Asia Report #9 - Use Your Noodle Pt. 1
I love Osaka! With the colors, the food, the store that's devoted to all things takoyaki, how could I not? Add to that an unrivaled fanaticism for their baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. This might be the city of my dreams.
While our hotel room in Osaka was tiny, it was still very clean with all the amenities you'd want - flat screen tv with more than 3 cable channels, automatic toilet, hot water maker for tea and coffee, and the hotel itself offered a really fantastic continental breakfast, Japanese style. While Listmaker was snoring away (oh wait, that was in Seoul), I was an early bird not willing to forfeit my free breakfast for a few extra winks. Any complaints one might have about the room size is mitigated by the bounty that was offered. There were a couple different varities of onigiri - rice balls with center fillings ranging from bonito (okaka, I would later learn...who knew bonito isn't a Japanese word!) to salmon to sweet and sour pickled plum. Also provided were a couple of instant soups, including miso in paste form, which is so much more superior to the powdered form. Guests could also opt for a nice little salad with a yummy sesame soy dressing, rolls, American cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Corn Flakes in boxes with Japanese lettering and this delicious vanilla yogurt. To drink, coffee, juices and teas were offered. I'll take this any day over wan bagels and insipid pastries. This was a great way to start off my day.
Dan, using his noodle, discovered the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in one of the city guides the night before and we decided to take a visit. Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles. Only in Japan would they have a shrine to this sort of thing (good thing). Ando founded Nissin, the company that makes Cup O Noodles, you know the white styrofoam cup filled with little bits of dehydrated egg and vegetables that was a staple of your college years. We took a couple of trains out to an area in Osaka called Ikeda and while I was able to locate the museum on a map of the town in the station and orient ourselves in the proper direction, I couldn't pinpoint the street it was on. Most of the streets on the map were unmarked as were most of the streets in the town. We walked down one street and I could feel the museum, but no dice. We headed back to the train station and tried to get a cab to take us. Despite the cab driver not being able to speak English, I'm pretty sure he said something along the lines of, "It's right over there, you can walk, you don't need me to drive you!" We then headed into a bakery and a kind young lady gave us directions in her halting English. At least we knew which street to walk down.
Finally we found the museum! It was small and nothing was translated into English, but I loved the wall of ramen. Little did we know we were only a few days shy of qualifying to be their millionth visitor! Upstairs they had a ramen making workshop, which unfortunately you had to sign up in advance for. Oh well. Dan took some great shots, including this one of the cross section of a Cup O Noodle!
This is a portion of the great wall of ramen. The bullseye indicates the start of something big.
Our visit to the museum was brief, but totally put us in the mood for some ramen. On the way there, we had passed a great looking ramen joint and decided to eat there on the way back. More on the ramen and the rest of our day in Osaka in the next post!