The Instant Ramen Museum (Ikeda City, Osaka, Japan)
I found this museum by accident on the internet. Not until then, I didn't know the instant noodle was invented by a Taiwanese Japanese. For some reasons, I am still suspecious about the fact even now.
The museum was established in 1999. It is the first museum of instant noodle in the world. The founder, Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd., has had a very long relationship with instant noodle. Actually, instant noodle was invented by the founder of the company, Momofuku Ando, in 1958. In memory of Ando, this two-floor museum was built. Its purpose is to introduce the invention and development of instant noodles. The first floor includes reception area and exhibition hall, while the second floor is mainly activity room.
My cousin and I happily discovered that the museum offers free admission. However, when we inquired the activity of instant noodle making, we were told that only limited number of visitors can participate the activity and it was full booked already. It's such a pity. We couldn't afford to wait until the next session, so it became the first "regret" of the day.
The diorama of a shabby house in the center attracted my attention when we entered the exhibition area. It is a reconstruction of the environment where Ando invented the very first instant noodles. I wasn't very keen on this kind of exhibition, because I always got the feeling whether to enter or not, whether I can touch the set or not, and the objects somehow look unreal. I came out of the tiny house in disappointment. There is nothing too special about it.
The following part of the visit was really interesting. On the wall in the left hand side, there's a very long timeline, introducing both the important event in the Japanese history and the history of Nissin company. At the beginning of the timeline, there're many packs of instant noodles and some carton box. My counsin, who grows up in Japan, told me, it is the very first kind of instant noodle that Nissin produced. Walking around the area, I arrived the other side of the exhibition. Films were projected on the white wall. I took a closer look. It's telling the story of the invention of instant noodle. After I finished watching the film, I finally realized there's also very "profound" knowledge in it. The shape of the noodle, what kind of dried vegetable to use, what kind of material for cups, etc. all need to be concerned and checked. I've never thought of it this way, coz instant noodle is just too common in my life. I came to understand that there's always something smart out there, even for something very common in our lives.
After we finished the film, we sat down in front of a touch screen monitor. Many programs can be chosen. We watched the sequence of instant noodle production (11 steps), the secret of popular Nissin products, how to cook and eat instant noodle (with recipe to be printed), and then played the quiz. I don't know a single Japanese word... and how did I win the prize? Well, of course, with the help of my counsin, I could also receive a souvenir from the museum.
Exhibits around the touch screen monitors are easily neglected by the visitors. According to my observation, most visitors leave the area after they finish the touch screen program. Curious as we were, we stepped ahead and found that it's an exhibition of various products sold in different countries. It explains the characteristics of products in different countries. For example, the noodle is longer in Asian countries, and longer in Europe and America due to dietary habits.
The other wall is filled up with packages and boxes, showing all the products of Nissin company. Two screen under these products are broadcasting old advertisements. On the corridor, there're also peripheral products that were developed along with instant noodles. Japanese are so brilliant with their business mind! Among all kinds of instant noodles I saw on the wall, the most surprising kind is the instant spaghetti. After I moved to Italy, I became picky as Italians when talking about cooking pasta. I really can not imagine how spaghetti can be made into instant noodle. I will definitely try it if I see it in the market.
The last part of the exhibition is about all the prizes Ando and Nissin received in the past. One is about Ando's contribution and help to solve world famine. This is very interesting, because I always take instant noodle as something innutritious. However, I forgot to write down the name of the organization that awarded the prize to Ando, so I've got no clue to do some further check now.
The visit took us about an house to complete. It's much longer than I expected coz the exhibition itself is not that big. We went upstairs to check the activity. It's not too interesting just looking at it, so we decided to go down to the reception and eat some instant noodles. Right, there's an area where the museum offer hot water and chopsticks for its visitors. You can readily prepare your own cup of noodle once you purchase it from the reception. It's quite a new experience for me. It's a pity that there's no museum shop. It will be wonderful to have a place where I can find every kind of Nissin products. If there's such "service" in the museum that day, I probably would buy lots of different stuff and move them all back to my grandpa's place.
PS. 紅色的文字是2005/8/30看了時報週刊的非常人物以後改的, 原來安藤百福原名吳百福, 是台灣台南人!
I corrected the read word after reading an article about Ando in a Taiwanese magazine. He is a Taiwanese who emmigrated to Japan in his twenties. Wu is his original family name, from Tainan, Taiwan.