This post reviews Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, which is located outside of Tokyo, Japan. In our review, we’ll offer photos of Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, our thoughts on the ramen, and whether it’s worth your time and money to go here while visiting Tokyo. On our last visit to Japan, we went to two ramen museums, including this one in Yokohama on our way from Kyoto to Tokyo. We had heard about this themed location on Tokyo Eye, which went as far as to describe it as a ramen theme park, so our expectations were high.
The museum’s site offers this description: “Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum was founded on March 6th, 1994 as the world’s first food-themed amusement park. From the start, our concept has been to be the one-stop place to enjoy the flavors of this national dish from renowned shops across Japan without stepping on a plane…Our nine ramen shops are showcased in a street-scape replication from the year 1958, Japan. It was in this year that the world’s first instant ramen was invented.”
Before we even dig into the substance of our review, I want to realign whatever expectations you have after reading this spot described as a museum, ramen theme park, or food amusement park. It is none of those things. It’s actually a shame those monikers are used to describe this otherwise wonderful spot, as they could lead to disappointed guests.
On the museum categorization, there is a small area carved out of the gift shop that offers a very cursory explanation of ramen’s past and contains a few artifacts. This area was uninspired, and really seemed like a seating area where people waited for their ramen box photos to be developed (more on this in a moment). We also did the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, and while the overall experience is lesser there, that’s a bona fide museum. This is not.
On the theme/amusement park categorization, it would require an incredibly liberal definition of theme park for this to qualify. There are no attractions here, and certainly no rides. Perhaps if you consider restaurants attractions, it qualifies. I do not; I consider restaurants to be…restaurants. While this is an incredibly well-themed environment with a large common area, that alone doesn’t make it a theme park. (If so, every stylized hotel lobby could fancy itself a “hotel theme park.”)
In actuality, I’d say this place defies categorization; of existing terms that can be used to describe it, I’d call it a themed food court. That may lack the punch of those other terms, but at least it’s not going to create unrealistic expectations. If anything, that undersells the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum.
In fairness, even food court is a bit of a misnomer–you’re eating inside the individual restaurants. This is, without question, the coolest food court-ish place I have ever seen. The details are meticulously well done, and it feels like you’re entering another time and place when stepping into the multi-level marketplace.
A couple other points from the website description fascinate me. First is the claim that you can try ramen from around Japan without boarding a plane. One thing I’ve also heard hyped up a lot on Tokyo Eye is regional variations in ramen. Personally, I’ve never noticed this. My guess is that certain styles originated in certain regions and are more prevalent in those places, but as a ‘world city’, Tokyo is a place where you can find it all. (Sort of like how you can find virtually any type of food in New York City.) Still, it’s a neat idea and offers insight into ramen’s origins around the country.
Then there’s the theme of the night streetscape, which is 1958, Japan. That’s really specific. Quick research reveals this to be about the pinnacle of an economic boom in post-war Japan, and a time when reconstruction efforts culminated to produce a rich and bonded culture. In looking at photos, there are visible parallels between post-war Japan and post-war America (a time for which we now similarly harbor nostalgia). My guess is Japan holds a lot of nostalgia for this bygone era.
While there is a mild grittiness to the street setting, this seems mostly for the sake of texture. The details I noticed mostly seemed romanticized, just like Americans romanticize the 1950s and 1960s. The entire area was a treasure trove of details, and I really wish I could have read and understood exactly what I was seeing. There are no doubt myriad cultural references that go over the head of a foreign visitor like me.
In any case, what I did see I loved. The street environments were spectacularly done, and I kept marveling over the level of effort that had gone into creating this museum/themed food place. As a fan of themed entertainment, Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum scratched me right where I itch. The level of detail is staggering, and it’s all done at a really high level of quality.
Suffice to say, if you like themed places, you’ll probably love Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. We spent a good 30 minutes wandering the streets in between meals, and there was a ton to see. What I really appreciated was the quiet, superfluous side streets that served no purpose other than adding to the location’s authenticity.
Since it’s pretty clear we loved the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, let’s turn to whether it’s worth the money. That’s an easy yes. The entrance fee was around $3, and within the individual ramen stalls, the ramen was priced appropriately–perhaps a 10% premium over street prices for comparable quality, but nothing excessive. Relative to other experiences in Japan, it’s pretty inexpensive.
