Let me tell you about my trip to the Cupnoodles Museum today. It did not go as planned.
My mom is visiting again. This is her third trip to Japan, and in trying to come up with new things for us to do, I came across this: Foreign Visitors Pick the 20 Coolest Places in Japan. This list reminded me of the Cupnoodles Museum in Yokohama, something I’ve been meaning to check out while living here. An entire museum devoted to instant ramen? Obviously a must-see. Do you know that you can even create your own cup of noodles? From an amazing 5000 flavor combinations? Mind. Blown.
This was just the kind of fun, quirky Japanese thing to do while my mom is in town.
Today was a dreary day. Overcast, and drizzling by the time we reached Yokohama. That time, by the way, was around 11:30. Elisabeth’s lunch time, and getting to be mine. We made the short walk from the train station to the museum, and my mom handled the ticket purchasing. We were assigned a time slot to visit the interactive noodle-making factory. 11:30-11:50. In other words, right then. No problem, we were all hungry, and what better way to warm up than with a hot cup of ramen?
We made our way up to the noodle-making floor, and were handed more tickets. Then we were directed to vending machines. Ostensibly, we were supposed to purchase the noodle cups from the vending machines. This required more money, and as we had already purchased six tickets for who-knows-what, I asked for help from the nearest employee. Asking for help meant handing him my fistful of tickets and giving him my best confused face. He magically produced three square bowls (as opposed to the round cups found in the vending machine.)
Ohhh, had we unknowingly purchased some fancy cup of noodles? Perhaps a special edition noodle cup? Had we won a prize? I didn’t know, but I did know that I wasn’t about to find out, so I just took the cups and moved on to the drawing station. Yes – in Japan you get to decorate your own cup! And write the date. You must write the date on the cup, because the noodles are edible only one month from the date. I found this odd, because didn’t everyone just eat their noodles right there? By the way, where was everyone eating? Was there a different room for that?
Elisabeth was bordering on meltdown territory, and despite the opportunity to stain her clothes with permanent marker (a favorite pastime of hers), she showed no interest in coloring her noodle box. So my mom stayed behind with Elisabeth while I took our three special square bowls and entered the very long line to make our noodle concoctions. All of a sudden, a man appeared and directed me out of the very long line to a much shorter line. Maybe our square bowls really were some sort of prize!
As I handed my bowls to the first person in the cup of noodles assembly line, I noticed she was dispensing rice. NOT noodles.
STOP EVERYTHING. I pointed to the next line over, “Noodles?” I asked. The rice-dispenser lady looked baffled.
“Square bowl for RICE. Gohan!” How we came to possess RICE bowls instead of NOODLE bowls, I have no idea. I think it has to do with the multiple tickets we were coerced into buying.
“Uhhh, can we get noodles?” I did not come to the CUPNOODLES museum for RICE. Uh-uh, no way. The museum staff, though clearly distressed over my unconscionable bowl mistake, was accommodating and provided me with new, round cups. Crisis averted.
Another lady then directed me out of line and back to the drawing tables, where she instructed me to write the date on my new cups. The date was non-negotiable. “Only good for one month.'” She insisted. (Having seen the ingredients, I’m pretty sure these things would survive the apocalypse, but nevertheless, I wrote the date as told.)
“Can’t we eat them here?” I asked her while writing.
She shook her head. “No. Not here. No hot water!”
WHAT? WE DON’T EVEN GET TO EAT THE NOODLES? OUTRAGEOUS!
I trudged back to the back of the very long line, utterly demoralized by this revelation. But by golly, we had gone through so much already that I was walking out of that museum with my cup of noodles, even if it was in a bag and not in my tummy. My mom and Elisabeth joined me in the assembly line when it was our turn to select our noodle creation. We hastily selected our flavor combinations from ingredients that most certainly do not come from nature. (This is instant ramen, so I don’t know what I was expecting.)
Anyway, Elisabeth was seriously cranky now, and I was seriously hungry. We rushed through the bagging process (this involved an air pump and string), and our cups of noodles were finally finished, ready to be eaten anytime within the next month in the convenience of our own home. Fantastic.
Our stomachs audibly growling now, we took our noodles and rushed to the mall across the street in search of a real restaurant. Did we see any of the exhibitions or attractions? Like the Instant Noodles History Cube? Or the CUPNOODLES Park? Or the recreation of the shed where instant ramen was first invented? No! We experienced none of instant ramen’s rich history because we were too damn hungry after making – but not eating – our personal Cup of Noodles.
This is my fault. I’m sure had I researched properly, I would have known that after making the ramen bowl you don’t get to actually eat the ramen. How silly of me to assume such a thing.
I will conclude with this: Should you visit Japan, absolutely visit the CUPNOODLES museum, if you have some extra time.* As I mentioned before, it is a fun, quirky Japanese-y thing to do. Just don’t go on an empty stomach.
*I stress extra time. There is an abundance of things to do and see here, and I’m not sure this would make my top-20 list. But to each his own!