Momofuku Ando Ramen
Posted by Heliocentrism on September 4, 2016
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Taking the Bus
Mark and I were lazing in our living room, drinking iced coffee and complaining about the hot summer. “We should go somewhere,” I said. “Where?” Mark asked. “We’ve seen everything worth seeing in Hiroshima.”
“Then let’s leave Hiroshima.”
“I don’t want to drive. Why don’t you drive this time?”
“Mark, I don’t want to drive! I drove you around for 3 years when you didn’t have a Japanese driver’s license.”
The argument continued for a few minutes and ended with us walking to the long distance bus station. We would go where the most reasonably price bus would take us. That way, no one would have to drive.
Our options were not plentiful. There was a bus to Hiroshima, one to Osaka, and a couple to places I have never heard of. “Looks like we’re going to Osaka,” Mark said. “What should we do there?”
We went home and looked online. Everything the internet recommended, we either weren’t interested in or we had already done. Except for one thing.
“The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is open now. We could go see that!”
We’ve been to Osaka, 5 or 6 times and the Ramen Museum is always on our list of things to see. But every time we’re in the Osaka area, it happens to be closed. The place is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and during most of winter when I’m in the Osaka area. I was starting to get the feeling that when I have time off from work, my boss calls this Museum up and they lock their doors. But now that it was summer, it would have to stay open, we could go see it… on a non-Tuesday.
We would take the first bus to Osaka at 7:00 arriving at 11:33 in the morning. Then return on the last bus to Miyoshi leaving at 17:30. That would give us enough time to see the museum and do a little shopping.
The museum is not actually in Osaka, but in a suburb right outside of the city. I went online and wrote down directions from Osaka Station to the ramen museum. When we boarded the bus, we were told that we would be taken, not to Osaka Station, but to Shin-Osaka Station. I wasn’t too worried. “Surely there will be an easy and simple way to get from Shin-Osaka Station to the ramen museum too.
When the bus dropped us off at the bus station in Osaka there was a clearly visible sign leading to Shin-Osaka Station. It was just up-stairs and around a corner. Then we found one sign pointing the way for the subway and another showing how to get to the JR station. We chose the subway.
The sign led us to a group of ticket machines. We just needed to figure out how much money to put on a ticket. We looked up and the subway map where the cost of a ticket is written under the name of each destination. Most of the central city stops where in both Japanese and English. But the stops further away from downtown were just in Japanese.
I tried looking for the train line we needed, but could not find it. Mark asked a few commuters for help, but none of them had ever heard of “Ikeda Station” or the “Hankyu-Takarazuka Line”.
We found the station help desk and asked an old man working there. He had no idea what we were talking about. I tried asking him, in Japanese, about the Momofuku Ando museum, but it only made him frustrated. He kept looking around as if he couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of the question we asked him.
me – “Momofuku Ando Museum wa doko des ka?”
old man – “ehhh…. ehhh…. ehhh….”
His co-worker started yelling things at him. Which flustered the poor man even more. The co-worker seemed to know what we were asking for, but he was busy doing something else at the time.
co-worker – “Calm down old man. They just want to go to the ramen museum. It’s at Ikeda Station.”
old man – “ehhh…. ehhh…. ehhh….”
We waited for the co-worker to finish up what he was doing. He told us to go to Osaka Station using a JR train. He didn’t speak any English, so I was not sure what he said to do after that. But I figured that I could just read signs at Osaka Station to get on the next train.
We entered the JR station and followed the signs to the platform for Osaka station. I looked at my watch. We had wasted 35 minutes in Shin-Osaka Station so far. Once at the correct platform we were faced with a few options. There was one train on our right that said, “Kobe” and another one on our left that had the name of a place I had never heard of.
Neither train explicitly said that it stopped at Osaka Station. I knew, from making several mistakes in the past, that in Japan not all trains on a platform go to the same place. So we had to figure out whether one, both, or neither would take us to Osaka Station. We looked at the electronic timetable; it only had departure times and the trains’ last stations. We looked at the trains themselves; they only had the name of their last stop.
It was hot and the trains had air-conditioning. The train to Kobe called itself the “Kobe Express” and was shaped like a bullet train. We chose that one. To our surprise, it took us to Osaka Station.
Once at Osaka Station we took the escalator and looked for a sign for the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line. We found a sign for the Takarazuka Line, but it led back down to the platform we had just come from. We followed the sign anyway. “Maybe the train we need is on the same track, but further down.”
We walked up and down the track, but there was no indication that a train leaving from that platform would take us where we needed to go. After a couple laps up and down the platform I started to think. “Maybe the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line and the Takarazuka Line are not the same thing.”
We headed back upstairs to look for a station attendant. There aren’t any information booths inside the station so we had to wait for an attendant near the ticket gates. These guys usually have a long line of people holding malfunctioning travel cards with trouble getting in or out of the station.
We waited in line and when it was our turn we asked for the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line. “Outside. Another building,” the lady said. We thanked the lady and went outside.
We hadn’t notice that the train station was cool, but once we stepped outdoors the heat hit us. It was the type of hot weather that makes you feel instantly thirsty, tired, and confused. We still weren’t sure which of the other buildings we should go to, but the crowd we were in moved with confidence. We were too overheated to put up any resistance. We went with the tide of people trying to remember which building we had just come from in case we needed to retrace our steps.
