**Added photos are just randomly placed and don't nesc. correspond with their location within the post...**
So I went to China Town and Motomachi today, for two different weekender pieces. Both are sub areas of Yokohama, which is on the south (I think?) end of Tokyo, although it's considered to be it's own city of 3.1 million people (the largest city besides Tokyo). I get the feeling a lot of people consider it to be a big suburb of the city, but I'm not really sure. It's where the port is, and should you be lucky enough to come to Tokyo via cruise ship, that's where you might expect to end up docking.
Anyway, its a fair trek from Shibuya-about an hour on a Limited or Commuter express train (very glad I avoided the local trains!) The station spits you right out into China town basically, which was decorated, as they all are, with big lanterns hanging on the streets and red street signs. It was a little bit weird, because the other china towns I've been to, you go from being able to read and understand everything to being able to read and understand very little... Here, I went from very little, to even less (there was basically no English in China town!) Compared to Toronto's china town, it was very clean and orderly, but I guess you might expect that here, there is a definite sense you are still in Japan even in the heart of China town.
There are four gates which surround the town, each one represents something different, and they were all lovely, as was the large temple (shrine?) which I took some pictures of... There are sooooo many restaurants in this area, it's absolutely overwhelming! I'm sure some are fantastic, some good, some terrible, etc. but unless you know someone who knows the area, I wouldn't even begin to know where to start looking! I ended up going to Daska, a should be great but is only marginal China 'theme park/museum' which has two floors of different stands of Chinese food (food theme parks are kind of big here, I like the idea a lot!) Anyway, I got some kind of noodles, which were pretty close to ramen, with dumplings in them (that I think had shrimp in them) and then bok choy floating around in there too. It was pretty good, but after I wished I'd gotten something a little bit less ramenish and more Chineseish.
I went to the street vendor they had outside, and got the variety pack of meat in dough... There was a little dough ball filled with pork (bozu), and then a couple of bundles of wonton style wrappings around ground meat with some veggies, and then some rice with chunks of meat wrapped tightly in a large bamboo leaf. It was all very tasty, even if I'm not quite sure what everything was! I'll have to try and google it tomorrow when I'm trying to write about it - I took pictures for reference! The actual museum part of the place was disapointing for a non Japanese speaker - its like a display of China towns around the world, and it looked pretty interesting, but there was noooo English anywhere! For something sooooo patently touristy (think Disney does China) I think it should be a little bit more bilingual! There also wasn't very much there for an 'All of China' display.
Anyway, I poked around all the streets for awhile trying to get a feel for the place - there were people selling these dough balls filled with meat or bean paste everywhere, and also roasted Chestnut vendors at every turn. I didn't realise those were of significance to China, but they certainly seem to be! I was handed one to try by someone and it was pretty good - dense and meaty and a little bit sweet. I've never had one before, and while I'm not sure I'd like a whole bag, I enjoyed the morsel!
After a few hours there, I headed about one block over to Motomachi shopping street, which is veeery posh! Its a little bit different from Omotesando or Roppongi Hills though, because I think a lot more of the shops are one off, or Japanese brands I didn't recognize as opposed to Tiffany's or whatever. I saw one place selling Abercrombie and Fitch sweaters for about 330$, which really makes me want to start importing them! All of the dogs here are dressed to the nines and I saw a couple of stores catering to them! There were some pretty great one off boutiques with pretty funky stuff, where I might consider shopping if I wanted to pay upwards of 100$ on a t shirt or something!
The whole area feels very European, with narrow cobblestone streets, french, Italian and German restaurants, patisseries, etc. It's actually very nice, and I can see why it has the reputation of being like Rodeo Drive, it certainly feels monied!
I headed up the hill away from that street a little bit to a different part of Motomatchi, heading past the foreigners cemetery (basically not open to the general public), where western style graves flow down a hill and have a fantastic view of Yokohama. It was a lovely setting (you can see into it, just not walk into it)
Then I went to the Harbour View Park, where I did indeed get a great view of the Harbour, and could see as far as Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo Tower. It was a gorgeous (t-shirt weather!) day today, which made everything all the more lovely. The park design is very European, and there are several houses which have remained from the original European settlers which you can go inside. I went inside one, which was gorgeous (completely western) with amazing wood detailing. There was an amazing pianist playing, and I was surprised, because there was no entrance fee, and it doesn't seem like a busy attraction at all. It turns out that the guy, who was maybe in his early twenties, was just a visitor who'd sat down and began playing at (I'm pretty sure) a professional concert level. When he was finished, he got up, stretched, and headed out with his friends to continue sightseeing or whatever - good timing!
There are a few book and literature related museums up there that I'll have to check out at some point, but today I headed back down to Motomatchi to stop in at Tomei's, a Napa Valley wine bar to chat with the owners and do a mini profile on them as part of the Motomatchi piece in Weekender.
By this point, it was close to five, so I grabbed a bun from the bakery which had a line out the door earlier (I figured that was a good sign!) and then jumped back on a train to head home...
By seven, when Peter got home I was very droopy to the point of almost falling asleep, so when he walked down to the eki to meet a friend, I commandeered his laptop and walked down there with him, to get some food and write the (very) rough draft of the article about the woman we interviewed yesterday...
Whew - pretty long day today! Will amend with photos once I get some downloaded off the camera in the next day or two for work...