Bunnies, bad art, and Burt Reynolds—the world’s strangest museums showcase some of the world’s quirkiest passions.
Shinyokohama Raumen Museum
The World's Strangest Museums
Shinyokohama Raumen Museum
The Museum: Ramen noodles have been a staple in the Japanese diet since 1958, when the instant version was introduced. Since then, its popularity has exploded—Japan now has some 200,000 ramen restaurants. Naturally, the best way to pay homage to this prolific noodle was to create a three-floor museum showcasing the dish’s seemingly countless variations.
The Exhibits: The two underground levels of the museum are a re-creation of Tokyo’s Shitamachi neighborhood, circa 1958—the year of the Ramen. But it’s not just for viewing—eight restaurants here offer the chance to sample different takes on the classic dish (opt for the smaller portion so you can sample several flavors). On your way out, stop by the souvenir shop to pick up a package of the museum’s original chocolate ramen—cocoa-flavored fried ramen with chocolate sauce.
Bunnies, bunnies everywhere, and in all forms: stuffed, ceramic, painted—even a few real ones. Not only does the onslaught of bunny paraphernalia in Pasadena, California’s aptly named Bunny Museum overwhelm the senses, but the 23,000-item collection has grown so large as to require relocation to a larger space. In fact, so passionate are owners Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski about bunnies that their hare-filled shrine isn’t just a museum—it’s also their home.
While the Bunny Museum may very well be a one-of-a-kind museum, it most certainly isn’t the only place showcasing items that are, well, a bit out there. People’s fascination with the strange, the quirky, and the perverse has inspired an array of outlandish museums that dot the globe.
Of course, strange is a relative term. What seems odd to one person is perfectly normal to another. You may think it’s a bit odd for an entire three-level museum to be dedicated solely to the noodle dish that sustains college students, but to many of Japan’s residents, the Ramen Museum celebrates an important addition to their everyday cuisine. (To the rest of us, it’s a good reminder that traditionally, this dish is not prepared with a seasonings packet and hot pot.)
But many of the world’s quirky museums are projects driven by a singular vision and agenda, which is often to increase the appreciation of something very specific. At the Velveteria, a museum in the East Burnside district of Portland, Ore., that something is velvet paintings—and its owners have collected more than 1,000 of them. Meanwhile, the Museum of Bad Art, in Dedham, Mass., eagerly promotes art that no one would ever find in New York’s Metropolitan: many of their pieces were acquired by rummaging through the trash. In fact, when one artist learned his painting on was display there, he called the museum to boast that “he had far worse at his studio.”
Other museums showcase macabre exhibitions, like the Torture Museum in Amsterdam, which has an impressive collection of medieval panic-inducing devices, like the Skull Cracker.
Another appealing factor of these off-the-beaten-path spots is the admission fee, or lack thereof. Admission at Amsterdam’s Torture Museum is just $7, and that’s on the high side: getting into many of these won’t cost you a dime.
Whatever the topic, and whatever the appeal, these oddball establishments have been drawing in visitors of all ages and backgrounds for years. Times and tastes change and particular museums come and go, but as long as people maintain their affinities for the unusual, strange museums will always be around.