We crossed a bridge that ended in a building called Hankyu. “That must be it!”
From that point on there were no more ambiguous signs. We easily found a ticket machine. We saw the price of our journey on a very helpful map. Once inside the new station, signs guided us right to our train’s platform. After we got to Ikeda Station there were plenty if signs that led us out the correct exit and right to the museum.
Before we entered the building we took some photos with the statue of Momofuku Ando. “If I were a Pastafarian, this would be my shrine,” I thought as I snapped pictures of Mark and the noodle man. “Would Ando be like an angel or more like a Pastafarian saint?”
“Either way, he did the lord’s work,” Mark replied. “Through him, so many have been touched by His noodly appendages.” Then Mark bowed his head and clasped his hands, “Ramen.”
It was all a dream.
We walked around and learned about Mr. Ando, and how and why he invented instant ramen. First off, Momofuku was not really his name. He was given the name Pek-Hok by his Taiwanese parents, Mr. and Mrs. Go. But when he moved to Osaka and became a Japanese citizen he wanted a Japanese name.
He kept the same spelling of his first name (百福), but took the Japanese pronunciation of it, Momofuku. Then he took the sir name, Ando, because it was a common Japanese family name.
Ando invented instant noodles because there was a shortage of food after World War II. I’m not sure how well his noodles helped. On one hand, his instant noodles cost six times the price of regular noodles. But, on the other hand, it was a lot easier to make. All one needed was boiling water. You didn’t need a fully functional kitchen to make yourself some of Ando’s noodles.
Momofuku Ando was in San Francisco telling some American businessmen about his instant ramen. They were confused and didn’t know how to eat it. He explained to them that all they needed to do was put the ramen in a bowl and add hot water.
Looking around the office, the businessmen could find no bowls. So, they took out their coffee cups. They broke their ramen bricks in half and wedged the pieces in the cups. Then they added hot water and ate the noodles with forks.
“I should put the noodles in cups!” Ando thought.
But there was a problem. At the factory it took a long time to put the noodles in cups by hand. It took so long that they would lose money in the cup noodle venture. It had to be done by machine.
Once a machine to drop the noodles into cups was made, they faced another problem. The noodles would hit the cup with too much force. The cup would spill over and the noodles would fall out, clogging the machine.
One night Momofuku Ando had a nightmare where he was falling upside down. He woke up when he fell out of bed. He hit his head on the floor, because he fell head first. He sat on the floor next to his bed rubbing his head. “I’ve got it!”
Instead of letting the noodles fall into the cup, he turned everything on its head. The noodles were placed, upside down, on the conveyor belt and the cup was dropped on the noodles. Now the machine worked smoothly.
The Best Ramen
After learning about the history of Cup Noodle we moved on to making our own flavor of ramen. We bought a plain cup of noodles then decorated the packaging as we liked. We were sat at a table with colored markers and sheets of paper with template art we could follow.
I struggled with this task. Before coming to the museum I had thought more about what I would put into my cup of ramen than what I would put on it. Nothing on the template called to me. I doodled some non-sense on my cup then stared at the menu of flavor options while Mark finished his master piece.
We had to choose one sauce flavor, plain, chili tomato, sea food, or curry, and four of the 12 ingredients. Mark asked for a curry sauce with green onions, pork, and 2 portions of cheese. I picked a tomato chili base with shrimp, cheese, garlic, and kim chee.
With our My Cup Noodles made, we went to the tasting area for lunch. There were several vending machines selling Cup Noodles and one selling drinks. I picked a flavor that had just been released and Mark chose a flavor from the Big Cup collection.
Mark ripped open the plastic wrapping from his noodles and almost threw it away. “Mark, what are you doing!?” “Throwing the trash away.” I looked at him, like he was a stranger. “Are you a ramen novice? Don’t you know you’re suppose to keep the little sticker tab from the bottom of the wrapping?” Mark looked at the crumpled plastic in his hand. “What sticker?”
On the bottom of every Cup Noodle brand of cup ramen, there is a plastic tab you pull to take off the plastic wrapping. I flipped over my unopened cup to show him. “You’re supposed to keep this,” I said pulling off the tab and sticking it to the edge of the table.
I got up to fill my cup with hot water. When I returned to the table I took the tab and placed it on my noodle cup. “It keeps the lid shut while you wait for the noodles to be ready.
Before heading home, Mark and I did some shopping at the Kit-Kat store. Then Mark bought a bunch of stuff at the Pokemon store. Mark spent so much time choosing between this Pokemon hoodie or that Pokemon hoodie that we didn’t have time to eat some Osaka-style okanomiyaki before catching our bus back home.
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
- Coordinates 34°49’05.2″N 135°25’36.2″E
- Go to Ikeda Station
- Go through the south exit.
- Turn left and follow the signs to the museum.
- It’s a 5 minute walk.
- Ramen class is 500YEN/Adult and 300YEN/Kid
- You can assemble your own ramen from a list of ingredient for 300 Yen.
- Wed – Sun 9:30 – 16:00
- Allow 90 mintues to view all the exhibits and another 90 minutes to make ramen.
- The Ramen King and I
- This book is 90% about the author’s self-inflected troubles in romance and only 10% about Momofuku Ando.
- In order to take part in the ramen making class, you must have a reservation.
- For reservations – Call any time between 10:00 – 16:00 Wednesday through Sunday.