Tokyo 2013 Trip Highlights: Day 6 - Nissin Cup Noodle Museum, Yokohama Ramen Museum, Ekibenya, Tokyo Character Street, Pokemon Store

Today is RAMEN DAY!  We're heading down south to Yokohama for a fun filled day of ramen education and dining.  I plotted a path that doesn't do any backtracking and you even get to ride a bullet train for 12 minutes to get back to Tokyo.  This is just my itinerary to see both of the ramen museums with the train routes to get to them from Tokyo and to return.  I have tried to include accurate (if general) directions, but do recheck route information and locations with Google maps before you set out.  We started early in the morning so we could do the Nissin Museum first, then go and have lunch at the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum later.  I previously blogged about both of these museums here.
Yokohama Landmark Tower.  Viewing deck here too along with a mall if you want to visit.  When you get off the train at Sakuragicho Station, look for this tower to orient yourself.  You will walk by it and the tall ship on the causeway to get o the Nissin Cup Noodle Museum.
Yokohama Station is within 45 minutes of Tokyo Station by Train and 15 minutes by bullet train.  The itinerary today starts from Ikebukuro Station, where our hotel is.  We took the Marunouchi Line subway to Tokyo Station.

From Tokyo Station, we take the train down to Yokohama on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line toward Isogo.  This is a milk run kind of train and it will take you 40 minutes to get to Yokohama Station.  At Yokohama Station - stay on board this train - it becomes to the JR Negishi Line and continues one stop to Sakuragicho Station.  You exit at this station, go out the east exit to the bay.  Follow the crowd out across a big plaza to cross the street to reach the shore.  There will be a pedestrian causeway that takes you over to the Yokohama World Porters Mall.  Walk through or around the west side of the mall to go behind it and reach the Nissin Cup Noodle Museum which is on the opposite corner from the Cosmoworld Theme Park here (has a big ferris wheel).

Walk across this causeway to the World Porters
Front entrance to the Cup Noodles Museum
Massive Shock and Awe Entrance Atrium.
Admission tickets to the museum were easily obtained at the front desk.  If you can reserve ahead you can even get to make your own chicken ramen noodles - but I'm not sure if it is only for small groups and school groups.  We only wanted to see the museum and make our own instant cup noodle so it was fine to miss it.  Once you get your ticket you go up the big stairs and enter a show room that has every instant noodle product that Nissin has made (up to a year ago).  It is an impressive room of noodles and I recognized many different types of instant ramen that I had eaten before - wohoo!
The room of instant noodle history.  On the left wall you start with just the original instant chicken ramen that Nissin invented and then more and more products emerge over time as you walk clockwise around the room.  You can see why ramen is now a billion dollar international business.
Some different types of cup noodle and bowl noodle.
These were the super deluxe Goota brand noodles. I managed to find one three years ago and it was a tasty shoyu ramen with both the bamboo shoots and a slice of pork.
Wall of Ramen
Some other types of ramen.  I really like the shoyu noodles to the bottom right of the cute chicken stuffy.
Gundam Cup Noodle.  Again, I managed to snag one of these a few years back.  It came with the smallest scale model kits Bandai had released of a Gundam or a Zaku.
Momofuku Andou's little shack where he invented the original instant ramen and went on to found Nissin.
Museum exhibit on the components of a cup noodle.
Theatre where you can see a cute historical film about the invention of instant ramen and cup noodle later.  Make sure you ask for the English language headset.
Never Give Up!  The museum is an excellent example of using your corporate brand to its best advantage.  Many Japanese and foreign tourists visit.  It also has a very inspirational message about invention and to keep trying even if you fail.
After the movie and the museum tour, we went to make our own instant cup noodles on the third floor at our designated time (it is on the museum ticket).  The third floor of the museum is a big space set aside to allow hundreds of visitors at a time to make their own cup noodles and it also has a class room area to make your own fresh ramen if you managed to pre-register for that.

You get in a line to buy empty cups for your noodle for 300 yen each (a cheap souvenir and each person can make up to 3).  After you get the cups, you sterilize your hands with alcohol then go to a big common work area to decorate your cups with felt pens - make your own SUPER RAMEN and name it!  Then it is off to another line to have them make your cup of noodle.  When you get the front you hand them your cup, turn a crank to load the blocks of ramen in, choose your flavouring and toppings, they then seal the cup and shrink wrap it.  Finally you insert it into this way cool plastic bag that inflates to protect your cup noodle for the trip home. Making your cup noodle was a ton of fun and everyone there seemed to be having a good time.
Ramen Blocks
Turn the crank to load your ramen into the cup.
Pick your flavour like curry, seafood, or soy sauce.  Then pick your toppings from naruto, shrimp, pork, egg, green onion, crab, corn, green beans, and more.
The filled cups.
Sealing the cups.
Sealed cups.
Shrink wrapping your noodles.
Heating the plastic wrap to complete the shrink wrapping.
Place your cup noodle into your air bag and inflate it.  The airbag itself is pretty cool.  You can then carry your noodles around as a fashion statement.  They also have straws there that you can take to deflate the nifty airbag.
After making our cup noodle we went back to see the museum some more and also checked out the fourth floor which has a big southeast asia themed noodle dining park / cafeteria.  Very nicely setup museum where you get to eat the exhibit.  The gift shop is pretty nice too, but don't expect to find Nissin noodle products.  They sell some souvenir packs, but their interesting noodles you'll have to find at a supermarket. NOTE: I believe they might sell some of their limited edition noodles here now, but I haven't confirmed it.

