October 12, 2012

Swedish Fish

Yesterday marked the one week anniversary of my arrival in Tokyo. There were no flowers or chocolates from myself (that second part is a complete lie) but it was a jam packed day with many highlights. Here are 3:

1. Swimming in Sweden

We connected with Catherine today and were invited to go swimming at the Swedish Embassy. The invitation was too good to pass up because, what?! Taylor and I threw our swimsuits in our backpacks with the assumption that "go swimming at the Swedish Embassy" was not a euphemism for some weird Japanese sexual fetish. It was hard to comprehend why an embassy has a pool, much less one that is open to complete strangers. We tend to think of government buildings as being pretty secure, but that's apparently not the Swedish way.

The reason they have a pool, and the reason we were invited, is because there's a number of young interns who live there and Catherine has befriended a few. One of the perks of being an intern at the embassy is access to the gym facilities, which include a squash court, some exercise machines, and a lovely pool! We spent a few hours there swimming and talking with the embassy kids (who were more or less our age). And if you subscribe to the belief that embassy soil is that of the motherland, than embassy water should be no different, so we swam in Sweden!

Do Swedes play "Sven Hedin" rather than "Marco Polo"?

The conversation was so good that we nearly missed the last train back to Tsunashima. For whatever reason, the Tokyo rail system closes at midnight, so when the clock struck 12 and we began to turn back into pumpkins, we rushed out the gates of the embassy and made a mad dash for the station.

2. Finding mini putt in Hawaii

Our morning was spent in Yokohama and we
stumbled across a mall (not a surprise in Japan). For whatever reason, this mall was almost exclusively Hawaiian goods and establishment. The Japanese love Hawaii, so it made sense, and I was delighted to find this gem from my last trip to Hawaii:
Great donut shop I discovered when last I was in the Aloha State.
But by far the best part of this mall was the roof garden. I lost Taylor somewhere around the coconut store and started to lose hope. As I sat at the entrance, hoping he'd return, I received a text saying "roof top, now". Figuring he had found the garden (Taylor has a natural attraction to foliage) I was not surprised to find him there. What I was surprised to find though was a lack of a garden and an abundance of mini putt!

For those who do not know, Taylor and I are mini putt connoisseurs, so stumbling upon a 27 hole course atop one of Yokohama's tallest buildings was clearly a sign from the almighty.
Let he who is without sin take the first tee shot.
I took some videos of the rather whacky holes (apparently this style of putt is European Mini Golf) as well as a revelation that can only be compared to the discovery of fire:

It was a pretty intense game, and as you can see from the score card, I completely destroyed Taylor*:

*with the exception of the 15th hole

3. The Cup Noodles Museum

While the day closed with a fantastic new experience, we could have called it quits after our first adventure and been completely content. And not just with our day, but our lives. On the train to Yokohama we decided to look up what the hell to do (we just went on a whim) and were delighted to discovery there was a museum of Cup Noodles. "Well that's gotta be silly" we thought, but never in our wildest dreams would we have thought, "Well that's gotta be a beautiful and enlightening experience."

It was. 

It became apparent as soon as we stepped in the door that we were in store for a lot more than we had expected:

Taylor contemplating why a noodle museum requires such a grand entrance
Realizing we were in store for something amazing

From the foyer, we ascended up the stairs to a room straight out of Kraftland, which displayed the history of Cup Noodles packaging:

If you celebrate Ramen-dan then this is Mecca
No thanks

I can get down with that

The next stop of our tour was the screening room, where we enjoyed a twenty-five minute film about the history of Cup Noodle. An animated version of the creator/savior, Momofuku Ando, took us back in time and shared his numerous revelations about making Cup Noodle. You would be mistaken to think that this was simply a cradle to the grave story about one man's noodle empire. It was an enlightening cinematic experience. Momofuku taught us his six key ideas:
                    1. Discover something completely new
                    2. Find hints in all sorts of places
                    3. Nurture an idea
                    4. Look at things from every angle
                    5. Don't just go with the status quo
                    6. Never give up
The Momofuku theater of enlightenment
Walking through a life-sized replica of Momofuku's work space.
These six teachings would be lost if we were not able to immediately put them into practice and forever cement them into the fabric of our being. Luckily, the museum has a space where you can create your own Cup Noodle cup and Cup Noodle noodle:

Step 1: Buy cup
A virgin Cup Noodle
Step 2: Sanitize hands
Step 3: Apply Momofuku's teachings
My cup in the making
Coming together quite nicely
Step 4: Add noodles to cup 
Step 5: Add ingredients (green beans, corn, garlic chips and bacon!)
Step 6: Create Cup Noodle caring purse
Step 7: Wear with pride

Taylor had been to the Ho Chi Minh museum earlier in his travels and conceded that The Cup Noodles Museum as well as learning all about His Holiness Momofuku was a far more enlightening and educational experience. Just look at the great men that Momofuku has decided he is in the company of:
Soichiro Honda, Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei, Henry Ford, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Momofuku Ando.
The man. The legend. The creator.

Below is a video showing an excerpt from the Momofuku story as well as this room in the museum:

A miniature forest is illuminated, casting shadows on the wall
What is the point of this room? Well His Holiness Momofuku is a man of metaphors and I believe this room is here to remind us that every idea is a seed and a mind is a forest. Some ideas are only seedlings, while others have been nurtured and begun to grow into strong trees. It is important to provide light and illuminate all your ideas, for you never know which will grow tallest.

Momofuku, you are a wise man.

For more on Momofuku's teachings, please see this gift shop T-shirt: