Friday, May 2, 2008

Yokohama Chinatown

Being a football enthusiastic, Yokohama will always remind me of the football World Cup final between Brazil and Germany held six years ago in the centre of this city. With a population of over three million people, Yokohama is Japan's second largest city. It is located less than 30 minutes south of Tokyo by train, and is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture. I have always wanted to visit this city ever since I came to Japan more than a year ago, much more when I am living in a place separated quite a distance from the capital. I made sure Yokohama to be included as one of my stop in my trip this time.
The day started rather early for me as I set off as early as six in the morning. Fortunately, the weather was not too cold or windy and soon enough, the sun rose to mark a new day in the spring. Bearing in mind that it was still a tad early for any shops or tourist spots to start their business, I decided to wander around the city and the first stop I got to was Yokohama Stadium.

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Yokohama Stadium - the design has some resemblance to Stadium Merdeka.
Taking a first glance at this stadium made me thinking that it was the stadium that hosted the final match of the World Cup. However, I later realised that I was completely mistaken about the stadium. There is another stadium, with a more modern design called International Stadium Yokohama situated at a different section of the city. That is the one that hosted the final game.
The original site of this stadium used to be a park called Higa Kouen which was built in 1874 as a cricket ground and by 1986, it was started to be used as a baseball stadium. In 1929, it was officially refurbished as a baseball stadium. It survived the war, but after the end of the World War 2, it was requisitioned by the United States. It was returned to Japan in 1952, but the facility became quite old and was partly closed because of the dangerous seats. In 1977, the old stadium was demolished and the present stadium was newly built.

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How Yokohama turned itself from being a canal city into a harbour city.
Towards the end of the Edo Period (1603-1867), during which Japan isolated herself from the rest of the world, Western nations forced the country to open its ports to foreign trade. In 1859, Yokohama's port became one of the first ports to be opened; attracting many foreign business people and Yokohama quickly grew from a small fishing village into one of Japan's major cities. While Chinese traders settled down in Chinatown, Western business people favoured the Yamate area just across the Horikawa River for their residence.
I was on my way to Yokohama's Chinatown and since I still had a plenty of time to spare, I took a detour and spend some time over at Motomachi, which lies at the foot of the Yamate hill. It features the very popular and fashionable Motomachi Shopping Street which used to be a shopping area for the foreign community of Yamate. A significant amount of European touch is still apparent on most of the buildings in this area. However, as I had mentioned earlier, it was still early in the morning and most of the shops and restaurants have yet to open their business.

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Motomachi Shopping Street.
At one secluded part of Motomachi lies Itsukushima Shrine on a hillock.

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In 1869, the shrine had been moved from Miyajima, the island of original Yokohama Village, which is built with the famous Red Gate also known as Torii. Up the steps, there is the main shrine and the Koutaijingu is on the left, while further left is the Kotohira shrine.
My next destination was Yokohama's Chinatown which is one of the world's largest, located just a stone throw away from Motomachi. Also known as Yokohama Chukagai among the Japanese, it is the largest Chinatown in Japan. After the port of Yokohama started to open its trade to foreign trade in 1859, Yokohama Chinatown went through a rapid development. It became the residence of the many Chinese traders who settled down in the city. Today, a large number of Chinese stores and restaurants can be found in the narrow and colourful streets of Chinatown, while the number of actual residents has been decreasing. Various events and festivals are held in Yokohama Chinatown, such as Chinese New Year around the beginning of February.
As I have nothing much to talk about Chinatown, I will allow the pictures with some short captions to do the talking. Besides, I am quite sure that most people will just skipped the text part and merely look at the pictures most of the time.

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One of the four colourful gates stand at the entrances to Chinatown. Five more gates can be found within.

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関帝廟(Kanteibyo) is a gaudily coloured temple in the centre of Chinatown. Constructed in 1873 by Chinese residents, it is dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.

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There are two main temples in Yokohama Chinatown. This is the second one.

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The front view of the temple. I was actually the first person to enter the temple that day because I have reached the Chinatown quite early in the morning and I just waited for it to open its door. As a reward, I was given a packet of ang pau, and I am bluffing on that.

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The wall and ceiling of the interior of the temple is heavily decorated with beautiful golden wooden carvings which beats most of the temples in Malaysia.

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But the down point is, you have to pay to enter the temple. That uncle in red shirt told me about that when I was about to step into the temple.

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They also have a tree, and even a boat to tie lucky paper charms on. But white doesn't bring much luck among the Chinese, hence is the excessive use of red ribbons.

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A shop selling everything related to Hello Kitty in Daska, a recent addition to Yokohama Chinatown that promotes itself as a food theme park.

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Daska's theme is the Shanghai of the 1920s, and their main attractions are three floors of food stands, some operated by well-known restaurants from China and Japan, selling various Chinese dishes.

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Cute birdcages hanging at the food court, that doesn't look like one at all. Of course they were fake birds but the soft ambient lighting makes the place having so many similarities with our kopitiam. I felt as if I'd travel several decades back.

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This is quite common to be seen back home. It's written down there as Flower Characters in Japanese, Dragon Balsam Characters in Chinese. Interesting names indeed.

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This guy only uses a simple tool which looked like a screwdriver and create detailed artwork on granite pieces. The trick to make each picture visible is to leave different distance of gaps on the holes made on the granite. Some nicer and more expensive ones come in colours.

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Another type of paper art which was not my first-time seeing it. That man claimed that all the paper arts are hand-cut and no machines were used. If his words are true, then I am impressed with some of them which have very fine and detailed shapes and patterns.

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To cater shopaholic girls, there are a variety of shops selling clothes, mostly traditional outfits like cheongsam. However, the price are quite expensive.

