Today I take the Toei Asakusa Line for the first time in my life. Each time the train starts it sounds as if there is music coming from beneath the carriages. It turns out that the music is the scraping of the train on the tracks; it does sound rather tuneful though, perhaps this is the intention. It reminds me of an experience I often have on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line; between Aoyama-itchōme and Gaienmae, the train intermittently makes the sound of a dog being strangled.
I change trains at Shimbashi Station and depart in the direction of Yokohama. The journey time is an hour in total and I arrive in Yokohama at 10 o’clock sharp. Outside the station, it is 21°C, cold in comparison to what I am used to. I search desperately for a Seven Eleven so I can update my maps using the free wireless Internet, but it seems Family Mart has the monopoly here. I eventually find a sketchy map and head toward Yokohama bay.
There is a theme park here, Cosmo World. I contemplate riding the giant Ferris wheel (not pictured) to get a decent view of the area, but I remember that I am alone; I decide to give the solitary capsule ride a miss. I head to Yokohama F.Marinos MM21 Training Center; the stadium for the football team ‘Yokohama F.Marinos’. Outside the stadium, two of the star players sign autographs for a small queue of fans.
The reason I came to Yokohama today is to visit the Cup Noodles Museum. For no reason that will ever become clear to anyone, a dinosaur stands guard at the entrance to the museum, a Deinonychus. This is the type of dinosaur that the raptors were based on in the movie Jurassic Park. I sneak past the Deinonychus, and head to the ticket office. “How many people?” a young woman asks me. It is painstakingly obvious that it is just me.
“One people,” I say, looking around me for answers, “I think,” I add, deadpan. I pay the ¥500 and I am given a rather glossy museum guidebook.
Inside the museum, I am given a cardboard hat featuring a cartooned yellow bird, presumably a mascot of sorts. There is every packet of instant ramen and every type of Cup Noodle that has ever been created, arranged in a huge timeline. Just to clarify, this museum is for the brand of cup noodle called, “Cup Noodle,” made by Nissin; it is not a museum of cup noodles.
Momofuku Ando invented chicken instant ramen in his shed in 1958. With the overwhelming success of his chicken noodles, he went on to invent the cup noodle in September 1971. Not satisfied with his achievements, at the age of 96, he invented the first ramen that can be consumed in space. There is a wonderful exhibition of his life, a model replica of his ‘famous’ shed, and loads of crazy noodle based artwork here too.
There are noodle workshops where I can make ramen noodles from scratch, or create my very own products. I pay an additional ¥300 and join the queue. I wait forty minutes and eventually I am given the opportunity to design my very own brand of Cup Noodle. First I am given a blank Cup Noodle cup and am free to write or draw whatever I want. I graffiti the front of my cup, so where it once said, “Cup Noodle Museum,” it now says, “Cook Pass Babtridge.” I find the available pens to be of slightly poor quality, which spoils the whole experience for me.
Next, I get to choose the broth and toppings. A sign boasts that there are a total of 5460 flavour combinations. “Gotta mismatch ’em all!” After toppings are added to the noodles, the lid is sealed in place and the cup is vacuum packed. After I finish making my lunch, I go to the top floor of the museum and check out the restaurants. No prizes for guessing what is on the menu.
After the museum, I stumble across a rather odd looking building down some rather old looking stone steps. It looks like a set from a science fiction movie; perhaps it once was.
I head into a Yodobashi Camera store. The place is silent; no crowds, no people shouting at me to buy their stuff. It is the complete opposite of the store in Akihabara. On the sixth floor, middle-aged men are queueing to buy AKB48’s new single, which was released today and will most likely be number one in the Japan Hot 100 billboard chart by the weekend.
Outside I grab a can of Suntory Black Boss coffee from a vending machine and make my way back toward the station. On the way, I pass a huge ship that looks amazing. It is actually part of the Yokohama Port Museum, sadly not a museum of fortified wine. The ship was built in 1930 and is used for training exercises. Even though there is a massive ship here, it doesn’t look out of place.
At the station, I take three different trains and an hour later I arrive back in Asakusa. I am actually completely exhausted but can’t sleep. I play video games for a while, then head out at six for a Dal Vindaloo at my favourite Indian restaurant. As I eat, I remind myself that I am in Japan and should maybe try Japanese food once in a while.
After food, I head to the hostel bar to conclude the day. A young Australian woman tells me that I sound like Russell Brand. I strongly disagree.
Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I explore a graveyard, a Philippine Festival, enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and listen to the sounds of chirping insects by clicking here.
Or alternatively, click here to begin the journey from part one.