Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An Outing To Yokohama Chinatown

"Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown"

Chinatown (1974)



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The magnificent main gate of Yokohama Chinatown, upon exiting the Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minato Mirai Line.

It is fast becoming like a monthly thing to organise an outing among my colleagues. Although most from the group are Japanese, not all of them come from Tokyo and some come from as far as Hokkaido and Nagasaki in Kyushu island. So, Tokyo to them, is kinda a new place that sometimes, foreigners like us know them much better haha!

After the zoo outing and futsal game held in April and May, this time we decided to go to somewhere outside Tokyo. Our destination was to Yokohama Chinatown in Kanagawa Prefecture. This last and only time I was here was exactly four years ago and obviously, I was kinda excited to visit this place again.

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Despite early worries about the unpredictable weather, it was cloudy and sunny which was perfect for our outing.

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The main street which was crowded with local Japanese and tourists.
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Another one of the four colourful main gates in Yokohama Chinatown.

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A signboard to prevent vehicles from entering the main street on weekends.

Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown not only in Japan (there are two other Chinatowns in Japan in Kobe and Nagasaki) but also in Asia, and it is one of the largest in the world. There are over 250 Chinese-owned restaurants alone scattered around the narrow and colourful streets in this district, excluding other shops selling souvenirs and goods.

The plan to visit Yokohama Chinatown, or more commonly known as Yokohama Chukagai (横浜中華街) among the Japanese, was brought up quite some time ago, among the four of us from my company. Not much planning was made to be honest, we just picked a day in which everyone was free. In the end, we went there in five; Enomoto from another company, who went to the same job training center joined us as well.

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Peking Little Street (北京小路), with little restaurants lining on both sides of the narrow street.

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One of the few Chinese temples in the Chinatown district.

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A souvenir and gift shop selling mostly Japanese orientated stuff in the middle of the Chinatown.

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A fortune-telling shop, which is also for ladies to discuss about their marriage and stuff.

The main attraction of Yokohama Chinatown is none other than its Chinese cuisine offered at its many restaurants and food stands. As there are many restaurants here to choose from, one will surely split for choice. A safe bet might be to choose the ones with photos of famous Japanese celebrities in the window. Here in Japan, whenever celebrities dine at their restaurants, they are often pestered for photos and signatures which will be displayed in the window.

Alternatively, another option is to go to the restaurants with a lot of people lining up outside. It is something like a chain reaction. Whenever you see a lot of people lining up for its food, it will make people think that the food must be delicious, which unfortunately, not necessary the case each time.

In traditional Japan, it is considered impolite to eat while walking at the same time. Come to think of it, I guess this is due to practical and philosophical reasons. Practical, in order not to spill food on passing pedestrians. Philosophical, in that you should show respect towards food, i.e. properly sit down and enjoy the food without distraction or doing something different at the same time. However, this prohibition does not exist in Yokohama Chinatown. In fact, it is a common thing to see the local Japanese and tourists alike, enjoy their food while strolling along the streets of the Chinatown.

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Champion steamed bun shop. Saw not less than five of these inside the Chinatown.

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The four words (中華料理) on the left reads "chuka ryori", which means Chinese food.

There are tons of Chinese food places here known as "chuka-ryori" (中華料理) or Chinese food. However, the taste of the Chinese food in Japan are generally modified to cater the Japanese taste bud. It doesn't mean this modified version tastes bad; it just tastes different. The Chinese food in Yokohama Chinatown however, has been less modified.

Popular favorites include steam buns (manju), sweet chestnut (amaguri), ramen noodles and a wide array of other Chinese dishes. The most popular course is the lunch buffet course, where you can eat all you want. The most common price is 1,980yen for 128 kinds of dishes. Some restaurants have time limit, some don't. There are also some which comes under a cheaper range which is about 1,680yen to 1,740yen.

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Steamed buns, or also known as nikuman (肉饅) in Japanese.

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Sweet chestnut. There are tons of stalls selling this along the street, and most of them offer free samples for the visitors to taste.

There was one funny incident when we were wandering around, in hunt for a place to have our lunch. One Chinese lady approached us and handed a flyer of her restaurant. Her competitors from other restaurants, obviously discontented on the fact that she tried to grab business from them in an unfair way, had some heated word exchanges in Chinese. It went something like this: 

"I thought we had agreed to stand in one line at the same place, and yet you just went to grab your customers like that? Are you trying to grab business from us??!"

And that business grabber replied them in a super lansi way: "Yes, exactly! Why, you tak syiok isit now??!"

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A group of costplay members posing in front of the 関帝廟(Kanteibyo) temple, a gaudily coloured temple dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.

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We stopped by the Yamashita Park and saw this group of performers gathered here. We guessed that there could be some festival on.

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Suzuki and Samitha, posing for the camera.

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Enomoto and Sato. Haha, Sato looks so dark here and doesn't look like Japanese at all, does he?

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A group photo using the same technique we discovered from our Ginza dinner recently haha!

