Yokohama

A several weeks ago, Tamago and I decided to venture forth from the heaving metropolis that is Tokyo and explore a slightly smaller metropolis: Yokohama!

Yokohama is a harbour city that is less than half an hour train ride from Tokyo’s Shibuya station if you catch the limited express (if you take the local train it will take FOREVER!) You can get there really cheaply if you take the time to do some research (for example: here) into which train line is best. If you take the Tokyu Toyoku Line it only costs 260 yen one way.

We had heard mixed reports about Yokohama, some people say there’s nothing there, and others told us it is a fantastic day out. We had to see for ourselves.

As we disembarked from our train and emerged from the main Yokohama train station, the smell of salt water hit us (well me, Tamago has a spectacularly bad sense of smell). Ahh. Smells sorta like home. I was really keen to try and hire bikes in from somewhere near the station so we could cycle along the harbour front but predictably this turned out to require forward planning as does most things in Japan. If I was doing it again, I would be tempted to look into this (eg here) because the harbor front of Yokohama is well suited to cycling. There’s a nice flat bike path pretty much from the station all the way to China Town!

Thwarted by the tangled web of complicated administration required to hire bicycles Tamago and I hoofed it from the station. With no real plan and a vague map we walked towards Yamashita Park, passing the Red Brick Warehouse and the Cup Noodles Museum on the way. Unfortunately both of these places were closed the day we went but I think they would be well worth a look if we visit again.

As we strolled along in the unseasonably warm sunshine we spotted an amusement park. Yokohama Cosmo World is pretty much impossible to miss if you walk along the front as it has a pretty massive Ferris Wheel! Naturally, we had to check it out and luckily it was completely deserted the day we went. Maybe because it was Tuesday at 11am in February. We went for a ride on the Ferris Wheel. The dodgy Engrish voiceover at one point told us it was the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world, but later then said “one of the biggest Ferris Wheels in the world”. All I’d be willing to say is that it probably was, at some point in time, the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world. It might now be in the top ten. We also went on the ‘Disappearing’ rollercoaster which was reportedly a pretty tame experience for Tamago but I’m terrified of rollercoasters I kept my eyes closed the entire time.

The other big drawcard for Cosmo World was the massive video game arcade. Heaps of skilltesters but lots of classics such as Dance Dance Revolution, MarioKart and table hockey.

After prying Tamago’s fingers loose from the controllers of a Hello Kitty skilltester we continued our walk. We made it to Yokohama’s famous Yamashita Park and saw the NYK Hikawamura – once called the Queen of the Pacific, anchored in Yokohama Bay.

After discovering a very strange fountain…

we pressed on…

we finally found Chinatown! Yokohama was once the centre of immigration to Japan (seeing as it’s the harbour) so many immigrants stepped off the boats and settled right there – many of them Chinese. The Chinatown was amazing. The main roads in and out are guarded by huge gates. Inside you will find wall to wall dumpling shops, restaurants and panda themed souvenir stores. Tragically by the time we got there we were running out of time so we didn’t get a chance to truly experience everything Chinatown had to offer. But apparently Yokohama is beautiful at night so we have big plans to return for feasting and merriment in the near future!

Yokohama day trip – recommended!

Kawaii!!

The Japanese are all about “kawaii“. Loosely translated, it means “cute”, but it’s more of a “y’know it when you see it” kind of thing. Hello Kitty is kawaii. Pikachu is kawaii. Sailor Moon is kawaii. And this:

…is kawaii as all hell. At only 100 yen (about $1.20), it’s also a bargain.

As far as I can see it, there might be three reasons to drink a 135mL beer:

  1. You are a busy executive, and you don’t have time to go to a bar between meetings, but you need a quick beer hit.
  2. You want to feel like a giant drinking a regular-sized beer.
  3. You are a small child.

For me, it was reason #2, plus, of course, the kawaii factor. There is something very empowering about being able to finish a beer in three gulps. How good does it feel? Observe:

Happy times.