Project X - Nissin Cup Noodle

by Tadashi Katoh | Graphic Novels |
ISBN: 1569709599 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 9/3/2014
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
6 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, September 03, 2014
I've been wanting to read this manga for some time, and recently found this good-condition softcover at a reasonable price. It's the history of the development of Nissin brand "Cup Noodle", instant dried ramen, often shown as the staple diet of impoverished students. (It's a product I've enjoyed over the years, even when I wasn't impoverished {wry grin} - and do to this day, as per the photo!)

I'm giving this one extra points for its "mundane made awesome" traits - and for the way in which it emphasizes the contributions of many different people in the development of what might seem a very simple product, the "magic ramen". The cast of characters includes corporate executives and lower-level employees - and, in a nod to the contributions of family members, one employee's wife, who helped by changing her meal plans to allow for the fact that her poor, poor husband had to taste ramen all day and was unable to eat a normal meal {wry grin}.

I found it rather interesting that the project begins with a mandate from the boss: make a ramen dish that can be cooked in three minutes with hot water, and can be carried around. I'd imagined that the goal was less explicit - "how far can we reduce the cooking time while maintaining quality and portability" - but no! Turns out the "portable container" part had a lot to do with appealing to American consumers, who might like ramen but who did not all own the traditional ramen-bowls common to Japanese.

There are some rather charming glimpses into the workaday life of the various members of the project, some of whom are more casual than others. There's some workplace banter, but also a lot of "I must do my best!"-type inspirational talk. We get a look at the various components: crafting the "surprisingly simple" container (and the dramatic pause before the director gives it the go-ahead), the problems of making the pre-cooked noodles cook correctly without clumping or getting soggy (the fix for this one was nicely innovative: "Mmm! It finally resembles food!"), and then the fine-tuning - coming up with a way to include colorful toppings. (This last bit rather amused me, as it was a hugely important part of the project - according to this book, anyway - while I'd always considered the little floaty bits rather unimportant next to the ramen and the broth. Who knew that the right kind of shrimp would be so vital? There's even a scene where the director challenges his researcher, asking "Are you the type to give up so easily? Perhaps I overestimated your abilities..." Cue teeth-gritting from the poor beleaguered employee!)

Developing the product isn't the whole story - there's another segment about the production issues, and about attempting a marketing mission where large quantities of the new product will be given away at a street fair. The logistics cause problems, and someone always manages to come up with a solution - there's one guy who's practically on the level of Scotty from the Enterprise with regard to making things work.

I found the whole book quite entertaining and informative, something of a manga version of those "where our food comes from" 8mm films we used to get in class.

There's an epilogue listing a number of situations in which the company provided loads of cup-noodles as emergency food - volcanic eruptions, earthquakes. And there's an interview at the end of the book with the head of "Noodle Development" (the guy who had to taste-test those noodles). There's also a section with photographs of the actual people and facilities from the story, and a page showing many different flavors - most of them uncommon in US supermarkets, alas, but I may look for some in the local Asian markets just to see what they're like.

[There's a TV Tropes page of "Useful Notes" on ramen, which includes a mention of this book.]

Update: in honor of instant-ramen inventor and Nissin Cup Noodle founder Momofuku Ando's 105th birthday, Google has displayed a series of charming doodles; you can see them here.

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Monday, November 24, 2014
I'm offering this for a bookray. [See the forum thread here.]

The book is a softcover that weighs about 10 ounces, something to keep in mind when estimating postage costs. I'm willing to make it an international ray if I get enough participants who can mail internationally and cover all the necessary hops. [US participants can get postage estimates at the USPS site here.]

Bookray instructions:

When you receive the book, please journal it, and PM the next person in line for their address so you'll have it ready when you've finished the book.

Note: even if you've sent books to that person before, please PM them before mailing this one, to confirm that the address is correct and that they're able to take on a bookray book at this time.

Try and read the book promptly - ideally, within one month of receiving it. (If you expect to take longer, you can request to be put at the end of the list. If you find you're swamped with other books when the person before you contacts you about the book, you can ask to be skipped, and then let me know whether you'd like to be moved down the list or dropped entirely. If you receive the book and find it's taking longer than you'd planned to get through it, I'd appreciate an update in its journal entries or in the forum thread, just to let me and the other participants know you haven't forgotten it.)

