Anyone who knows me well enough knows that my absolute favorite food is ramen. No, not that packaged stuff you pick up for about 15 cents apiece, but the genuine article, straight from the Ramen-ya (ramen shop). Because of this, one of my favorite places in Japan to visit is the Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama.
The museum is designed to look like a Japanese town, from sometime within the 1960s-1970s, with miniature wooden houses, old scooters, payphones, and an assortment of older technology, to help set the atmosphere. My wife, and her friend, Yoshke, whom we brought with us, really enjoyed the look and both spent a large amount of their visit taking pictures.
Inside there are 8 ramen shops showcasing ramen from different parts of Japan two of which are international shops, which seem to rotate on a regular basis. Each of these shops has their own specializations, but all have a few different varieties. And, unlike many attractions in Japan, the price of admission is actually pretty cheap at ¥310 per ticket, with the option to pay ¥500 for a 3-month pass; which is useful if you live nearby and want to stop in for lunch. That said, I would highly advise against going during lunch time, however, unless you enjoy long lines when you’re hungry.
Now, on to my favorite part of any adventure, the food. As I said earlier, each shop has its own specialty, whether it be shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), miso (fermented bean), or tonkotsu (pork) based ramen. But they all have some variety to their menus, as well as their own side dishes. If you’re like me, then you want to try as many dishes as possible.
To aid us, each shop has a mini version of their best ramen, which allows people to try multiple shop’s specialty without exploding. However, even with the mini servings, I still couldn’t make it to all the shops. So here’s my opinions on each shop I did make it to, in the hopes you become as hungry for this experience as I was.
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The first stop was Genkotsu-ya. Genkotsu ramen was light, not too salty, soy sauce based ramen, with thin noodles. The chashu (barbecued marinated pork) was chopped into pieces, and not overly remarkable. Overall, a good ramen, but not something I would go out of my way to seek out.
Komurasaki-ya specializes in tonkotsu-men (pork bone base) ramen, which happens to be my favorite flavor. The soup was very light (almost buttery), with fried garlic pieces added, which always goes well with any pork base soup. The noodles matched the soup, being light, thin, and just the right amount of texture. I would love to have this shop near my home. My only complaint is that the garlic overwhelmed the pork flavor.
Casa Luca is a ramen restaurant based in Italy. The museum was hosting them as one of the two international ramen restaurants. The restaurant also specializes in tonkotsu-men, but the star here are the noodles, which being based in Italy is expected. They are firm and thin and have a distinct difference from normal Japanese noodles. The soup was… an acquired taste, clearly designed for a different palette; being somewhat flavorless when compared to the previous soups. The pork was brilliant, having just the right balance of fat and meat. I’m not sure I’d eat this ramen regularly, but it’s a nice experience for those used to Japanese ramen.
It was at this point I decided to take a break, for fear of exploding. My wife gave up completely which was problematic later as the shops don’t generally allow people in unless they buy ramen. The only reason she was allowed to come with me was because she’s pregnant. So if you’re going with a group, make sure all will be eating.
After that break the next stop was Muku Zweite, a German ramen shop, which also specializes in tonkotsu-men. If you’re seeing a pattern, it’s because it’s winter, and tonkotsu is the popular soup for winter months. I was really looking forward to this shop as it was the restaurant with the richest soup, according to the handout. The soup was amazing; a very rich flavor which emphasized the pork base. With a little added pepper, it was the perfect soup for a cold day. The noodles were thick and firm, and matched the soup perfectly. The chashu was slightly fattier than I like, but still good.
Overall, the simplicity of this ramen is what made it stand out to me. You can tell the time was devoted to the making of the soup, rather than the presentation. As with any rich ramen, it’s great for an occasional meal, but isn’t suited for a regular basis. If this restaurant were near me, I would visit no more than once a month in the winter in order to maintain both my cholesterol levels, and my enjoyment of it.
The last stop on the ramen train was Sumire-ya which, according to the handout, is the most famous miso ramen in Japan. This claim would explain why it was consistently the restaurant with the longest line of all. As I’m not a huge fan of miso ramen, I was worried that my preference, along with my very full stomach, would affect my opinion of this ramen. The soup was very rich, and the quality was evident with every taste. The noodles were wavy and thick, which was perfect for carrying the soup. It didn’t have chashu pork in the traditional sense, instead, it has very small pieces of pork, which was mostly ground, and added to the soup itself.
The ramen was incredible and if I were a miso fan, it would probably be one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve eaten. But that doesn’t stop it from taking my #2 spot during this trip.
As I said earlier, there were a couple more restaurants left to try at the end, but I couldn’t eat more if I wanted to. I may have gotten the mini versions of each ramen, but it was still 5 bowls of deliciousness.
So, my final verdict is that Muku Zweite gets the top recommendation. But, if you’re a fan of miso, then Sumire-ya is the place to go. And if you’re in the area and think “Gee, I’m hungry, and I’m tired of my jeans fitting…” Then this is the place for you. If you’re a foodie visiting Japan, and looking for places to visit, then make sure you put this on your itinerary.
How to Get to Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum
Train station: Few minutes walk from Shinyokohama Station Exit 8.
Opening Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Admission fee: 310 yen