LOS ANGELES — For more than years, people around the globe have benefited from the genius of Momofuku Ando, the late inventor of instant ramen, though perhaps few outside Japan actually realize it.
Since Ando invented instant ramen in 1958, it has become a staple in college dorms and kitchen pantries, and more than 90 billion servings are consumed worldwide each year, according to the World Instant Noodles Association.
Although Ando is an important figure in the world of modern food convenience, the entrepreneur’s life story would probably not evoke profound reflection or spiritual enlightenment in most people.
But for American author Andy Raskin, Ando’s wisdom has transcended mere cups of noodles, providing unexpected answers to his own recurring problems regarding relationships, romantic love and self-perception.
In his recently published book, “The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life,” Raskin relates a long journey of discovery, drawing inspiration from Ando’s writings about being an entrepreneur, his struggles with failure and his philosophy regarding mankind.
How did Ando become such a central part of Raskin’s life, giving him guidance and motivating him to pen such a book?
Raskin, 44, says his connection to the so-called Ramen King was initially quite arbitrary.
“I had read this article about Ando, and his story was so fascinating to me,” reveals Raskin, a journalist from San Francisco. “I started reading things he wrote, particularly about the time when he lost everything and the spiritual transformation that was involved.”
Ando was born in Japanese-ruled Taiwan in 1910, and started his first company at age 22 importing clothes. Raskin says Ando then branched into profitable military-related ventures during the war, only to lose everything when he was accused of misappropriating government materials.
After going through more cycles of great success and loss in real estate, salt and as the chairman of a credit association, Ando was essentially middle-aged and penniless when he finally set out in his own backyard shed to make noodles to feed the masses.
The inventor’s many struggles inspired contemplation and he often wrote about his philosophy, including a book — “Fundamental Misunderstanding of Humanity” — about recognizing shame and accepting one’s limitations.
According to Raskin, Ando was only able to pursue his dream of ramen after he came to terms with his own limitations, something that resonated with the author.
“I started to see a connection between his life and my love life,” he says.
Raskin’s memoir is driven by his efforts to travel to Osaka to meet Ando at the nonagenarian’s Nissin Food Products Co. headquarters. Along the way he uncovers more of Ando’s teachings and applies them as he re-evaluates his past relationships.
The author acknowledges that the connection between his love life and Ando is pretty strange.
“Part of me thought I was crazy,” he says. “I often asked myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ “
However, the writer evidently found what he was looking for.
Today Raskin says he is happy and finally in a long-term relationship. In fact, Raskin says his girlfriend, Emily, who is mentioned at the end of his memoir, will travel with him as he begins promoting his book in San Francisco in mid-May.
The Ramen King, who passed away in January 2007 at age 96, definitely made an impact on the world, if not through his philosophy then certainly through his perseverance in creating a product that could be enjoyed at any time and in any place.
It’s a truly random adventure, but Raskin hopes his book will entertain readers, help others who might share similar issues in their lives, and give people one more reason to say, “Thank you, Mr. Noodles.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.