Japan loves its food. It also loves its food movies. No matter where you go in Japan, you'll always run into local dishes, special sweets, and famous restaurants and chefs. It really is a food obsessed nation. So obsessed, I've found, that there are a plethora of food museums and theme parks scattered around Japan (though to be honest, most of them are "scattered" around the Yokohama area).
The food museums are supposed to be "educational." The food theme parks are supposed to be "fun." But who are they kidding? We all know that they're just excuses to go eat some delicious and interesting foods. I know that's why I'd go. So, let's not beat around the bush here. Although this list of places consist of museums, theme parks, and more, it's all about EATING. Strangely, there are a lot of these types of places, too (and I'm sure I'm missing a ton, so let me know on Twitter).
If you're in Japan, you'll want to visit a few of these. I know I will, now that I know about them (especially this first one, yum).
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen museum can be found in Shin-Yokohama (duh), within walking distance of Shin-Yokohama Station (also duh). To get in, it's a mere 300 yen for adults and 100 yen for children, though I expect you do have to pay for any ramen you want to eat… but boy do they have ramen. Besides having various educational offerings about ramen, they also have an area full of many of the various ramen styles from around Japan.
Delicious, right? My only regret is that I wouldn't be able to try all of them. Normally, you have to travel all around Japan to try the different types of ramen (you should still do this, it's a great reason to travel all over). But if you're low on time, and in the Tokyo area (which you probably will be at some point if you're in Japan), the Shin-Yokohama Ramen museum is probably the kind of place you want to visit. For a little more information on the types of ramen offered, you can find it here.
Before you leave, make sure you pick up some ramen to go, too. There's plenty of dry ramen to choose from, though it's never going to be as good as the fresh stuff. Speaking of dry ramen…
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Cup Noodles… You grew up on them. You ate them all through college… now you have high blood pressure and cholesterol. It's all thanks to Momofuku Ando, the creator of Cup Noodles – and guess what? He has his own museum. Not only can you learn about the history of Cup Noodle (borrrring), but you can make your very own customized cup noodle (awesome!) to take home with you. Then, one sad night when you're feeling lonely and craving some MSG goodness, you can crack open your shrimp-egg-peas-beef-chicken-corn flavored Cup Noodle and slurp it down. It will be delicious, I'm sure.
- 〒563-0041 大阪府池田市満寿美町８－２５
- +81 72-752-3484
If the "non-fresh" stuff doesn't interest you, you can actually have fresh cup noodle too. I bet it tastes pretty good, actually. If you want to know more about this place, we actually wrote about it when it opened up their Yokohama branch sometime last year. Go take a gander.
Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium
In the Sunshine City Shopping Center in Tokyo you can find Namja Town, which is home to three (that's right, three) different food-related theme parks. Seriously, if the girlfriend wanted to go shopping in Sunshine City, this is where I want to be dropped off. I promise I'll be a good boy and only devour everything in my path.
- Japan, 東京都豊島区東池袋三丁目1番1号
- +81 3-3989-3321
Gyoza Stadium features many many gyoza-related stalls… and I gotta say, if there's something I'd like to eat with my Ramen Museum, it would be this. Can you guys please combine into one delicious theme park / museum already, please? According to the website, they have over 100 varieties. I'll have to have seconds (or thirds, or fiftieths).
But that's not all Namja Town offers. There's two more food-related theme parks that they hold.
Ice Cream City & Tokyo Dessert Republic
I hope you'll excuse me, but I'm going to combine the two dessert theme parks in Namja Park into one section. I'm more of a salty-food guy myself, so I'm totally being dessert-racist right now. They all look the same to me. Whoops, did I say that out loud? I'm sorry but it's true. I know you were thinking it.
Ice Cream City covers the ice cream side of things, and Dessert Republic covers the non-ice-cream side of things. Together, they form a sort of Captain Planet of Dessert places, or so I imagine. Personally, I'd be way too stuffed on Gyoza down on the second floor of Namja Town to even fathom walking up all those steps to get here, but for you sweet tooth folk, Namja Town is an all-in-one package. Both sweet and salty all in one building.
