Yokohama: 横浜

So, today turned out to be quite the surprise. I was expecting to simply return  home after school, as I’ve really been feeling like I need a day to just rest without any activities, but Nicky had made plans to visit with her friend Lisa whom she met in Canada over a year ago. The original plan was that Lisa would come over from Yokohama to go to an onsen with Nicky, but by the time I had gotten out of class, it happened to be that Nicky had gone to Yokohama herself... being that Yokohama sounded far more entertaining than an onsen and that I didn’t want to miss the one chance we’d probably get to see Lisa and explore Yokohama with a guide, I ignored the fact that I was tired and hoped on a train to meet them at Yokohama station.

I’m so glad that I did. My first impression of Yokohama is that it is far prettier than Tokyo, friendlier, and the weather is much more temperate, being that Yokohama is right on the bay. I scarfed down my lunch after getting off the train, and almost instantly we were in a cab heading for “Cosmic Road,” a theme park nestled in the cusp of the city. Cabs in Japan are far fancier than they are in the bay area... the taxi drivers all wear formal suits, white gloves and a majority of the cabs have lace dollies on their seats.  Also, cabs are cheaper than driving in Japan, since you don’t have to pay the parking and gas fees, though the flat fare fee for flagging down a cab is seven dollars here.... yikes!

Cosmic Road was amazingly fun- Nicky and I went on so many rides, and went through a kind of ridiculously corny haunted house (for Japan’s obsession with ghosts and horror, I would expect their haunted houses to be scarier...), all of which Lisa insisted on paying for, which was pretty insane. Honestly, we really tried to pay, since the park is set up with pay-per-ride instead of with general admission, but she wasn’t having any of it. Eventually, I relented and accepted her generosity~ the park was so much fun- especially the Mouse, which pretty much was a ride that was on a track narrower than the cart, and turned at such sharp angles and speeds that you were certain you were going to go flying into the Yokohama skyline. Also, the views of the city from the top of the rollercoasters were beautiful, for as long as you could focus on them, hehe.

After we’d had our fill of the amusement park, we headed towards the bay to see the “old brick house” which is Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse. The buildings used to be used as customs houses pre-WWII, and after the U.S. returned permits to Yokohama, they were converted into a shopping mall. I liked the area, as the breeze was really cool coming off the bay, and when we were walking towards a nearby park, we saw an awesome orange stingray and jumping fish. I also tried out my small camera’s panorama function, which you can see above- a handy setting!

Though I can’t remember the name of the park we visited nearby, it had an old Japanese vessel docked permanently there. The Hikawa Maru is the last surviving ship of three in a set of ocean liners named after important shinto shrines of Japan that house the three treasures of Susanaoo. The ship was huge, and apparently is now a permanent youth hostel, if anyone is interested in staying in Yokohama while they’re in Japan. (EDIT: the hostel closed in 1973, unfortunately!)

After we explored the park a bit, we walked to Yokohama’s Chinatown, which honestly, starkly contrasts everything I’ve seen in Japan so far. In terms of color, Japan seems to favor natural colors in its buildings and shrines, but the moment we set foot into Chinatown, we were surrounded  with every color of the rainbow, particularly gold and red. The temples had an insane amount of detail on them (pictures in the gallery). I’m sort of divided from being impressed by the style, and being overwhelmed by how busy it was. In any case, it was nice to see such a stark contrast between the two cultures, at least in how it was presented there.

Lisa bought us some steamed pork buns for dinner, and then we grabbed another cab to go to her apartment to chill for a while. Nicky fell in love with Lisa’s soft-bead pillow and “lily pad carpet” and I in general enjoyed the air conditioning. However, since I have a test tomorrow, we called it a night after thirty minutes or so and made our way back to Tokyo. I’m looking forward to attending Lisa’s wedding on Halloween, and having a bit of time to explore Yokohama again...