Every morning, there is a parade of suits. Everywhere you look, men in very similar black suits, white shirts, and conservative ties are heading off to work. (Women are dressed just as conformingly, but in skirt suits.)
I had preplanned all of our out-of-Tokyo train trips. We had to go first to Tokyo Station. That part was easy enough. My plan had said track 7 was where to catch one headed to Yokohama. It wasn’t the same time as my plan though. (I think we had just missed it – I woke up later than I had planned but took less time getting there than I thought.) It didn’t LOOK like the right train. (*Note: I learned later how to figure out which train is coming on a multi-train track – as in the sign in the picture above.) I popped my head into the train that was there and just asked no one in particular, “Yokohama?” Several people answered me ‘no’ (or gestured X with their arms 🙅🏻). What happened next illustrates how wonderful travelling in another country can be – especially when that country is Japan…
A lady on the platform behind me, in pretty good English, told us we needed to be on the next platform over. (We were currently on 7/8 and needed to be on 9/10.) After thanking her profusely, we headed back down the stairs to get to the right area – but for SOME reason I’m unclear on now, we thought we should get this new information confirmed by someone who actually worked there. We went into the JR office and asked the man working there how to get to Yokohama. He however did not speak English very well and confused me further. I switched to my pygmy-Japanese and asked “nan sei? kyu-sei?” (Which platform? Number nine?). I realized afterwards that he said “juu-sei, kyu-sei” meaning ten or nine, but I thought, in my frazzled mental state that he said 19. Oddly enough, the singage back outside the office stated that track 19 was a Shinkansen to Yokohama… I was SO confused and flustered that I almost started crying. But we just made the decision to stick with what the helpful lady has said IN ENGLISH and hope for the best. We got on the next train that arrived on that platform and crossed our fingers. Turned out, we just should have done that from the beginning. But it made for a rough start to the morning.
We had to transfer at Yokohama station to Ishikawacho. That wasn’t too troublesome. But once we got there, we learned another lesson (or at least had another one reinforced). DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAIN PLATFORM UNTIL YOU LOCATE THE CORRECT EXIT. We just got off the train and went down the nearest set of stairs. Things are a little different there than they are here in Toronto. Back home, we have only 2 lines and stations are teeny tiny in comparison. You just get off the subway and walk upstairs, and if you want to exit the station from a certain door, you just walk through the station to that door. In Japan, stations are HUGE. And there doesn’t seem to be the option to walk through to another exit. We only saw the one way out at the bottom of the stairs so we went that way. Once outside, I had NO clue where we were. Since we weren’t in Tokyo anymore, I didn’t think the stations would be massive as they are there. I was so wrong.
Also, since were weren’t in Tokyo anymore, the preloaded maps on Hubby’s phone were useless to us. We hadn’t loaded Yokohama when we had WiFi and the GPS doesn’t seem to be working without it.
Apparently, we exited out into the Motomachi shopping area and had to walk even more (ouch!) and hope for the best. I was pissed because I had a whole route planned out to see the 10 gates of Chinatown in the most efficient manner. Oh well.
Motomachi is sort of a cool looking area. Hubby said it reminded him of old Montréal. Everything was still closed though.
I totally got “Chinatowned” here. (Hubby’s expression – meaning talked into buying something you don’t want with a long-winded spiel.) We walked in, all touristy, taking pictures and stuff and approached the temple itself. There was a lady up there who I guess wanted to show us around and explain the significance of things and how to make a prayer. At first she asked (in Japanese) if Hubby spoke Japanese. They obviously go to him first since he COULD possibly be Japanese (but is second-generation Chinese-Canadian – as in doesn’t speak Chinese really either). I answered her in Japanese that he doesn’t understand anything in Japanese at all (“zenzen wakarimasen”). I’m always reluctant to speak any Japanese to anyone because a) I REALLY suck at it, and b) I don’t want to mislead them into thinking I can carry on a conversation. I mentioned this to my friend yesterday and she said, “but they are so appreciative when you even try”, so I thought I’d chance it. And exactly what I was worried about happened. She started prattling away in Japanese. I told her (after she asked) that I could only speak a little bit, but I am not sure if she realized exactly how little I could understand. She tried so hard though to say things in English as much as she could. I felt kind of dumb throughout the entire exchange but I appreciated her effort. I understood maybe about 20% of what she told me, but she was sweet anyway. So, I paid my 100 yen, made a prayer, and listened to the explanation of the statues (one for students who want to do well in their studies and the other for pregnant ladies for safe and healthy carrying and baby, from what I caught). Regardless, it’s a beautiful temple.
Up the street from the temple, is the China museum – Daisekai. It opens at 10 (it was about 9:30 when we got there) but the gift shop on the first floor was open. It was just a bunch of panda trinkets and regular souvenir stuff. Nothing great. We planned to come back later on once we had all our pictures of all the gates, but ended up skipping it. Directly across from it is another gate. Everything is very busy and overwhelming so it’s easy to miss the gates, but I had mapped them all out and knew exactly where they were.
I was so pissed when we got to the third gate and it was covered up for construction. As it happened, 4 of the 10 were. Boooooooo.
