Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Oarai Town, Ibaraki Prefecture - Kanto
Explore your favorite Japanese brands and discover the secrets of their delicious success by visiting the places where the magic happens. Factory tours are a fabulous way to gain knowledge while having fun—and the food and drink samples are icing on the cake.
Japan is home to many such incredible opportunities. Here are four great places to start.
Choose Your Destination
What do instant ramen, shumai (steamed dumplings), and mentaiko (seasoned Alaska pollock roe) have in common? They’re all the subject of factory tours! Visit the Cup Noodles Museum, Kiyoken Yokohama Factory, and Mentai Park Oarai to learn how each item goes from raw ingredients to finished product, peek at the process, and snag seriously delicious samples.
Yokohama and Oarai are also exciting cities to explore, each offering plenty to see and do before and after your tour. Don’t waste any time—dive right into a world of manufacturing methods, amusing trivia, and tasty treats!
Noodles that Conquered the World
There’s always a flurry of activity at the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama, which boasts hands-on noodle fun and information-rich displays enjoyed by more than one million visitors each year.
Learn how the meal-in-a-cup went from idea to worldwide hit—well over one billion servings are consumed each year—and browse walls covered with 50-plus years’ worth of package designs. Once filled with cup-noodle facts, head to the My Cup Noodles Factory to craft a custom creation from start (cup decoration) to finish (soup and toppings). Or check out the Chicken Ramen Factory, where you can also make your own.
Since all the time spent making food is sure to leave you hungry, your next destination has to be the Noodles Bazaar World Noodles Road on the fourth floor, where you’ll find varieties from various countries for sale in food stalls.
If you came with kids, head to the Cup Noodles Park where those elementary school-aged and under can see the world from a noodle’s perspective on specially designed playground equipment.
A fun outing for the whole family, the Cup Noodles Museum definitely deserves a spot on your must-visit list.
Yokohama’s Steamed Superstar
Call on the Kiyoken Yokohama Factory to learn the secrets of shumai (steamed dumplings) and popular ekiben (obento lunchboxes sold at train stations). But be sure to arrange your visit in advance as tour spots fill up fast!
Kiyoken, established in 1908 as a shop at Yokohama Station, has been making shumai since 1928. The dumplings are loved for being easy to eat on swaying trains, being delicious even when cold, and their easy-to-enjoy size.
Every day, about 800,000 of the delightful dumplings are made at the factory. The process is mechanized these days, but the texture is the same as when the dumplings were shaped by hand.
Post-tour, enjoy fresh, piping-hot shumai samples, as well as other tasty treats, such as Yokohama moon cakes. Be sure to check out the gift shop before heading home to pick up popular Kiyoken products and original merchandise—the perfect way to commemorate your visit! There’s also a restaurant corner where you can order freshly steamed goodies, such as shumai and steamed buns. No trip to Yokohama is complete without enjoying this tasty local treat from Kiyoken!
A Celebration of Seasoned Roe
Visit Mentai Park Oarai to discover the many charms of mentaiko (seasoned Alaska pollock roe). This is one of five Mentai Parks in Japan and is overflowing with visitors every day. You will definitely see mentaiko on your travels around the country—and there is a reason it is so popular—so even if this is your first time, take the chance to dive in.
Mentaiko arrived in Japan from mainland Asia via Fukuoka, a city on the island of Kyushu. It is still considered a Fukuoka specialty, but is not limited to the city.
When Kanefuku, the company that operates Mentai Park, established a factory in the Kanto area—which includes Tokyo and surrounding prefectures—it opened a direct-sales office which eventually grew into Mentai Park.
Before jumping into the tour, learn about mentaiko using the interactive displays. Through large observation windows, you can also watch workers perform delicate tasks by hand. Incredibly, about five tons of mentaiko is produced every day at Mentai Park Oarai. Seeing the time and effort that goes into making this delicacy will provide you with a whole new perspective.
Watching all that seasoned roe being prepared is sure to have revved up your appetite, which means it’s time to eat. Because it spoils easily, mentaiko is usually frozen before shipping, so getting to enjoy it freshly made is a treat.
Beyond samples, there’s also a restaurant corner with various items made with mentaiko, including rice balls, steamed pork buns, and even ice cream!
No reservations are necessary at Mentai Park, making it an easy addition to any itinerary.
Discovering the methods that go into making your favorite foods is a fun and delicious way to spend a day. As you travel around Japan, be sure to add factory tours to your schedule to get a peek at the ins and outs of some of the country’s most delicious delicacies. It’s sure to take your trip to heavenly new heights.