes, while in Japan, the soup is created for ramen only. The ramen soup in Japan is claimed as using from five to forty different ingredient to generate a treasure-trove umami, hence ramen soup became very famous around the world.
In Japan, ramen shops tend to be very competitive. Ramen enthusiasts were vocal about championing regional specialties — from the rich tonkotsu (pork-bone) soup of Kyushu to the warming miso-based bowls of Hokkaido. Luckily, being loved by various range of people, ramen has a down-market appeal and ordinary reputation, so it can be enjoyed with competitive, if not affordable price.
Knowing this history and competition among the ramen shops, Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was then established in 1994. The concept was daring: to give visitors a taste of the best ramen from around Japan by gathering a cluster of popular shops in a single setting.
First Floor (1F)
In a gallery on the first floor, the Ramen Museum presents the history of ramen noodles in Japan, including the big success of instant ramen. It displays the variety of noodles, soups, toppings and bowls used across Japan, and shows how the noodles are made. In this section, visitors can learn about ramen, centered around its history that has been clarified through 25 years of investigation. It includes newly discovered Chinese noodles in Muromachi (1338-1573) period and the disclosure of the dawn of ramen.
In this floor also there is a section called free tasting corner. For visitors who wish to try multiple ramen dishes, every store offers “mini ramen”, a small portion of the feature dish. It is first come first serve basis.
Below is the schedule for the event:
- For weekday, the tasting event is at 12 pm, 13 pm, and 14 pm.
- For weekend, the tasting event is at 14 pm, 15 pm, 16 pm, 17 pm, 18 pm, 19 pm.
There is also a museum shop which offers a rich lineup ramen varieties so that you can enjoy the taste of famous shops at home. Choose the soup and noodles you wish, and make your own original brand of ramen at the “My Ramen” booth. Find the museum original sweets and goods at other booths. Besides a museum shop, the museum also offers Iris Slot-car Race Track because racing slot cars was extremely popular among children in the middle of the Showa (1926-1989) period, and remains popular even for adults today.
The museum is opened every day 1t 11 am to 10 pm, except Sundays and National Holidays, it opens at 10.30 pm. Ramen shops take orders until 30 minutes before closing time. Admission fee to enter the museum is 310 Yen for adults (13 or older) and 100 Yen for children (6-12) and seniors (over 60). For children younger than 6 years old, the admission fee is free.
Tickets for the meals are purchased at vending machines in front of each stores before entering.
- Smoking is prohibited except in the designated area of the museum (Kateko Café and Snack Restaurant, and Izakaya Ryoji [after 5 pm]).
- Bringing food and beverages into the museum is prohibited.
- Pets including dogs and cats are prohibited to enter the museum (except guide dogs and service dogs).
- To re-enter the museum on the same day, make sure you come to the counter on the first floor so the staff will put a stamp on the back of your hand, which will be checked when you re-enter the museum.
On the two basement floors, visitors can explore a 1:1 replica of some streets and houses of Shitamachi, the old town of Tokyo, of around the year 1958, when the popularity of ramen was rapidly increasing. Nine ramen restaurants can be found there, each featuring a ramen dish from a different region of Japan. The current lineup of shops includes Komurasaki from Kumamoto Prefecture, whose tonkotsu soup best represents the southern Kyushu style; Ryu Shanghai from Yamagata Prefecture, which features extra-thick noodles and a spicy miso base; and specialty tsukemen (dipping-sauce noodles) restaurant Ganja from Saitama Prefecture. As a self-appointed custodian of ramen history, the museum has even re-created the kitchens of Kamome Shokudo, a celebrated eatery from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, that was destroyed in the 3/11 disaster.
Shops in B1 F:
1. Kateko Café and Snack Restaurant
It is a nostalgic space for relaxing while savoring popular soft-serve ice cream called soft cream made from Hokkaido milk, and drinking coffee or alcohol. Karaoke is also available.
Dagashi-ya is an old-fashioned sweet shop that used to be seen in every town and served as a classic children’s social hub. Nostalgic Bon Bon ice cream (ice cream in a rubber container), Ramune soda, and starch syrup are popular in showa period.
