The city of Yokohoma, just south of Tokyo, has a special museum dedicated to warm, brothy ramen (or “raumen” as they spell it.)
Once you pay a small fee to enter, you are transported back to late-1950s era shitamachi Tokyo, right down to the advertising signs, street performers, a little toy shop and eight different actual ramen restaurants, each serving different styles of the iconic noodle bowl, at very reasonable prices (including perhaps a Kirin or Sapphoro beer to accompany your feast.)
In support of my time living in Sasebo, on Kyushu, I tried out the Hakata and Kumamoto restaurants; they specialize in Kyushu-style ramen, with lots of pork.
Some of the museum street performers tell Japanese adventure tales to children using special painted story-boards.
Watch their technique of building up to an exciting point in the story and then quickly showing a new picture: this is one of the cultural foundations of today’s anime and manga styles.
The gift shop has noodle-related knick-knacks including Naruto, who is a very popular manga character with his own action show on American TV.
His name comes from the traditional small decorative egg item with a swirl that is placed on top of bowls of ramen.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take the subway from Tokyo to the Sakuragi-cho subway station and walk out the Minato Mirai exit.
There is a tourist booth just outside the exit where you can get maps and directions to all of the attractions in Yokohama.
The Ramen Museum is a few minute’s walk from Exit 8 of the Shinyokohama subway station on the Yokohama City subway line.
Here’s a fun video of a Backstreet Boys-ish pop group called DBSK who visit the museum (hence the flashy intro but just wait; the museum comes on in a minute or so.) There are English subtitles but they’re small and you have to read quickly.
Here’s the direct URL link to the video if you can’t see the box below.