Yokohama Chinatown is interesting, but a bit of a letdown if you’re expecting an ‘authentic’ Chinatown experience. I have been to a few Chinatowns (Toronto, San Francisco, etc. – and Hong Kong really is just like one giant Chinatown), but this doesn’t really seem like one to me. It seems more like a China-themed Japanese town. One thing about all the Chinatowns I’ve been to is that they are full of Chinese people. Passing people on the street and listening to them speak, everyone who actually worked here was Japanese and the only Chinese people we encountered were tourists.
Once we had hit all the gates (within actual Chinatown), and I had food in my belly (I also bought 2 cha siu bao – BBQ pork buns – at a bakery), we left and headed back for the station. We were both ready to move on. I’m not sure if I will ever go back to Yokohama again. And right now, I’m okay with that.
I decided to stick to exactly what was in my plans to get us to the ramen museum. It was a few hours earlier but I had learned from our morning debacle and made sure we took the right train. (This was a multi-train track too.) Luckily, the trains are colour-coded so it’s easy to tell which one you need to take. We took the Keihin-Tohoku line rapid train to Higashi-Kanagawa and transferred to the Yokohama line train to Shin-Yokohama.
Getting out of the station to the right exit and on the move towards the ramen museum was really easy. Within the station, things were well-labelled and once we got outside, I knew where I was going from my ‘wandering around’ on Google Maps street view.
There is a different line up of konbini in this visit from last. AM/PM seems to be completely gone. The main players are 7-11, Family Mart, and Lawson. Daily Yamazaki is rare and New Days is not as popular as the big ones but the most popular in train stations.
You may notice ramen is ‘spelled wrong’… In Japanese, it’s written RA~ ME N. Part of the phonetic lengthening of vowels sometimes adds a U, but usually only after O (and E is lengthened with I). It’s not pronounced like ‘au’ in English, but just held longer. (Aaaa , instead of the clipped a. So you say ‘raaaamen’.)
The “museum” is very cool. The ground floor has a few exhibit-y type things but it’s more a just a gift shop (which carries completely non-ramen-related things) with a few displays. It’s the two basement floors that are of interest. The lowest level (B2) is staged like an outdoor area of the 1950’s and has 5 ramen restaurants there and a performance area where shows are put on daily. Today, there was a guy spinning light-up stuff, like yo-yos or something. IDK. I wasn’t really paying attention to him. B1 has 3 more restaurants, I think, and the hallway running around the back (including one of the restaurants) is supercool, like a winding Tokyo backstreet at night. Hubby managed 2 bowls while we were there. I had one and a dessert. The first place we went to was in B2 in the left-hand corner at the back (pictured below). Hubby had tonkotsu and I had chashumen. It didn’t taste bad but freaked me out because it had a film on it as it cooled.
Since it was still early in the day, we wanted to cross another thing off our list. Nakano Broadway was actually on our “Plan B” list of things to do. Since we aren’t going to the Ghibli Museum anymore 😦 we were planning to go to Nakano on Wednesday, but we had extra time (due to the disappointment of Chinatown).
To get there, we went back to Tokyo station (on the Shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama – a much easier experience from the morning. The guy in the JR office spoke English and gave us reserved seating tickets when we showed him our passes.) where we transferred to the Chuo line (I believe that is the MOST ridden line in Tokyo…). Nakano is on the Chuo line. I had researched how to get to Broadway from the station, so it was easy.
Nakano Broadway is sort of like a mall – not the super huge shopping centres we have now, but the old style ones (ie. small and dingy and usually a straight line with a few floors). For the past several years, it has been a destination for otaku (anime and manga geeks) aside from Akihabara. The 2nd and 3rd floors are mostly all stores dealing in geek stuff (figures, comics, DVDs, collectibles, etc.). Mandarake is a chain that is well-known for this stuff. There are several locations (including Shibuya, which we had been to on Saturday, and Akihabara, which we will go to tomorrow) and Nakano Broadway is one of them. I could give you more info about the mall, but… you can Google it. (Or just click on the links I provided already.) I was in too much pain to follow Hubby around as he shopped so I just parked it in a hallway and waited for him. I got a lot of strange looks for sitting on the floor, but I was beyond caring.
Instead of having more ramen, we just opted for McDonald’s for dinner, back out in the Sun Plaza. There was another gaijin in line and I was jealous that she spoke Japanese. She ordered for the people she was with after they discussed their options in English (making it clear they were a party of tourists).
After taking the train back from Nakano, to Shinjuku, to Tamachi, I COULD NOT take another step so Hubby sprang for a cab from Tamachi station back to our hotel. It was so close that the meter didn’t even go up, but worth it.
I may have mentioned how much I love Japanese taxis already ~ but I’ll say it again. I love Japanese taxis. They are NOTHING like the cabs we are used to in Canada, or America, or anywhere else I’ve seen. It feels much more like hiring a private driver than anything else. They are professional and clean. And the entire inside is covered in… lace doilies? LOL. Just the fact that the doors open and close automatically is a win in my point of view.
(P.S. Those cards I made with our hotel info on them came in handy.)
(originally posted to Japan – Here I Come!)