"Where can I get a bowl of ramen like this?"
Hop on the subway to Shin Yokohama station, follow the well-signed route, cross over the sky bridge, walk down a few blocks, turn around the corner and soon we found the building that we are looking for (We actually totally walked past and missed it). Tucked away in a side street, this big white tall building looks rather corporate and dated, with ticket barriers at the entrance and a lady in uniform standing outside safeguarding. Is this MI5 secret agent HQ or something?
A ¥300 entry fee into the building which is annoying since we know that we going to spend more money and buy food while inside. We obliged and paid for the ticket, in we go to the ramen heaven - the Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum.
Just like any other museum, you will read about the history of the subject, and artifacts in display cabinets, but in this case - this museum is totally devoted to the Japanese "RAMEN". A huge collection of instant ramen glued to the map wall, pin-pointing where they are originated and their released dates. There are statistics everywhere that some people might find them fascinating, from the quantity of yearly consumption, to the salt content in each bowl of ramen at different provinces in Japan.
You see, ramen isn't just noodle in soup! It is a work of art. Each province has their own secret recipes for the soup broth and even the shape of the bowls are specially designed, so it will keep the heat for a longer period till you slurp down all the ramen and the soup still warm.
The museum is actually quite entertaining, well I am amused at least. But my hollow stomach is begging for attention and in need of feeding. Hence, is time for us to head to the so-called Ramen amusement park. We walk down a few flight of stairs, and the mood is slowly changing. The lights are getting dimmer, and the occasional sound effects of train running past which makes you feel like you are really in a subway underground.
"Phheewwww!!!" A whiff of sickening fatty pork smell just hit my nose when we reach the bottom of the steps. You know, those fatty smell coming out from the air vent when you drive past Macdonald's, except this one comes with a hint of garlic and leek... *shudder* Then, we know we have arrived at the Ramen amusement park.
"Is this for real?" I thought. The whole place is like a movie set, it brings you back to the downtown Tokyo during the Shōwa period, the year instant noodles were invented of course. The whole place looks so run down with branches of famous ramen restaurants tucked away in every corner and giant billboards on rooftop with classic movie posters are oh so impressive. The constant beautiful violet sunset in the sky is a nice touch.
One hand with the Ramen bible (aka the brochure), we wander around the amusement park, checking out all the nooks, poking noses into every single ramen shops to find the ideal bowl of ramen noodle soup. There are also candy stores selling sweets and toys which will bring back a lot of childhood memories.
There are 9 famous ramen shops to choose from, but new ramen shops are being added on a regular basis. We soon found ourselves having an indecisive dilemma, when there are too many good ramen to choose from can be a bad thing. But the thick pork broth by Ide Shoten from Wakayama province sounds too good to be missed.
Attentions to detail of this place to stay true to what a Showa period looks like can be bit overwhelming. If I see that ramen vending machine on the street, I probably wouldn't even consider going inside the ramen shop. It is absolutely filthy! I put ¥900 into the machine and go for the extra char shu (roasted pork fillet) ramen.
Handed the tickets over to the barman, and anticipation slowly building up, sitting in the poky little shop with shiny vinyl red tables lined up at one end, while the chef is working his magic on our order.
The ramen is steaming hot and the extra char shu floating on top of the glistening thick broth is shouting, "EAT ME!" Ide Shoten's ramen is characterised by its unique broth. Pork bones boiled at high heat for the melting gelatin, emulsifying the fat into the soup, which gives the soy sauce base a mellow sensation. The broth is so rich and thick you can't even see the ramen noodle underneath! After few slurps, my esophagus are nicely lubricated and coated with a layer of pork fat, the slippery ramen noodle can almost slide down into my stomach without having to chew.
A few dews of sweat slowing building up on my forehead, but I am too focus to submerge myself into the sea of hot broth to bother. The soup is just too good as we soon find ourselves gulping one spoonful after another, even the noodle are all gone. Until it gets to the point where my tongue feels numb from the salty broth, then I stopped. But Mr P is very determined and drank it all!
By the time we finish, the sweat is already dripping down my face. I have to sit back to regain my consciousness, and give my chest a good thump to kick start my heart again which has stopped since the first slurp.
I had a quick flip through the brochure again and soon find out that actually some shops do offer a smaller portion ramen at half price so you can try as many as you can! Dang! Only if I knew!
We are well fed and the thick broth gurgling in our stomach as we slowly walking out of the shop while there is a magic show just about to start at the centre stage. We find our way back to the stairwell and wave goodbye to the forever sunset as it's time to leave the period of enlightened peace. We are back in the subway underground and as we reach the top of the stairs, I had a good chuckle at the exit sign, which indicating we are back to the "FUTURE".
Shin Yokohoma Raumen Museum is fun, fun, fun! And yummy-licious ramen to die for. But the sad thing is I know all the ramen I am going to try in future will probably not as good as the one I had in the museum.
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama 222
3 minutes from JR Shin-Yokohama station
Admission: Adults 300 yen; children 100 yen (food and drink sold separately)
Open 11am to 11pm (last admission 10pm)
Closed Tuesdays, except for national holidays