1. Eat at the Ramen Theme Park at Aquacity Mall in Odaiba
If you want to taste all the popular ramen being served every day across Japan, then this theme park is for you. In case you’re not aware, every prefecture in Japan has their own version of ramen or food that they are known for. This is where you can eat authentic and local varities of ramen available in country. I should note that the place is not actually theme park in its traditional form. It’s more like (and looks like) a food court. But don’t let that discourage you from visiting, because they serve some bad ass ramen bowls that will make you keep coming back for more.
There’s actually another ramen-themed park where you can go noodle-slurping, but it’s located an hour away from Tokyo. It’s called Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. There’s a daily admission fee of 310 Yen though, but I wouldn’t mind paying at all (even the transportation cost) considering how much effort they have put into creating a 1950s-esque setting inside the museum. If you have a lot of time to spare, go for this one instead. Not only you get to try different kinds of ramen, but you also get to see how Japan looked like during the olden times.
Ramen Theme Park Location: 5th floor of Aqua City Shopping Mall in Odaiba, Tokyo
Ramen Amusement Park Location: 2−14−21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa
2. Make Your Own Instant Noodles in Yokohama
The Cup Noodles Museum of Momofoku Ando, father and creator of instant noodles, is probably the best museum I have visited in Japan to date. Here you can create and design your very own cup noodles. You also get to decide what flavors and toppings you want all for the price of 300 Yen. The exhibits and attractions inside the museum are so interactive! There’s an instant ramen lineup, creative thinking boxes, CG animation theater and so much more. You just have to see and experience the whole thing! And for sure, you’ll be inspired by Momofoku Ando’s story and how instant noodles came to be.
By the way, Yokohama is often overlooked by tourists in favor of Tokyo. Hence, many tourists pass up the opportunity to explore the second largest city in Japan. I think it’s such a shame to miss out on the wonderful sights and attractions in Yokohama – its beauty and history just waiting to be explored. I know it takes half an hour (more or less) to get there by train since it’s located at the southern part of Tokyo, but it’s not a place that you can just explore in hours. I recommend a night stay in Yokohama and dedicate one whole day exploring the city. There are many affordable hotels you can find via Traveloka around the area.
Cup Noodles Museum Location: 2 Chome-3-4 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
3. Cook Your Own Japanese Pancake at a Special Okonomiyaki Restaurant
What is an Okonomiyaki? It’s a savory pancake that contains meat and vegetables topped with condiments like sweet sauce mayonnaise, dried seaweed and bonito flakes. You can cook or grill however you want it on a wide steel teppan (griddle). It’s a great way to enjoy this classic Japanese street food. There are lots of Okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan so it’s easy to spot one.
Here’s a tip: Go where the locals queue up to eat, they usually know the best places and good value for money restaurants in town.
4. Eat at a Themed Cafe in Akihabara, the Nerd Mecca of Tokyo
One of the iconic things to do when in Japan is eat at famed themed cafes in Akihabara. You have to visit at least once to understand (and not miss out on) Japan’s love affair with the bizzare. Maid cafe tops the list for foreign visitors. It’s where Japanese waitresses are dressed in french maid outfits that act as servants, and treat customers as masters. You can read about my experience to have an idea what its like. Here are some of the pictures of the food they serve in maid cafes.
Maid Cafe Location: 6F, Sumiyoshi Bldg., 3-16-17, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
5. Eat Seasonal Food or Buy Limited Items in Japan
One of the great things about Japan is their love of seasonal food specials. They always come up with limited items that are exclusive only to their country. Sakura flavored things is definitely one that you should watch out for! Sakura or Cherry Blossoms are symbolic flowers of Japan during spring season. It’s a cultural icon as well.
You can also find weird and unique flavors of KitKats that are not available elsewhere such as wasabi and Japanese liquor sake-flavored KitKats. If you’d like to see more exclusive flavors and buy souvenirs for your friends and family, you can go to world’s first KitKat boutique in Ikebukuro called KitKat Chocolatory.