Sumire is a popular ramen shop that joined the museum after more than 100 persuasive meetings with the owner. Sumire is very famous because of its miso ramen and has been recognized all over Japan. Its soup is so thick and yet so fragrant, with distinctively Sapporo-style noodles, medium-thick, curvy that you will never forget a spoonful of it.
4. Shina Soba-ya
Shina soba-ya has been carefully selected ingredients for an exquisite concentration of umami flavors in his every bowl. The owner of the restaurant, Mr. Minoru Sano, has been nicknamed “The Ramen Demon” because of his uncompromising attitude toward the ingredients. The restaurant uses wheat flour that has been specially developed for use in noodle making. The free-range local traditional pedigree chicken used for the soup comes from fowl bred by the restaurant owner himself. He traveled all over Japan and through scrutiny, brought together over 30 highly nutritious ingredients.
5. Nidai-me Genkotsu-ya
This restaurant is a legendary as it has influenced many ramen restaurant. The Japanese-style soup is extracted from high-quality dried tuna and kelp is blended with a whitish, cloudy soup using pork and chicken bones in the ideal proportions to create a mellow, rich soup. Noodles with a high water content are cut each time an order is placed. This is definitely an elegant ramen that is easy on the body.
Shops in B2 F:
1. Izakaya Ryoji
This izakaya is claimed as 120% Okinawa restaurant. Born and raised in Okinawa, Izakaya Ryoji, is a local favorite. You can enjoy a variety of food and drinks from Okinawa’s staple dishes to creative menu items using ingredients from Okinawa, served with Orion beer direct from Okinawa and a wide range of Awamori, Okinawa’s Distilled Spirits.
2. Ryu Shanghai Honten
This ramen restaurant offers one-of-a-kind spicy hot miso ramen. The spicy hot miso is served in the center of the bowl and it melts gradually into the soup when mixed. An abundant quantity of dried small sardines is blended into a pork and chicken broth to make a soup. The voluminous homemade extremely think kneaded noodles are super springy.
3. Rishiri Ramen Miraku
This ramen comes from the Rishiri Island of Hokkaido. The yaki-shoyu (rich, scorched soy sauce base) ramen is an exclusive dish made by large amount of Rishiri kelp, which is a bounty and a specialty of the sea in the north, an unforgettable soup packed with plenty of savory flavor complemented by aged, medium –thick chijiremen (wavy) noodles. The main restaurant on Rishiri Island was even designated as a “Bib Gourmand” restaurant in the Michelin Guide Hokkaido 2017 Special Edition.
4. YUJI RAMEN
The restaurant owner is a fish expert who spent a great number of years in the fish wholesaling business in the United States. He has achieved an ultimate stock ramen taste which brings out the best of fish’ umami flavors by using a “tuna-kotsu” soup. This tuna-kotsu is made by roasting the parts left after filleting over a strong flame to create a whitish, cloudy soup, and roasted tuna Haramo in place of roast pork.
5. Muku Zweite
In a nod to ramen’s newfound overseas cachet — and in acknowledgement of the influences now coming to Japan from abroad — the museum has welcomed its first Europe-based shop. Muku Zweite is run by a Japanese chef whose nontraditional approach includes making flour from durum wheat, deploying a German spice blend known as sieben and boosting umami with local salt-cured ham.
6. Ryukyu Shinmen Tondou
‘Tondou’ was created as part of the “Project for Creating New Local Ramen” from Ramen Museum to find a new ramen in a region where no ramen exists. Salt ramen is simple but rich in flavor, utilizing ingredients from Okinawa. This ramen is produced locally in Okinawa and still continues to evolve. The restaurant operates as a bar at night.
Komurasaki is the restaurant where Kumamoto tonkotsu based ramen originated. Founded in 1954, this historic ramen restaurant serves a mild-flavored soup that combines chicken bone and vegetable broth over a tonkotsu (pork bone) base. The soup includes its own specially-flavored garlic oil, and home-roasted, crumbled garlic chips scattered on top; whose fragrance really piques your appetite.
If you happen to be in Yokohama or visiting Tokyo, do come to Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (Raumen or Ra-haku). The Ramen Museum is only a 5-10 minute walk from Shin-Yokohama Station. Besides the ramen museum, you can also take a walk around as it is quite close to Yokohama Chinatown.