It’s a near certainty that if you’re reading this, you’re alive today (or at least a little less hangry) because of instant ramen. Whether it was all you could afford during high school or college, your paycheck was still a few days away and your roommate was starting to look like a steak, or you just didn’t feel like cooking, no one is too good for some quick noods. We like to think they grow on trees planted by God himself, but the story of instant ramen is actually a tale of war, economic fluctuations, intercultural connections, and styrofoam.

Momofuko Ando

The war was also pretty bad for businessman Momofuko Ando, whose factory and office buildings were obliterated by bombings. With his business physically gone, he worked his way up to president of a bank, but by 1957, his bank had failed, too. In a story now familiar to many, except usually without the happy ending, Ando decided to use the opportunity to focus on his true passion, which happened to be feeding the hungry rather than sculpting clay penis jewelry.

Patent Wars

Ando ran into a slight roadblock on the path to business history when he tried to patent his creation and it came to light that a man named Guowen Zhang had filed a patent for instant noodles a year before his product hit the shelves. That technically made Zhang the inventor of instant ramen, but Ando bought his patent for 23 million yen (300 million, or more than $2 million, today), so he still made out alright.


Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation Kichijoji Branch

(Suikotei/Wikimedia Commons)

Nissin’s profits really took off in 1959 after it partnered with Mitsubishi, who were looking to get into wheat flour imports and it turns out sells more than cars. In fact, their new slogan became “From ramen to missiles,” which probably played a lot better back then.

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