I had in Tokyo for almost five months before I finally made a day trip down to Yokohama (specifically to Chinatown). I even dragged my fiance (Ryosuke) to Chinatown in Yokohama, because I’m a girlfriend, and that’s what girlfriends do.
I loved it; if you want to go too, here are some of the highlights. If you go to Chinatown, you should try:
1. Beautiful Twin Gates with Chinese Characters. The “main” walkway took about ten minutes to walk through. It was packed with fun (expensive) restaurants, gift shops, and street-food carts. It was also bustling with tourists. Each gate was gorgeous with beautiful colors and intricate designs.
2. Street food. I love street food, regardless of the city or culture. And by street food, I mean local, cheap food cooked on the side of the street. My favorite pat of travelling is “tasting” the city by their street food. It’s not unhygienic. Even when I lived in Ghana (West Africa), I never got sick from it or sick of it.
In Taiwan the street food was to die for. It was absolutely delicious. Yokohama Chinatown was just as wonderful as I had hoped.
We ate those Chinese Sesame balls, which are greasy balls of pounded rice, covered with sesame seeds (and lots of oil), and filled with anko (a sweet paste made out of red beans). I love them.
I think the best stall that had the sesame balls was back at the main gate. Those balls were roughly the size of my palm, and reasonably priced at about 150 yen per, or 500 yen for three.
3. Restaurants. The entire REASON we went to Chinatown was to grab lunch at an authentic Chinese restaurant Since coming to Japan, I’ve missed Chinese food. My roommate in boarding school in Texas was Chinese, as was my best friend. One of my fondest memories was learning how to make dumplings (餃子) by hand.
In fact, I planned the whole Yokohama trip based on the fact that there was a Chinatown, and thereby Chinese food.
The main street between the two gates is crammed with expensive, all-you-can-eat shops for about 2,000 yen (about $25). The only other shops they had were street food joints or expensive (about $15 – $20 a plate).If you go down one of the side streets, you can find much cheaper (but still delicious and authentic) shops.
We went to a tiny shop, with large tables and waiters wearing Chinese garb. The lunch specials were cheap and plentiful, both of us ate far more than we should have (my fiance more than me). In total, our meal was about 700 yen each ($8).
By far the best part was when we paid. The cashier had a Chinese-Japanese accent. I’ve never heard someone (aside from my other foreign friends) speak Japanese with an accent so I was surprised and delighted. I love all accents, and not just the usual British, Australian, and French.I think my fiance’s Japanese accent is incredibly adorable; I enjoy listening to my Spanish friend speak English, and I adore African accents. So, I guess it was only natural that I also liked the woman’s Chinese-Japanese accent.
4. Gift Shops. These were classic Chinese gift shops, almost tourist-trap like. It looked just like the shops in Chinatown New York, DC, and Philadelphia. However, they also had some uniquely Japanese twists, like for instance, rows and rows of Omiyage gifts.
I couldn’t decide between a cute ring, some adorable earrings, an origami cell-phone strap, or a stuffed Panda. So Ryosuke and I just bought a packet of Omiyage (gifts) instead. No surprise – it was sesame balls, and they were delicious.
5. People Watching in Chinatown. I love people watching, regardless of the country. I swear I’m not creepy. Ryosuke ate too much greasy food (he has the Japanese mentality where he can’t leave any food on his plate, so he over-ate for lunch). He had to sit down and recover, so we sat on the edge of a crumbling stone fence and watched people for about half an hour. There were Japanese tourists, Foreign tourists, and native Chinese all blending together and pushing through the streets.
In the end, Chinatown was beautiful. I would have loved to spend the whole day exploring, but we were pressed for time, so we only got about 2 hours to walk around.
Next time I’m craving Chinese food, and don’t mind throwing down about 1,000 yen ($12 )for a round-trip train ticket, I will head back down to Yokohama Chinatown.
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