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My first time coming across lion and dragon head in Japan. Damn jakun, right? They are hanged around the staircase in Daska.

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One of the main streets in Yokohama Chinatown when noon was approaching.

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Shops along the street selling clothes, mostly made in China goods I suppose. I never really went to check out on these stuffs.

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Groceries stuff which you can hardly find it elsewhere in Japan. One of them which I saw was the salted vegetable which is red in colour and usually cook with some pork bones as a kind of soup. Anyone has any idea what I am talking here?

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Shops selling cooking utensils used when preparing Chinese dishes. On the right are those round bamboo containers that can be stacked, usually used for steaming pau and dim sum.

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Something like this. But this lady has a much bigger one and just look at the size of the siew moi. Damn big until can chocked myself.

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Pau that come in a huge variety of fillings. But I still reckon that our pau back home taste much better.

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Something Pinkpau would love very much - panda pau. You just cannot run away from the kawaiism influence when you are in Japan.

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I am not sure the exact name for this nut, but they are everywhere in Yokohama Chinatown. These vendors will just approach you and give you some nuts to try on when you walk pass their stalls.

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The nut was juicy and sweet, but I didn't because I am damn stingy to get one packet of the nuts I just had to walk around and by the time I completed one full round inside the Chinatown, I have had too much of this nut already.

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How Chinatown looks like when night comes around.

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The majority of the signboards are so glittery decorated with golden letters and it made me thinking that I was in downtown Beijing or Hong Kong.

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The main gate to the Chinatown at night. Notice that corner lot selling the nuts was still operating. In other words, they just sell nuts whole day long.
But one thing I heart most about Yokohama Chinatown is without a doubt, their food. I just need to go to one shop to enjoy everything Chinatown has to offer.

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回転飲茶 (Kaitenyamucha) is actually a lunch buffet and this restaurant operates using the concept of kaitenzushi restaurant. The great thing about this restaurant is that they serve their food in small portion and you will be able to get to try most of the dishes there. It ranges from dim sum, fried stuff, soups, noodles, desserts and many more. All come at a flat rate of only 1,260yen (RM40) and although there is a time limit of one hour, I guess the time is more than enough t enjoy a worthy meal in Yokohama Chinatown.
Here are among the food I had in just one restaurant.

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One of my favourite dish is the right one on the second row. It is a mixture between several types of vegetables like leeks, onions, capsicums, and mushroom with cashew nuts. I was too full then to down a second plate of that dish.

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I know it made me looked like I am so glutton that day, but they are actually served in small plates and so, the amount is not justified by the pictures. That was the end of my trip to Chinatown but I didn't return as an old Chinaman, which is a good thing I guess.

16 comments:

kh said...

oh ya.. i learnt that in geography also ... i mean the canal to port thing...

anyway... eeeyerrr... your nails...

amalina said...

As I have nothing much to talk about Chinatown, I will allow the pictures with some short captions to do the talking. Besides, I am quite sure that most people will just skipped the text part and merely look at the pictures most of the time


sono toori desu wa~~
tu buah berangan aka kuri in nihongo rite?

ns29 said...

what the f***..


what the FOOD.....

i want i want i want i want i want

Innocent^^Guy said...

I feel so ashame for Australia's chinatown la after seeing urs...haha

Btw, why your nut seller looks so lame wan. I was expecting something like Taiwan's betel nut seller....hehe

calvin said...

@ kok hong:
does that tell me that you are taking geography at the moment?

what's wrong with my nails, besides having zillion of bacteria resting on it?

calvin said...

@ amalina:
it is quite hard to hear that, but i know that happens most of the time. anyway, you are right. chestnut is called kuri in japanese =D

calvin said...

@ ns29:
wow, a girl like you is cursing so openly? o.O

calvin said...

@ innocent^^guy:
well, yokohama chinatown is not known as one of the biggest chinatown in the world for nothing. at least it got the praise it fully deserves from someone like you =P

the picture of the vendor selling chestnuts that i showed was from a big restaurant. there are many others who set up small stalls along the street like our pasar malam or like you said, taiwan's nut seller within the area as well.

michelleg said...

tht's buah berangan!! suppose to eat without skin. damn nice. lol. malaysia also selling that everywhere.

so nice the chinese food!! lemon chicken.. etc etc.. *drools*

specialhuman said...

I think the red salted vege u meant is 四川菜? The soup taste sour and a bit spicy?

Well the food looks so nice. I wonder if someday someone would invent something that could record the taste or smell and send it tru internet.

Or just invent teleportation instead.

lol!

TZ said...

I heard the china town @ Yokohama is one of the best china town in the world... you could gets lots of Chinese food...

I went to Tokyo but did not managed to dropped the Yokohama China town. Anyway, would like to pay a visit to Yokohama on my next trip to Tokyo :->

calvin said...

@ michelleg:
yes, but of course i was not that dumb to eat the berangan together with its skin =P

calvin said...

@ specialhuman:
i am not sure about its name in chinese, but i think you got the vege i meant.

if that is possible, i will be the first one to purchase it and i will get to have roti canai for breakfast every morning. doraemon should have some idea on this =D

calvin said...

@ tz:
i have not been to the other chinatowns in other parts of the world, but i reckon yokohama's chinatown would be among the top one.

you ought to pay a visit to the chinatown because personally, i think that a visit to yokohama would not be complete without going to the chinatown :)

KOKahKOK said...

zilion of bacteria haha.....your kuku got black black le...hehe

eh nice place leh....next time i go i wan to visit here.....looks great! hehe

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
kuku sounds ambiguous. you mean my fingernails and not the other one, right? =P

yup, you will never regret visiting the chinatown in yokohama.