April 9, 2008 / 6:52 AM / 11 years ago

Japan's Koizumi praises noodles at "Ramen Summit"

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi climbs out a tunnel during his visit to Cu Chi tunnel system in Ho Chi Minh city November 14, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Junichiro Koizumi never hosted a G8 summit while in office, but this week the popular former Japanese prime minister popped up at a “World Ramen Summit”, where he touted the tasty noodles as a universal treat.

“Ramen is not just for Japan, but it is also for the world and the universe,” Koizumi, whose colorful ways made him one of Japan’s most popular leaders ever, told business people from about 20 countries in Osaka, western Japan, on Wednesday.

Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, was attending a biannual gathering organized by the ramen noodle industry aimed at improving noodle quality and boosting consumption.

This year’s summit coincided with the 50th anniversary of the invention of instant noodles by “Cup Noodle” King Momofuku Ando, who died in January 2007 at the age of 96.

Ando, founder of Japan’s No.1 noodle maker Nissin Food Products Co Ltd created his now famous “Chicken ramen” noodles in 1958 to feed the masses in post-World War Two Japan.

About 92 billion packs of instant noodles were consumed in the world in 2006 including about 47 billion in China, 14 billion in Indonesia, 14 billion in the United States, and 5.4 billion in Japan, according to industry figures.

“Mr Ando’s ... spirit of treasuring social and public service will be passed onto people of the world,” former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone told the same gathering on Tuesday.

Ramen has Chinese roots but no one knows when it arrived in Japan. Some claim it was eaten by samurai in the 17th century.

Reporting by Teruaki Ueno, Editing by Linda Sieg and Sanjeev Miglani

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