A week in Tokyo is never enough. The question is never “What are we going to do?” but “How much can we do?” My family spent a week in Tokyo over spring break, and we barely managed to scratch the surface. Here are few highlights of the places we visited and I wholeheartedly hope that you can enjoy them with your family too.
My kiddo discovered this quirky museum on YouTube and wanted to visit it. I had no idea that such a museum existed, and I’m glad he found it. The CupNoodles Museum is run by instant ramen makers Nissin. There are two outposts: in Osaka and Yokohama. We visited the one in Yokohama, which was located across the street from a huge landmark ferris wheel. The museum space was sleek and modern with plenty of activities for kids and adults alike.
Once inside, we started with the story of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. He invented the chicken ramen in 1958 with the idea that people would have access to fast, cheap, storable and delicious food in their homes. You see, refrigerators were still uncommon back then in the aftermath of World War II. Then came the invention of Cup Noodles in 1971. This was when Ando was trying to sell the idea of ramen to the west. He realized that westerners ate ramen like soup, so he changed the packaging to make his instant ramen look more like a cup of soup.
When we had our fill of corporate propaganda, we moved on upstairs for fun activities. Note that you’ll need to reserve time slots for these activities, which you can do at the admissions counter.
1. Chicken Ramen Factory
We made our own instant ramen from scratch! Working in pairs, we started with flour and ended with perfectly flash-fried instant ramen, packaged in wrappers of our own design. It took about 90 minutes, but the workshop was very well organized and it went by fast! Using the pasta machine to make our own ramen was so fun, we almost considered buying our own pasta machine. This activity is for ages 6 and up.
2. My CupNoodle Factory
Make your own cup noodles! We bought pristine CupNoodle containers from vending machines and decorated them with markers. Then it was time to head over to the factory station and pick our flavor of soup from four different choices, and four toppings from a choice of ten. They even shrink-wrapped the containers! They also provided a nifty balloon bag to carry your original CupNoodle.
3. Noodles Bazaar
After making our own instant ramen and cup noodle, it was time to feed ourselves. This cafeteria featured noodles from all around Asia. Serving sizes were small (at 300 yen, about $3 each) so that you could try a little of everything. There was even a CupNoodle-flavored soft serve ice cream, and of course I had to try. It was gross, but hey, I tried it! And of course you could buy Momofuku Ando’s signature chicken ramen from a cute little ramen stand.
There was also a timed playground modeled after the production process of ramen. My kiddo was too big to enter, but it looked fun!
You might have noticed this museum is full of gluten. So, yes, this museum isn’t great for gluten-free families, but there is so much more to see and do in Tokyo. Such as…
TeamLab’s multimedia installation work is world famous. Borderless is the largest collection and space to feature TeamLab’s work. There is no map for this exhibit and the entire place is dark, so keep your little ones close.
While everything in this exhibit was photogenic and instagrammable, it was hard to take a photo that captured its experiential aspect. It was a deluge of lights and sounds, both constantly changing and almost too much to process all at once. Every single room was beautifully designed and executed. My 11-year old was mesmerized.
The second floor featured many hands-on activities. There were coloring pages that got scanned and became a part of the exhibit. I colored a frog and it went jumping away across the show floor so fast, I failed to get a photo of it! Go for a gecko or alligator if you want to see your creations crawl along more slowly.
TeamLab Borderless is a permanent exhibit.
After your senses have been thoroughly overwhelmed, take a quick walk from TeamLab Borderless to see…
Mobile Suit Gundam isn’t a household franchise in the U. S., but it is the Star Wars of Japan. Building Gundam plastic models (“Gunpla”) is as popular a hobby as building Lego sets. And the life-size Gundam in Odaiba, Tokyo is a sight to behold.
Head to the Gundam Base on the seventh floor of Diver City shopping mall to experience (and purchase) all things Gundam.
Or just buy a rainbow cotton candy on the first floor. You can get it on top of a soft serve or boba tea! Gross!
I hope you get a chance to visit some of these places with your family!