Although I won’t fixate on it much since I don’t recall the names of the restaurants at which we ate, I thought the ramen was pretty good. Not the best ramen we’ve had in Japan, but better than average. With less effort, you could find better hole-in-the-wall ramen stalls throughout Tokyo, so I don’t think eating here should be the sole basis for your visit.
Whether it’s worth your time is the more difficult question to answer. First is the issue of getting there. Shin-Yokohama is outside of Tokyo, and you’re looking at nearly an hour to get here via the JR Line (with one transfer) from Tokyo Station. Once you’re inside, you’re likely to find lines at each ramen shop. (The one way it’s like a theme park is that there’s a sign with wait times for the restaurants!)
In our case, visiting the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was easier to justify because we were heading to Tokyo from Kyoto via the Shinkansen, and Shin-Yokohama was one of the stops along the way. This meant our only time commitment was waiting in line at the ramen stalls, and we would’ve probably spent as much time commuting to a different place to eat once we arrived in Tokyo.
Since we did not have the luxury of choosing a time and day to visit, we ended up here on a Sunday afternoon right as a baseball game ended in the area (presumably, otherwise the hordes of visitors in jerseys makes a lot less sense). This was perhaps the worst time to visit, and some of the ramen shops had waits over an hour as a result. This was our ‘transit day’ so we didn’t really care–we had no other agenda, it just made us later to checking in at our next hotel.
I actually leveraged these wait times to my advantage. Rather than order the half or two-thirds sized portions that offer minimal savings, I went large. Since I’m both frugal and a pig, I had a difficult time ordering the smaller size, and knowing I’d be waiting ~60 minutes before I’d be able to eat again, this gave me a bit of recovery time before the second meal. (However, after two large bowls of ramen in a ~100 minute window, I felt bloated and disgusting–that was a really bad idea that I don’t recommend…I thought I was being so clever at the time, but I really was not.)
Given our circumstances, I don’t regret our decision to go to Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum at all. It was incredibly cool, and well worth the time and money, I thought. However, I recognize these circumstances are somewhat unique (although they don’t necessarily have to be–we highly recommend going to Kyoto from Tokyo via the Shinkansen, in which case pretty much anyone can replicate what we did).
If you’re staying in the city, you’re looking at burning a half-day to visit Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. Based upon our research before the trip (when we thought we might have flexibility in when to visit), everything we saw strongly recommended going right around 11 a.m. on a weekday to minimize waits. Once there, plan to spend around 3 hours waiting, eating, and exploring. That means you’re basically looking at the entirety of your morning and afternoon here (perhaps you could do Tsukiji Market beforehand, and then head to Shin-Yokohama?).
With such a time commitment, I’d probably want to find other things to do in Yokohama before decided to go to this ramen museum. When we were first planning, our idea was making a full day trip out of it, and also visiting Yokohama Chinatown, Sankeien Gardens, Yokohama Port, and maybe Sea Paradise (probably not on that last one). Our cursory exploration of the area around the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum seemed fairly industrial. We also stopped briefly in the nearby Takashimaya department store, but otherwise were in and out of Yokohama fairly quickly.
Overall, consider this review a ringing endorsement of Shin-Yohama Ramen Museum as a themed ramen paradise that you’ll have a great time exploring. The ramen–at least what we tried–was also pretty good, but the main reason to go here is for the experience of stepping back in time. As a museum, it disappoints. Personally, this wasn’t a huge deal, as I had my fill of the history of ramen via our museum visit in Osaka, but this may be important to some. The bigger question is whether the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is worth your time while visiting Japan. I cannot offer a definitive yes or no in that regard, as it really comes down to personal preference and trip priorities. Hopefully this review helps you answer that question for yourself, though.
Have you visited the Shin-Yohama Ramen Museum? If you’ve also visited another ramen museum in Japan, how do you feel it compared to those? Did you have a favorite ramen stall here? What do you think of the themed design of the Shin-Yohama Ramen Museum? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Share any other questions or thoughts you have in the comments!