The Inspirational Origins of Instant Ramen

Momofuku Ando once said, “Peace will come when people have food.” He was an innovator, convict, and the creator of instant ramen.

Ben Kageyama
5 min readJul 26, 2020


People love instant ramen. It’s consumed by struggling college students, traded as the currency of choice in US prisons, and even eaten in space stations. But before all this, it was an idea. And the person we have to credit for its creation is Momofuku Ando.

Immigration, Prison, and Failure

Ando was born in Taiwan and moved to Japan at the age of 23, during the beginning of the Pacific wars. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to numerous, albeit unsuccessful business ventures. He sold salt, magic-lantern projectors, and prefabricated houses.

Ando even opened a school. And according to a piece by the Guardian, this led to his conviction in 1948 for charges of tax evasion. He explained that he was giving scholarships to children, which was a form of tax evasion in Japan at the time. Ando spent two years in prison for this.

After he got out, a credit union he was partly running went bust. This failed venture led to the loss of all his assets except for his house. Yet despite all this, Ando (now a middle-aged man riddled with more than his fair share of failure), went on to the next one. And thank the Noodle Gods he did.

“Inspiration leads to invention. Tenacity is the breeding ground for inspiration. There can be no invention in the absence of tenacity.” — Momofuku Ando

Hunger, Innovation, and Success

The creation of instant ramen cannot be separated from the context of post-war Japan. The country’s economy was in shambles. People’s spirits were low. There was a massive imbalance in the nation’s food supply.

People were hungry, but there wasn’t enough food. And even when there was food, they’d have to stand for hours in a long line waiting for a bowl of ramen.

According to a 2019 biography by Andrea Wang, “Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando,” Ando’s idea came after…



Ben Kageyama

Truth is stranger than fiction. I write about both. ||