So what one would you visit first? Maybe start at the dessert places so you can just roll down the stairs…
Daska aka "Yokohama Daiseikai"
Daska's theme is "Shanghai in the 1920s-30s." Sounds like a good enough theme to me. It's in Yokohama's China Town, and was originally opened up in order to be more buddy-buddy with Yokohama's sister city, Shanghai. Although this place isn't only about food, a majority of the floors (3-5) make up the food court, and all it does is serve Chinese Food. I hear it's pretty good, too.
- Japan, 神奈川県横浜市中区山下町102
- +81 45-681-5572
So, if you're in Japan and hankering for some Chinese food, this sounds like the (most touristy, but also good) place to go. You can find more information on their website, here.
Kirin Yokohama Beer Village
No food-related place list is complete without the breweries. If you love watery Japanese beer, this will be one of your four four Meccas. If you're in Yokohama for one of the many other food museums, might as well stop here to get all that gyoza, Anpanman, ramen, ice cream, and cakes washed down.
- Japan, 神奈川県横浜市鶴見区生麦１丁目１７−１
- +81 45-503-8250
There are tours and (of course) beer tastings, so if you've always wanted to know how Kirin was made, this is where you'll want to be. Even if you think you've had it all, Kirin does sport something pretty interesting. There's a mini brewery there that's modeled after the breweries of the Meiji Era. You can drink "fresh beer" and see what it was like to be drunk in the late 1800s Japan.
_"I'm TOTALLY gunna overthrow the Shogunate"_ _"Shudduppp. I'm gonna do it. The emperor's my BRO."_
I imagine it's something like that, though I'd have to check my sources to be sure.
Yokohama Curry Museum
As if there weren't enough Yokohama-based food attractions… I think there's some kind of foodspiracy going on, here. Though, I guess I gotta admit, if there's any museum I'd want to go to (besides ramen… ramen always wins) I'd want it to be Japanese style curry. And, as I mentioned earlier, you can find this in Yokohama, the home to many, many food-museums and attractions.
Oh, did I get your hopes up? Sorry. This museum is closed now :( I just want you to know that you're missing out on things like this:
If this doesn't bring a tear to the corner of your eye, you are a heartless, heartless person. Shame on you. Let's move on to happier (and existing) locations.
OchanoSato (Tea Village) – The World Tea Museum
I like tea… like, I'm addicted to it. In fact, one of my many retirement plans is to start a tea farm and tea company, just to feed my addiction. This will definitely be on my list of places to go sometime in the future. I must learn all their secrets (and consume raw tea leaves).
- Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture, Shimada, Kanayafujimicho, ３０５３−２
- +81 547-46-5588
The World Tea Museum has 90 different types of tea from 30 countries in the world. You can touch and smell these tea leaves, though not all of them are for tasting. A lot of the focus, however, is on Japanese tea (to be expected). You can even go to the teahouse and garden and try out some matcha (which is powdered green tea – it makes the tea super strong and super wonderful).
Sounds like a really peaceful excursion to me, especially if you're the type that likes tea (or, your doctor told you to stop drinking coffee, so you have no other choice). There's even tea festivals once a year, which in the past seem to be in May (hey, that's pretty soon). There's more info on their website, of course. Go brew yourself some tea before heading over there, though. It's the least you can do.
Sushi Museum In Shizuoka
Located within the S-Pulse Dream Plaza, there are two sushi-related attractions that you're sure to enjoy (as long as you didn't go to the world's best sushi restaurant right before, ruining all other sushi for the rest of your life). If you want to learn about sushi, you can go to the Shimizu Sushi Museum. But, if you're more like me, you learn by doing. That's why you'll find me inside the Shimizu Sushi Yokocho Shop section, where 10 different sushi shops try to outdo each other so you'll go to them and not any of the other nine shops vying for your attention.
