You’ll hear it first. As you descend into the basement of the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, you’ll catch sounds of hearty conversation and the plucking of string instruments growing louder with each step. Next, you’ll smell it: the unmistakable simmer of Japanese ramen in all its varieties.
And then, you’ll see it. At the bottom of the stairs, you find yourself overlooking old Japan, complete with a ceiling painted to match the night sky, as though you’ve stepped back in time to an evening in 1950s Tokyo. The museum is crammed with ramen stands, including branches of famous shops from around Japan and international takes on the Japanese dish.
The museum centers around a large courtyard bordered with ramen stands complete with an old-style bar and small stage for live music. Beyond that, you can wander realistic recreations of narrow, winding streets featuring vintage signs and, of course, more ramen shops.
Ramen varies by region in Japan, and there are at least 30 distinctive types hailing from various regions. A trip to the ramen museum is perhaps the fastest way to learn about the dish’s subtleties. Do you prefer the ramen of Sapporo over that of Hakata? This is the place to find out.
After that, try out some international takes on the meal: sample an Italian, pasta-inspired ramen or a French ramen made using bouillon soup and baguette crumbs.
The museum offers a “mini ramen” size to save your appetite for maximum tasting, but you’ll still want to come on an empty stomach. As you digest, you can visit the museum’s top floor to learn about the history of ramen in Japan, starting in 1665, when the dish made its way to Japan from China and the daimyo Mito Mitsukuni was the first to eat it in Japan.
Most restaurants break ramen into four classifications, based on its tare (タレ), or base flavor. There are many nuances in taste among the four classifications, because other flavors and ingredients are paired with the ramen’s base to create a unique, complex flavor. Ramen can also be classified by its noodle type.
Entrance to the museum costs ¥310. Once inside, mini ramen bowls range from ¥500 to ¥800, while full-sized ramen averages around ¥1000.
Yokohama Ramen Museum
Hours: 11:00 to 21:00 (open everyday)
Station: Five-minute walk from Shin-Yokohama Station, Exit 8.