After touring through the Nissin Cup Noodle Museum we were off to the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, a wonderful place that is a place that has some displays about ramen history, but is amazing for the ramen shops it brings in from around Japan all set in a massive 50s era Showa Japan life-size diorama.  To get there we backtrack to Sakuragicho Station then board the Blue Line Metro towards Azamino to get to Shinyokohama Station.  At this station, you can get to the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum fairly easily by following their instructions at their website (they also had a discount admission coupon there to last time I checked.).

With their instructions, take Exit 8 from the station to get there.  From the actual exit, it takes no more than 5 or 6 minutes on foot to get to the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum.  Google map if you are still unsure.
Front of the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum.
I had visited this museum / ramen foodie mecca a few years before and it was just as fun to visit this time.  The place is setup to invoke a real sense of nostalgia for the Showa era boom days. There is a detailed 1950s decorated street that circles the central food court where most of the ramen shops are.  It is a fun walk with sound effects and even a vintage candy shop to visit.
The central food court with a fairground atmosphere.  The ramen shops are located all around it and you order and pay for your ramen from ticket machines.  Take the tickets inside to claim your ramen feast.
Kaiju or Monster Movie Billboard.
Shoyu Ramen with two eggs. Yum.
The tastiest shoyo ramen with a raw egg cooking in it that I have ever had.  The soup was so good and so hot, but I kept slurping it up.  This ramen was served in a scalding hot clay pot.
Advertising for the tastiest ramen soup I have ever had.
Traditional Japanese Candy - some of it hasn't changed in ages.
Part of the 1950s street.
The gift shop this time seemed to have shrunk and the ramen making exhibits were reduced in size too. Hopefully they are just reorganizing and it isn't indicative of something else.  The place was fairly busy and even came with some drunk salarymen this time for extra authenticity (they were still very well behaved).

Afterwards we took the bullet train back to Tokyo from Shinyokohama Station.  It saves you a whole bunch of time on the return trip but costs 3X as much (worth it for me).  If you want to buy Shinkansen tickets go and ask for help at the ticket office there as I wasn't sure how to buy the tickets myself.  All I know is that you need to buy a regular ticket, then a Shinkansen extra ticket to either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station where you can transfer to other local Tokyo trains.  KEEP YOUR TICKETS - BOTH OF THEM.  You need them to exit at the other end.  On this end, you will feed both tickets through the turnstile machines, then you reverse it at the other end to get off the Shinkansen platform and then to exit the paid fare area afterwards.

The ride back to Tokyo Station was 12 or 14 minutes - I can't remember.  It was barely enough time to eat a snack on the train.  I love these bullet trains as they run so smoothly at high speed.  It really is like being on a airliner, but with more leg room!  They even have the fold down tray tables and such.  I could have sworn that there was a train speed counter the last time I rode, but there wasn't one this time.

Inside the bullet train or Shinkansen.
Bullet train front car.
Nose of the bullet train. N700 series train I think.
Tokyo Station
At Tokyo Station I was looking for two things.  I wanted to see Tokyo Station Character Street and check out Ekibenya (the train bento festival shop). Tokyo Station is a bit of a maze to navigate even with a map - which I had.  I had marked the location of Ekibenya on it and it was still a little hard to find.  The shop was not nearly as big as I thought, but boy did they ever stock an amazing assortment of ekiben (train bento) for your long distance train rides.  These ekiben represent all of these regional specialities from around Japan.
 I had to try one and bought and interesting one with an assortment of items from pickles to rice to pork.  The shop was also amazingly busy with a huge mass of people buying food inside.  I previously blogged about Ekibenya here.
Wall display of ekiben boxes available.  Pick your favourite.
They have all of these fridges with many varieties of bento.  So many to choose from!
Also a very nice assortment of beer and other beverages to go.
After Ekibenya we went to Tokyo Character Street which is in the east side basement of Tokyo Station.  There is a very nice variety of character goods shops here.  There is an Ultraman 88 store, a Sanrio Store, a Pretty Cure Store, a couple of Television Character Goods Shops, etc.  The mall at the Skytree also has a number of these stores too.  If you have time, worth a visit, but if you are visiting a big Animate, or Akihabara, etc., then you could pass on this.  It was a fun visit, but I'm not sure I'd make this a destination unless I was in the area again.  I previously blogged about Character Street and Ramen Street at this post about Tokyo First Avenue here.
Character Street.
Sanrio Display with Rement Box Sets
More Ultraman than you can count.
Ultraman Store
We also did a quick stop at the Pokemon Centre Shop down at Hamamatsucho, but it was a quick stop.  The shop hasn't changed a lot and there is still a pile of Pokemon stuff here.  However, it seems like they are stocking a little less clothing and jewelry this time.  I blogged about the Pokemon store previously here.  The only thing I'll say this time was that there was a couple of 20 year old guys from an English speaking country who were complaining about the staff singing happy birthday to a Japanese boy when I was there.  Get a grip on reality.  You are in a kids store - it actually isn't for you - the grown adult who should understand.  I got a Moo-moo Milk keychain and I like the store just the way it is! NOTE: The Pokemon Store at this location has closed and reopened in Ikebukuro.

Pokemon Store
Pokemon Store Stuffies
Late night Ekiben
That night we went for yakitori and then went back to the hotel as one of us was coming down with a cold and needed the rest.  I had a late night ekiben snack at the hotel and it was yummy!

View Day Seven of the travelogue here.
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