|The Raumen Museum. Notice the bowls on the wall.|
The first is here: The Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. Holy crap is this weird. It is not a museum in the typical sense, rather, as the English-language guide says, it is "The first food amusement park to be created anywhere int he world." I don't know if this is true, but it sounds good, so we'll take it. For 300 yen (about $3.00) you enter into a gift shop (naturally). Then you head down two flights of stairs and through a curtain and you say "holy hell, what is this?" At least you say that if you are me. Because although the pamphlet tells you that the museum "is divided into two themes are, a ramen restaurant mall and a 1:1 replica of a section of Tokyo in the year Showa33 (1958)," You are really not ready for this. It is, in fact, a replica of part of Tokyo in the year Showa 33.
Here I was, standing at night (it was lunchtime up above ground) on a little street of ersatz traditional structures. The hi-fi system was playing "street sounds" like people talking and motorbikes going by a block away, and there were lights on in some windows next to and above us. There was a door for a doctor's office, and a movie theater. If you peered carefully into the windows, though, you could see the wall of the basement right behind the curtains. It is all scenery.
"Why would you do this?" is a natural question, and here again the English language guide is helpful: "Why did we reproduce the year Showa 33? The mood from the good old days of Showa fills the visitor with nostalgia and an appetite to taste ramen. And importantly, instant noodles were invented in 1958. The invention transformed Japan into a nation of ramen connoisseurs." Oh. Well I suppose that makes sense, then. Now that you mention it, I felt filled with nostalgia and an appetite to taste ramen.
As we came around a corner, a deep courtyard opened up in front of us, filled with people eating ramen and drinking beer and (mildly inexplicably) watching a balloon artist make balloon shapes to a J-Pop soundtrack. Because the other thing that the people behind the Raumen museum did is to gather nine of the best ramen shops in the world and get them to open an outpost here, under one roof. So it is basically nine ramen restaurants in a basement in Yokohama surrounded by a pretend chunk of nostalgic Tokyo. What's weird about that?
|The balloon artist was pretty good, I have to say.|
On to dinner last night: My colleague and I went out to dinner because it will be our last while we are here. Tonight we are supposed to be going to dinner with all of our students after their presentations, as a sort of "sayonara" thing, which will be nice, but we wanted to have one last dinner here as a way for us to say "goodbye" ourselves. She said she had a good spot that a friend had taken her to last week and we set off. We got off the train at Shimbashi, and walked a few blocks along a sort of alley beside the trains. Tucked under the train tracks are a line of restaurants of various strip. Some are just little ramen spots, one was called something like "Budweiser Adventure" and the gist seemed to be that you were assigned a "beer hostess" when you went in who catered to you during your stay and that posed for a photo when you left. There are a bunch of joints like that here. Creepy. We went on until we found this cross street. That is the train above, and restaurants below.
|A tiny alley under the train that is NOT a bunch of scenery.|
We were the only non Japanese in the whole joint. The space was really several smaller spaces that had been punched through into each other. The floor was the street, there was an awkward curb running through the middle of one part of the restaurant. Unlike slicker joints near the hotel, the wait staff was not terribly polished. Lined up for a photo they would look like the cast of a Tom Waits song: they were wearing jeans or sweatpants and Crocs. One actually had a tattoo, one of the few I have seen here. It was loud, smoky, and slightly impenetrable to a non-Japanese speaker. It was perfect.
We selected "Today's Assorted Sushi" from the menu, but our waiter yelled at us and pointed elsewhere on the page and we shrugged and nodded and ordered two beers. Sometimes it is better to let the experts handle things. And they did. A huge plate of some of the freshest sashimi I have ever had came out. It was lovely. one of the coolest things about it was that there was a little grater and some raw wasabi root on the wooden plate. You ground your own wasabi. It was so fresh and clean, I have never before had fresh wasabi. What a difference.
After that we had tempura, which was also awesome. What an amazing place, what an amazing time. A great way to say goodbye to a place where I have learned so much and experienced so many new things.
|Some of "Today's Sushi Assortment," I suppose.|
|Alas, poor Yorrick. He tasted good anyway.|