There's a ton of other attractions inside the S-Pulse Dream Plaza, but this is a post about food-attractions, so you'll have to check out their website to learn more about those other things.
Sapporo Beer Museum
Out of all the main Japanese beer histories, I'd say Sapporo Beer has one of the most interesting (which actually makes it kind of cool that they have a museum). I won't spoil that history for you, though, just in case you go (or in case you want to read about it). There's tours at this museum (which is three floors of beer goodness!). There's a restaurant and bar as well (how could there not be?), a beer garden, and even a shopping center. So, you can send off your lady friend to the shopping area (or vice versa) and get yourself a nice cold beer while you wait. I wish more shopping centers had this.
- Japan, 〒065-8633 北海道札幌市東区北７条東９丁目１−１
- +81 11-748-1876
Personally, I love the city of Sapporo (and all of Hokkaido) for food, so I wish there were more food/beer museums up here. I guess I can just manage to eat the regular not-museum food in the meantime. Those are pretty good.
Food And Agriculture Museum (Tokyo University Of Agriculture)
This is technically a university, but it has its own museum as well. And, because it's a school that has to do with agriculture (i.e. food), it's a food and agriculture museum. I have a feeling you have to be the right type of person to enjoy this place.
- 日本 〒156-8502 東京都世田谷区桜丘１丁目１－１
The idea of this museum is to showcase the things that the students have come up with showing the world what food-related inventions they've thought up. You can be that they're a lot more useful than these useless inventions, at least.
Meatrea (The Meat Theme Park)
I'm guessing they didn't mean to make this place sound like the word diarrhea, though I haven't actually been here myself so I can't say for sure (these people have been here though). Apparently this place is more like a glorified meat-related food court than a museum, though there is a very small meat museum in here (which is why it barely makes it on this list). It has a Spanish motif (the food court is called "Museo de Carne," for example), and is actually run by Namco, strangely enough. Here's where you can find it:
- 京王南大沢駅構内２丁目-１−６ Minamiosawa, Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
The meat museum will only take a couple minutes to get through, so don't plan a whole day trip around this place. Instead, come here to try the food… unless you're vegetarian, that is, then you probably should go somewhere else… perhaps the Anpanman Museum?
Anpanman Children's Museum
Any food list wouldn't be complete without the venerable Anpanman: Bread superhero loved by children (and hungry people). This is more of a children's thing, but if your kid loves Anpanman then… well… you've probably already been here.
- Japan, 神奈川県横浜市西区みなとみらい４丁目３−２
- +81 45-227-8855
You can see a lot more about the museum/mall at their website, but essentially you're going to find Anpanman-related activities for kids, Anpanman-related food, and Anpanman-related… well… everything! If you don't like Anpanman you probably shouldn't come here (and you probably don't have a heart).
While we're talking about Anpanman, I should do a shout-out for the Kochi Anpanman Museum. They're a little smaller, but it seems like a really cool place. If you have kids and happen to be in Kochi, pop on over and take a look.
- １２２４−２ Kahokucho Birafu, Kami, Kochi Prefecture 781-4212, Japan
- +81 0887-59-2300
Anpanman was actually born in Kochi, so if you're an Anpanman lover, you should make the pilgrimage down here. Plus, Kochi's a pretty cool place, you should check it out. Here's the museum's website in case you're interested.
A Map Of Japanese Food Museums, Attractions, And Theme Parks
I also took the time to put together a map for you, so you can kind of visualize where everything is (hint: Everything's in Yokohama, pretty much). It should also help you to go to the places you want to go to, in case you're craving a fooducational experience.
While food museums and theme parks may not be the most exciting museums or theme parks, they do have a special place in my own stomach. I think personally I'd like to go to the Ramen one the most (why? Because I loovvvve good ramen), but then again I could just go to even better places if I was in Japan anyways, so I'm not sure why I'd go there.
Either way, which food museum or theme park do you want to visit most? They all seem pretty tasty to me.