Wednesday, March 19, 2008


High expectations lead to disappointment, so we should try to avoid disappointment by never setting too high expectations. Even though I’ve always known this, I still had high expectations of Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, a port city, the largest Chinatown in Japan and so many people telling me how awesome and beautiful the city is. Before going there, I seriously believed Yokohama was going to be my favorite city in Japan.

Yokohama's Chinatown at dusk

Almost all of our time was spent in an area named Minato Mirai 21 (Port of the Future), which is the most beloved part of Yokohama by many locals and tourists. Most of the buildings there are huge, new and modern, like the Landmark Tower, the Queen’s Square shopping mall, the Pacifico convention center, the Intercontinental Hotel and the Yokohama museum of Art. But to me it lacks character somehow, there’s no warmth, it all feels artificial, it’s hard to explain. Minato Mirai is built largely on reclaimed land, but half of the area is still unoccupied, which makes the area very quiet, peaceful and uneventful, aka boring but maybe I’m too much of a city-girl. It is one of the few places in the Tokyo-Yokohama area where the seashore is accessible, which I do think is an attractive feature of the area as I love the water and the cool temperature it creates.

Minato Mirai 21

After the unlivable crowds in Disneyland, the peace and quiet in Yokohama was certainly welcome. Monday night, after we checked into our Yokohama hotel, we walked over to Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, which is a historical building that is currently used as a shopping mall with several restaurants. We enjoyed a European style dinner, complete with Apfelstrudel for dessert, at one of its restaurants with a beautiful view of Yokohama Bay, which was definitely better than waiting in a long line to buy some overpriced Mickey burgers or something.

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse

They like to break records in Yokohama. The Landmark Tower is Japan’s tallest skyscraper (295.8 m) equipped with the world’s second fastest elevator to travel the building’s 70 floors. Minato Mirai also had a small attraction park called Cosmo World which features a huge Ferris wheel, which was the world’s largest when it was built in 1989 but the clock on the Ferris wheel, Cosmo Clock 21, is still the world’s biggest. Nearer to Chinatown there was the Yokohama Marine Tower (106 m) which is the tallest lighthouse in the world. And of course Chinatown itself is Japan’s largest and one of the largest in the world.

Chinatown's East Gate

Our time in Chinatown was mostly spent trying out the many Chinese snacks that were on sale every few meters. The most popular snacks were nikkumans, they were sold in all sizes, colors and with many different fillings cheap and expensive. A nikkuman is a steamed (usually white) bun with a filling, usually pork. It’s very similar to the Indonesian bapao (which actually has a Chinese origin too), but the Indonesian filling is different, tastier and therefore better. We tried several nikkumans, small ones, huge ones, and even pan-fried ones with sauce and onions, which were our favorite.

Take your pick of nikkuman

We did spent some time in the city part of Yokohama but that was just to find ourselves some dinner. Maybe if we’d spent some more time exploring that area, my opinion of Yokohama would have been very different, but right now it just feels like a pretty but unconscious place that needs a serious injection of life in order to become a vibrant city. But I also realize I’m probably one of very few, if not the only one, with this opinion. Perhaps I need to return sometime and check out more than just Minato Mirai and Chinatown.

Yasu had been craving ramen for more than a day, so now he was a happy man

It’s always great to spend time with Yasu, and I had a great time just enjoying the sunny weather in Yokohama and the various snacks in Chinatown. But unfortunately Yokohama has not made my favorite list, so I scratched it off the list of cities I’ll be visiting with my family when they visit Japan.

Windy kiss at the seashore in Yokohama Bay

Yasu is very busy with his work lately and the still significant distance between us in Japan makes every moment spend together special. Especially when it’s three whole days discovering new parts of Japan. I can’t wait to move to Osaka in two months and see him more frequently.


Abbie said...

Oh it's interesting to read about Yokohama! Even though I live pretty close by, I've never been. And, just like you, everyone always talks about how much they love it. Thanks for the tips - before I go I think I'll take a guide book out from the library.

Minke said...

I had the same feeling for Yokohama as you did, but not because of the stories, but because of the live recording of Bon Jovi in Yokohama in 1996;).
(degene hierboven heeft niet helemaal jouw gevoel bij de stad begrepen of wel?;)!)