And guess what? They still continued to shout at each other even after we walked away lol! My Japanese friends were curious what were they shouting about, and when I explained the whole situation to them, everyone ended up laughing haha! That certainly was a one of a kind experience at Yokohama Chinatown.

By the time we walked through the main street, it was time to feed our hungry stomach. Instead of choosing a restaurant with long lines, we did the opposite, to save time. We spent more than an hour inside eating and chatting at the same time, sharing gossips from the training center. Even only after two months, there are already so much of politics happening around. But well, I guess this is very common and bound to happen anyway.

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Here comes the opera performers to kickoff the parade.

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As these opera performers stood on stilts, Suzuki was laughing at me because for the first time, I have to "look up at others" haha wtf!

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I guess they use Nippon Paint to paint their faces haha!

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As I was snapping away, this lady holding a pink umbrella stopped and posed for my camera. I had no choice but to take her photos, 
and later smile to her as an acknowledgement.

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Balancing a flower pot on his head. He makes it look as if the pot is weightless!

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Mischievous monkey who was very cheeky when interacting with the visitors.

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Traditional dance performed by students of a local school, who was fully dressed up in beautiful costumes.

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Lion dance. I loved these so much when I was small that I had two mini versions at home.

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Some of the performers didn't miss from camwhoring among themselves halfway through the parade haha wtf!

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Another rojak group. Not sure what group is this, but I saw a cat in front haha!

Suzuki said that although we talked like non-stop during the lunch, she was pretty sure that once we were done, all will become quite. You know why? That's because we'd have eaten too much and too exhausted to utter any words anymore haha wtf!

We decided to walk around the Chinatown for a second round after our lunch. Then, it appeared that a carnival was gonna begin along the main street. We wasn't sure what event it was, but nevertheless we just stood by the walkway, in anticipating for what's coming soon.

From a quick research, it was the 153rd anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port. The festival is known as the Central Town Festival and is part of a recently introduced celebration towards the 200th anniversary of Yokohama Port in year 2059. The festival is held on June 2nd and 3rd each year, with the main attraction being the celebration parade. Besides the usual traditional Chinese lion dances, the parade is also participated by dancers and musicians from various countries.

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 Another young dancers group.

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This orange lion is damn gatal. It keeps rubbing its back on the visitors lol! 

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After finishing his rubbing session, the orange lion feels that he should be doing what the pink lion is doing.

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Feeling kiasu both of them form a twin tower in front of a restaurant haha!

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This is my first time seeing lion dance in Japan, after more than five years here and I was super excited haha!

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This lady will surely be a nuisance if she tries to hop onto a train with her super wide dress lol!

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The final group was comprised of 34 colourful Brazilian samba dancers.

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They say save the best for the last, and this samba group certainly gained the most attention from the visitors.

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The band that accompanied the samba dancers, completing the parade which was participated by 143 participants in total. 
Their costume is so pink, they look as if they are celebrating World's Breast Cancer Day lol!

We were certainly lucky to be at the right place at the right time because we didn't know there was this festival at Yokohama Chinatown on the day we were there. Talking about perfect timing, this is a very good example.

So, that's all about our outing to Yokohama Chinatown. On our way back to the station, we already started discussing about the plan for the next outing. There are already a couple of suggestions and we shall see where it will take us in a few weeks' time. I am starting to believe that this is slowly turning into a mini weekend vacations around Japan, and who knows one day we might end up having an oversea trip.

Malaysia is certainly not a bad choice at all!

7 comments:

DT said...

After learning japanese language ... Do u notice that quite a lot of japanese word haf very close sound to hokkien? Just like the Kanteibyo mentioned in ur post... Sound like the hokkien version of kuantehbeow ... so many similar hoh.....?

calvin said...

@ dt:
yup! i've actually realised it long time ago when i started learning japanese. words such as "denwa" (電話), and numbers from 1 to 10 - "ichi", "ni", "san", "shi", "go", "roku", "shichi", "hachi", "kyu", "jyu".

Very similar to Hokkien, right? =D

DT said...

I read some theory that hokkien use to be the common language during tang dynasy which is when hokkien influence spread to japan and korea... Then after the tang dynasty felled... The the hokkien speaking ppl flee the northern states and concentrated now in fujian ... Dunno how ttrue issit but i guess it is plausible...

DT said...

Well at least easier for us hokkien speaking ppl to learn japanese language :)

calvin said...

@ dt:
wow, where did you read that from? sounds interesting and there is every possibility that that was what happened once upon a time.

perhaps i should try speaking hokkien to the old granpas and granmas here and see if they understand me lol!

imagine how would it be if hokkien is more widely spoken than mandarin or cantonese in the world. sounds so cool!

(^.^;b

DT said...

There are load of such rumours online... Here are some links. http://clconquers.blogspot.com/2009/02/im-proud-to-be-hokkien-lang.html

calvin said...

@ dt:
that is a very good and interesting read.thanks a lot! (^.^;p