Since this was a wacky winter of death in Japan some of the things near the end of the tour were not feasible because the roads were closed, Kimi-San contacted the main branch of the tourist company and found us other things to do. One of those things was going to Yokohama, a large city near Tokyo. Tokyo has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, so many commuters who work in Tokyo live in Yokohama. It’s a major port city so we went to the docks where some of the uninhabited warehouses near the water have been turned into shops and restaurants, not unlike the Chelsea Market or the piers in Manhattan. Yokohama is often referred to as the San Francisco of Japan, and this picture shows why.
At the docks we saw the ocean liner Hikawa Maru. She was built in the late 1920s and sailed from Japan to Seattle. A ticket cost $12,000 then, so I can’t even imagine how much it would cost now. During WWII she was used as a floating hospital but now all her inner workings have been removed and she is permanently docked in Yokohama as a museum. It was sort of like seeing the Japanese Titanic. One of my favorite things about seeing the ship was the seagulls on the chain. Each one had his or her own link.
After walking through the former warehouse / now restaurants and markets (where I got a spectacular piece of kanzashi that looks like this), we went to the Yokohama Chinatown. It’s about 150 years old and what surprised me most about it was how immaculate it was. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New York’s Chinatown but grossness pervades, mainly due to the fish markets and the stank water that runs from them. This place was sparkling clean, just like everywhere else in Japan.
The Japan are completely enthralled by anything cute (or “kawaii”) and China has pandas which are cute. Therefore the Chinatown is slathered in panda-ness. This was the entrance to one store.
This was inside of a typical store. The devotion to kawaii is to be commended.
Unrelated: We are really slacking on the cuteness. The Japanese have stickers that not only have adorable little characters on them, but they have glitter snow globes built in. Step it up, USA.
Back to Chinatown. There were restaurants everywhere. Now, I love soup dumplings but I’ve pretty much only eaten pork soup dumplings or crab soup dumplings, which are basically pork soup dumplings with a sprinkling of crab on top. Check this out. If I hadn’t just eaten I would have gone into this place and tried that sampler pack on the top. I don’t know what’s in them, but they look freaking delicious.
Not everything in Chinatown was happy and beautiful. There was this bizarre window decoration.
I sang “Oh, we’ree gonna have a crustacean Christmas!” in a Cotton-Eyed-Joe voice periodically for the rest of the day, occasionally with some square-dancing moves to add color. The Moomins was not impressed.
And this nightmare fuel was in a glass box outside of a store.
Ummm, where’s his face? Has everyone seen Hellboy? There’s a character who cuts off his lips and eyelids because he has body dysmorphia and goshdarnit if this doesn’t look like the Japanese version of him. So, long story short, horrifying.
After visiting Yokohama we went to the Tokyo Tower. It’s modeled after the Eiffel Tower. It’s primary uses are for tourists to go take in the view and as an antenna for several TV stations. Fun fact: in the middle of building it, Japan realized they were out of metal, but America was selling a bunch of stuff from the Korean War, tanks and ships and such. The Japanese bought it and used the metal to finish the last third. It’s painted orange and white so planes don’t smack into it.
And it has a weird little conehead mascot who is sometimes wearing a band-aid on his extended noggin.
Look at the cute Tokyo Tower road cones they have!
The view wasn’t spectacular because Tokyo is built to be functional. It is an expansive city though.
Japan is extremely blind-person-friendly. This I found confusing: since the viewing platform is a circle you get a 360-degree view of the city, and there are little plaques telling you what you’re looking at in that direction. Here’s on for the blind to tell them that they are looking at Mt. Fuji. Except they’re not. Because they’re blind. I mean, it’s thoughtful, but I think a little useless to them.
Something that took me a while to figure out are the grill-type tiles on all the sidewalks and in a lot of buildings. I originally thought they were a way to help bicyclists or something, but I found out later that blind people follow them with their feet and it points them in the right direction and guides them. THAT, that is ingenious.
There was a shrine at the Tokyo Tower. When I say shines are everywhere, I mean it.
As with most scenic skyscraper places, this had a small portion of the floor covered with glass so you could look down at the ground.
After visiting the Tokyo Tower, which is in a fairly touristy part of town, we went to a gigantor ferris wheel. It’s like the one in London where it never stops, you just slide into a pod as it slowly goes by. It take 12 minutes to make one complete revolution. Due to my complete lack of bravery, I declined to ride on it.
Oh, there’s a completely clear one? NOOOOOOO.
In the adjacent building was the Toyota prototype building where you could go in and see the newest models of their cars.
In there was a car completely covered in denim. It had rivets on it and everything. I don’t know why. I just chalk it up to Japan bein’ all Japan. That was my answer for a lot of things.
Off of the Toyota dealership was a mall with a store dedicated to Hello Kitty. It was the pinkest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
In case you don’t think the Japanese worship Hello Kitty, I present you with this:
And I know it says “Happy White Day!” at the bottom there. This is not a racist thing. It’s what the Japanese call the day one month after Valentine’s Day (March 14). On Valentine’s Day the women give men handmade chocolates, and on White Day the men give women chocolates. It was started in the 1970s by the confectionery industry.
In keeping with the previous chocolate theme, this was a chocolate sculpture in the entrance hall of a department store. It was based on Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
And a drink that could either taste delicious or horrid. I only saw this sign in passing and didn’t have time to try it.
And a sign on the highway going in Tokyo showing the traffic tie-ups in real time.