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Food and Drink

Just add people: Japan noodle museum opens doors

Japan's Nissin Foods opened a cup noodle museum on Saturday charting the history of the speedy snack where visitors even get the chance to create their own tasty version.

About 500 adults and children queued up before the museum opened in the port city of Yokohama near Tokyo with celebrity guests ranging from a former prime minister to a retail business tycoon.

"We opened this place... as a factory that gives children experience and a museum for corporate activities," Nissin Foods Holdings president Koki Ando said.

Ando, whose late father Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles more than half a century ago, said visitors could knead flour, roll out noodles, steam and fry them to make chicken ramen which is then put into bags.

Children in aprons set to work making noodles under the watchful gaze of guests including former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese premier from 2001-2006.

In another area of the museum called "My Cup Noodle Factory", visitors can design cups, put dried noodles in them and pick toppings and broth for their own versions of cupped meals - with the potential to create more than 5,000 different versions.

The museum exhibits packages of Nissin instant noodles from around the world over the decades and houses restaurants that serve food such as Vietnamese pho noodles and pasta from Italy.

There are giant cup noodle containers in the museum for children to play in.

Momofuku Ando, the man credited with inventing instant noodles, took a lower-profile role in the business at the ripe old age of 95 in 2005, the year Nissin supplied vacuum packed instant noodles or "Space Ram" to a Japanese astronaut aboard a US space shuttle.

Ando died of acute heart failure in 2007.

The businessman, born in 1910 in Taiwan under Japanese occupation, entered the food business when Japan was hungry after World War II and invented the world's first instant noodles, chicken ramen noodles sold in bags, in 1958.

He launched the cupped version in 1971 with a pre-cooked slab of noodles in a waterproof styrofoam container.

Ando saw his invention stocked on the shelves of convenience stores around the world.

As the products were widely replicated, more than 95 billion servings were consumed around the globe in 2010, according to the Japanese instant noodles manufacturers' association.

Ando said he was inspired to develop the product when he saw a long line of people waiting to buy soup noodles at a black market stall in post-war Japan.

"Peace prevails when food suffices," he was quoted as saying.

The museum is Nissin's second devoted to instant noodles after one opened in the western Japan province of Osaka in 1999.

The multi-storey Yokohama museum has a total floor space of 10,000 square metres (107,600 square feet) - three times bigger than the Osaka museum.