It all started with the chanced meeting of paper on a wall and my curiosity.
While I was reading the travelling ads plastered around the Hotel Toyo common room, a brochure from the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum caught my eye. Did I just read that this guy invented instant noodles – the bread and butter of 21st century earth? And there is an opportunity to create my own ORIGINAL instant noodles? I am in. BAM. Just like that, travel buddy and I found ourselves on a Hankyu Takarazuka train bound for Ikeda Station. We had only been travelling on Japan Railway (JR) up to this point, so it was a special occasion of all kinds.
Now, Oosaka has a different feel from Tokyo. From my first hand experience, the second largest city in Japan boasts drool-worthy street food, friendly happy-go-lucky locals and escalator rules which confuse the heck out of you when you either go to or have travelled from Tokyo. The Oosakan way is ‘stand on the right side, walk on left side’ which in Tokyo, is the complete reversal. What a mind blow.
But, Ikeda. That’s an entirely different story. Located in the north of Oosaka prefecture, the city is peaceful, clean and emanates a feeling of homely suburbia. The naturally rich and beautiful environment is surrounded by the breathtaking greenery of Satsukiyama (Satsuki Mountain) and the sparkling water of the Ina River.
I was in love. (Ikeda has been added to list of potential retirement places.)
Way to feel dizzy and cross-eyed. But wait, there is logic to this seeming madness. The development of instant noodles has actually been systematically organised in a historical timeline. You can browse through the noodles and compare the technological advancement of wacky flavours. Brilliant.
If you’re interested in the story of instant noodles (and I know you are), the next section of the museum, ‘Momofuku Ando and the Story of Instant Noodles’ presents exactly what it is named. The achievements of Momofuku are displayed graphically and chronologically on the walls. With interactive components (the most important part). Heck, if there’s a button I can push or a handle I can spin, everything written on the walls suddenly becomes interesting and of relevance.
Now, this comes the exciting part. Remember the second question that I asked at the beginning of this post? Yes. Yeeeeeees, my dream came true. In the second exhibition hall is ‘My CUPNOODLES Factory’. Boys and girls, this is where all the magic happens.
You get to freely design an instant noodle cup, choose the soup flavour and add your own combination of ingredients. Visitors can then take home and enjoy (or enshrine) their original, one and only “CUPNOODLES” in the world. And here’s my journey through it all:
There’s a section of tables with textas where you can design your cup. Colouring in! What fun times. When your cup is maxed out of white space to colour in, head to the counter:
You get to choose 1 soup base and 4 additional flavours.
In other words, you’re spoilt for choice. Some of the flavours above will be unfamiliar to non-Japanese people. In other words, you gotta try it.
You thought that entire process was fun right? Well, we haven’t reached the grand finale yet. The final steps are: shrink wrap the cup and blow air into the “air package” to preserve your golden creation.
Now the only problem was carrying the cup noodle around without being conspicuous on the street. It’s too big to fit in a small backpack, so have fun showing it off to all the world!
I simply hanged the carefully preserved artefact around my neck and proceeded to explore the rest of the museum and Ikeda with my fashion-forward accessory. A liberating experience.