It looks more like MoMA than a museum dedicated to a perennial fast food. But Nissin’s Cupnoodles [sic] Museum, set to open in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai bay district in mid-September, has employed the full talents of Japan’s design industry to promote what is often disregarded in the west as just cheap snack food.
Showrooms and brand museums are common in Japan, from Toyota’s drive-what-you-like Mega Web, to the KDDI Designing Studio, introducing the latest mobile trends and innovations in the heart of Tokyo. They provide an environment for the consumer/visitor to interact without expectation or responsibility with the brand’s key ethos and products, and in many cases to try things out and take home samples.
However, you’d be forgiven for thinking that instant noodles merit their own showroom. You’d be wrong; Japan takes its cuisine very seriously and this includes snacks, especially those from a company with as long a history as Nissin. There are almost infinite variations on cup noodle flavors and even seasonal themes, with new kinds of packaging and cup design regularly hitting the shelves. Noodles also often feature tie-ups with campaigns for films and so on, as well as offering incentives and merchandise.
The new museum in the Tokyo neighbor has exhibits showcasing the half century of Nissin noodle packaging, a cinema, and even a recreation of the “research hut” where the late Nissin founder and cup noodle pioneer, Momofuku Ando, reached his eureka moment. There are other educational sections focusing on the history of the food and brand, and also “factories” where children and adults can try making noodles, including ingredients and cup design customized to your personal tastes
The Cup Noodle Park has large processing machines in the form of playground ride-style installations that can be explored like a theme park, so that kids young and old can experience the factory fun of mass production. Needless to say, there is also a “bazaar” where visitors can enjoy noodles from around the world and even a chic museum shop selling limited edition merchandise.
This is likely to be a big hit with families, as well as aficionados of cup noodles (not as niche in Japan as it sounds!), and even just the obviously nostalgic. Nissin’s products take them back to the boom years before the lean Lost Decade set in during the early Nineties, and this kind of innocent and democratic venue is a great way of tapping this desire to be raised out of the doldrums.
The overall design of the Museum has been handled by Kashiwa Sato, one of the most high profile creative industry figures in Japan. He is responsible for art direction for giants like UNIQLO and Rakuten, as well as CD jackets for famous pop singers. It is likely thanks to Sato that there is such an emphasis in the displays on ideas of creative thinking and how real product innovation comes about, as well as the genuinely interactive atmosphere.
Certain exhibitions require reservations and additional charges, on top of the 500 yen (about $6.50) entry fee (though kids below high school age can get in for free).