Food is something that nourishes us, connects us, inspires us, and even educates us. That last point couldn't be more true than at many of Japan's unique food-based museums, which offer in-depth insights into various iconic eats. Here are five of the best - and at many of them you can sample the food, too!
Cup Noodles Museum, Yokohama
Cup noodles can be found at every Japanese supermarket and convenience store, in a myriad of different flavors. We have Momofuku Ando, the creator of instant noodles, to thank for that. The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum explores how instant noodles have grown from the original chicken ramen created in 1958 to a global phenomenon. The museum has a food court (the Noodles Bazaar) which serves noodle dishes from around the globe, and you can also customize your own cup noodle to take home at the My Cup Noodle Factory.
2 Chome-3-4 Shinko, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 231-0001
Tottori Nijisseiki Pear Museum
Asian pears, or nashi, are one of Tottori's biggest exports, so it may not come as a surprise that the prefecture has a museum dedicated to them. At the venue, visitors are able to learn about pears from around the world, sample different locally grown nashi varieties, and even take part in pear-picking experiences at certain times of the year.
198-4 Dakyojicho, Kurayoshi, Tottori 682-0816
Takanofoods Natto Museum, Ibaraki
There seems to be no fence-sitting when it comes to natto (fermented soybeans) - people either love or hate the dish. Whatever your personal feelings are, the Takanofoods Natto Museum gives visitors an education on the history of the superfood, as well as all the details on how to make it at home if you so desire. You can even learn about which condiments pair best with natto for optimal nutritional value - or even which help to mask natto's *ahem* ...unique scent.
1542 Noda, Omitama, Ibaraki 311-3411
Uwa Rice Museum, Ehime
If there was a staple food in Japan, it'd be rice, and the Uwa Rice Museum gives you some great insight into the much-loved grain. The museum is located in a former elementary school building, and has a range of rice samples on display - over 80, in fact. You'll also find examples of the tools used in the cultivation of rice, back before rice transplanters were the norm. If you're hungry while you're there, the on-site Loca Cafe has a range of rice-inspired goodies, including amazake cheesecake and amazake brûlée.
2 Chome-2 4 Uwacho Unomachi, Seiyo, Ehime 797-0015
Togakushi Soba Museum, Nagano
With a solid buckwheat culture in these parts, it seems fitting that Nagano is home to the Togakushi Soba Museum. The experience-based venue teaches visitors about how buckwheat became such a staple crop in the prefecture, and how it's grown in the present-day. There are opportunities to take place in soba making classes, and an on-site restaurant which serves not just soba noodles but a host of other buckwheat dishes.
3018 Togakushi, Nagano, 381-4101