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60th birthday of instant noodles a reminder that it's never too late to start anew

In this file photo, Momofuku Ando makes noodles in the recreation of his work space at the Cupnoodles Museum in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, on Nov. 2, 1999. (Mainichi)

There is a meal that roughly 300 million portions are consumed of around the world every day -- instant noodles.

    According to the World Instant Noodles Association, the consumption of the noodles reached 97.5 billion meals in 2016. While the peak numbers seen in 2013 have been in slight decline, the popular food's position as an "international food" is still unchallenged.

    When one thinks of "Made in Japan" products that have spread throughout the world market, high quality goods like cars or even karaoke come to mind, but it should probably be mentioned that instant noodles have outperformed all of these things. The rollout of this groundbreaking invention marks its 60th anniversary this year.

    Instant noodles got their start in a crude little shack built in the backyard of a house in Ikeda, in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture.

    The owner of the house was Taiwan-born Momofuku Ando. The credit union that he chaired went bankrupt, and he lost all of his businesses and assets he had built up after the war. All that he had left was the house that he was renting.

    Ando, born Go Pek-Hok in Imperial Japanese Taiwan, lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandparents. He started a textile business, but the company's factories and other facilities in Osaka all burned to the ground in airstrikes. He was asked to become the head director of the credit union due to his good reputation as a businessman, but when it went under and he lost everything, he was already 47 years old.

    But he was far from giving up. "All that I have lost is just my assets," he told to himself. Ando threw himself into developing ramen that could be enjoyed in households that met his five conditions: It had to be delicious enough that consumers wouldn't get bored, simple to prepare, could be kept for a long period of time, was safe and could be offered at a low price. Ando stayed in that shack in his backyard working from early morning to late at night for roughly a year. Building on trial and error, "chicken ramen" was finally born.

    At the Cupnoodles Museum in Yokohama and Ikeda, the small shack that changed the world of food has been recreated. In the wooden-floored shack equal to roughly six straw tatami mats, the noodle production machine, cooking tools and other items from the time fill the work space, and it's not hard to imagine the days Ando spent there immersing himself in his research.

    The founder of Nissin Food Products Co. recalled later, "Until I could finally invent something, 48 years of life experiences were necessary after all." The tumultuous ebb and flow of the first half of Ando's life became the nourishment he needed to succeed.

    Reflecting the last wish of Ando, who went through great struggles in his youth, the admission fee to the Cupnoodles Museum in Ikeda is free, while the location in Yokohama allows free entry for high school students and those younger. In this simple gesture, Ando's wish to convey the joy of invention and discovery and the fun of making things to as many young children as possible is reflected.

    In the book "Korondemo tada de wa okiruna" (Make the most out of a bad situation) about Ando's life, the following is written:

    "In life, there is no such thing as being too late. Even from 50 or 60 years old, you can start something new." (By Hideaki Nakamura, Editorial Writer)

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