When you're ready to pass the book along, please add your comments about the book and indicate where you're sending it. If you find that you're having problems contacting the next person in line, or don't think you can manage to mail the book as originally agreed, please let me know; I'll be glad to try to work something out.


Vekiki [UK]
iiwi [Netherlands]
hyphen8 [US - HI]
HI77 [US - FL]

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Released 5 yrs ago (12/3/2014 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


The book's on its way to BCer Vekiki in the UK to kick off its travels. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 4 by Vekiki at London, Greater London United Kingdom on Friday, December 12, 2014
This actually arrived a few days ago - but it was wrapped up so I thought it was my secret santa parcel, until my actual secret santa arrived today - opps!

Still, it looks like a quick read so shouldn't take me too long

Journal Entry 5 by Vekiki at London, Greater London United Kingdom on Thursday, December 18, 2014

Released 5 yrs ago (12/18/2014 UTC) at London, Greater London United Kingdom


on it's way to the next reader

I'm not sure what to make of this, to be honest - I kept waiting for 'something' to happen, but at the same time the story itself was interesting and nicely told.
It sort of felt a bit suspiciously pro-cupnoodle, like they were trying to sell the product to the reader, rather than a fair telling of all sides of the story. maybe I've overly suspicious!

Journal Entry 6 by wingiiwiwing at Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Sunday, December 21, 2014

Journal Entry 7 by wingiiwiwing at Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Tuesday, January 06, 2015
A month ago I found the cupnoodles museum online and said to world (Facebook does this magnificently) I wanted to go! This will not happen in the near future as it is on the other side of the world, so this manga is the next best thing for now. How pleasantly surprised I was there are pictures in it of the museum!
Here in the Netherlands cupnoodles are a fairly new product, it sells in supermarkets since around 2000. We were oriented on Indonesian foods, our former colony, and to Chinese foods (made Dutch aka sweet and not spicy) because there were a lot of Chinese immigrants who started there own restaurant. Cupnoodles were sold in speciality stores. Since a couple of years there are sold widely in supermarkets, becoming student food here as well.
I had fun reading this one, seeing how cupnoodles came in existence.

Journal Entry 8 by ratje-toe at Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Sunday, February 01, 2015
I spent a very mildly entertaining hour or so with this book. The drawings are not very much to my liking (the backgrounds and buildings and so on were nice, but the faces of the protagonists were very sketchy and ... well, I didn't like them) and the story is quite boring and it all reads like one large advertisement. Apparently, the publisher is very proud of the invention of cup noodles. Okay. I slept well after reading this. :-)
Thank you, iiwi, for lending this to me before sending it off to the next ring-participant!

Journal Entry 9 by wingiiwiwing at Utrecht, Utrecht Netherlands on Monday, February 02, 2015
It is on its way to Hawaii!

Journal Entry 10 by winghyphen8wing at Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Sunday, March 08, 2015
Arrived today: I'm not sure whether it was a special Sunday delivery by the PO or by our neighbors (one set has the same surname and we occasionally receive each other's mail), but it was on our porch when we got home.

Thanks for sharing it with me, and I'll try to get it on it the road again before too long...

Journal Entry 11 by winghyphen8wing at Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Sunday, March 29, 2015
Never read a manga documentary before, but I've always enjoyed factory tours: Mom used to take us to the tour Love's Bakery factory in Kapahulu when we were kids and I still love the smell of baking bread.

This was a fun read, and whether or not you eat Cup Noodle, it would be hard to deny that Mr. Ando and his employees changed the convenience food market dramatically (and fed many a college student, as Gory notes).

I'll count this as my Japan read for kiwiinengland's 2015 Around the World Reading Challenge. The origami in the journal photo is a ladybug model folded by Japan's Yoshihide Momotani (larger photo here).

Journal Entry 12 by winghyphen8wing at Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Sunday, March 29, 2015

Released 5 yrs ago (3/23/2015 UTC) at Honolulu, Hawaii USA


Headed for Florida and the next person in the ring - happy reading. Wouldn't a nice serving of ramen go well with it? ;)

Journal Entry 13 by wingHI77wing at Fort Myers, Florida USA on Wednesday, April 15, 2015
In a world where the slurp

is supreme king,
wear a bib.

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