Food Theme Parks in Japan

By on January 1, 2014
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Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum

Food theme parks are a fashionable concept in Japan.  The land of the rising sun is famous for its regional traditions and food.  However, in being able to indulge in the full range of delicacies, you would need to travel considerable distance from one end of the country to the other in order to sample authentic regional flavors. This is what sparked the idea of food theme parks. Food theme parks are indoor entertainment facilities, bringing together the most popular eateries from around the country to showcase their own particular type of food.

They are more than just a cluster of top quality restaurants and places to go, to fill your empty stomach. They offer a feast to all the senses. Besides having the opportunity to taste various versions of a particular type of food at different stalls all within a few meters of each other, the decor and atmosphere of the theme parks are also noteworthy. Some theme parks recreate a specific townscape that tells the history of that particular type of food, such as the “port town” of the Yokohama Curry Museum. Some simply choose to set the theme in a period in the past, such as the Showa era that is showcased at the Dotonburu Gokuraku Shoten-gai in Osaka. Others try to create a fairytale-like atmosphere, such as the Sweets Forest in the Jiyugaoka. Most also include arcade and other entertainment facilities to make sure that the fun goes on even after you have filled your stomach and that you empty your pockets that little bit more.

The first food theme park to open in Japan was the New Yokohama Ramen Museum in 1994. The number of food theme parts has since steadily increased and the range of food has also diversified. Food theme parks now include ramen, gyoza, curry, sushi, ice cream, sweets and bread.  Many have a museum telling the history and development of featured foods, in addition to offering unique exclusive flavors. The Cup Ice Museum in Namja Town in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City features a sea of bizarre ice cream flavors, from cow’s tongue and eel to snake and wasabi-flavored ice cream.

For the out-of-the-ordinary feel, you no longer have to take days off and travel long hours to get to places such as Disneyland or Universal Studios. For as little as around 300 yen and a little imagination, you can turn back time and experience the history, culture and fun of “olden Japan,” velvety Crème brûlée in the company of European song birds in spring or an afternoon of your very own wonderland over a cup of tea and gorgeous cream puffs.

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About Stephen Lebovits