Japan in the 1950s - The Ramen Museum at Yokohama
Yesterday I took Ben and my father to the Ramen Museum, an indoor amusement park-meets food court-meets museum-meets period reenactment set, in search of Japan’s best ramens. The museum has a constantly circulating cast of 9 restaurants deemed to be the creme de la creme of Japanese ramen in the soy sauce, tonkotsu, salt, and miso categories, with both straight and crinkly, thin and fat noodles. Reconstructed “old school” extinct ramen, ramen shops lost in the tsunami, and sweets can also be bought. You can buy a mini bowl of ramen for between ¥500-850 and sample from as many stores as you wish. The ¥300 admission allows you to leave to digest and come back for more.
The interior is a throwback to post war Tokyo in the 50s - crowded, wooden and grimy, movie posters and flyers touting the new inventions of televisions and refrigerators (that few could afford). The music streaming out of the fake bars are hits like “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” with Japanese lyrics sung by Japanese stars of the time.
I forgot to warn my dad about this - My dad who was born in 1940 and remembers the war, remembers Tokyo, and the ramen of the time. This place is basically a recreation of his childhood, but more crowded and with a ton of queues for a tiny bowl of gourmet ramen. But instead of disengaging, he was wandering, snapping photos, and smiling at all the little details of who was on the television, the old logos of brands, the feel of everything. He talked about his first telephone number (three digits), his wooden non-electric refrigerator that had to be refilled by the ice delivery man everyday, and the ¥40 straight thin buckwheat ramen he ate as a kid that we were now paying ¥850 for. All as he holsters his iPhone and DSLR.
The ramen of course was exquisite and delicious (perfectly rendered pork slices and umami filled, long-brewed broth, handmade noodles, drool, you get the picture) but as we walked back on a steel and glass bridge over a highway back to the train station - its high speed bullet train and earthquake-proof skyscraper a small token of today’s seemingly impossible modern technology - the real treat was seeing my father continue to float through it all like a ghost, simultaneously a stranger and local of a city that he’s called home for 73 years.