This past week, Temple University was closed on Friday and Monday, giving students an extended four-day weekend. My friends and I used two of our four days off to travel Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan. Yokohama is only an hour and a half away from Tokyo and sits on the waterfront, a notable port city throughout Japan’s history.
My group of friends arrived in Yokohama on Sunday afternoon to explore Minato Mirai, a major business and shopping district in the city. We saw numerous ships docked in the harbor and the pale blue ocean stretching out towards the horizon. Minato Mirai wraps around a concave docking area, so we were able to see the ocean from several vantage points, as we strolled across oceanside bridges and over piers. Most notably, we climbed up Osanbashi pier, a large futuristic, metal and wooden structure with grand decks and outdoor staircases. We also visited the Red Brick Warehouses, historical buildings renovated as a high end shopping mall, theatre, and convention center.
A huge tourist attraction in Minato Mirai is the Cupnoodles Museum, dedicated to invention and growth of the Cup Noodle instant ramen brand. We saw timelines of the company, learned of the resourcefulness of Cup Noodle’s company founder, and sampled noodles from around the world. We were even able to make our own Cup Noodle cups, complete with unique toppings and permanent marker decorations.
We paid a visit to Cosmoworld, an amusement park in the center of the Minato Mirai area. During the day, the park seemed to contain only innocuous pastel-colored rides, but at night the park glowed with fluorescent electric energy. My friends and I made sure to ride the Cosmo Clock, a giant ferris wheel in the center of the park, with a giant digital clock at its center. The ferris wheel was so large, one rotation took fifteen minutes. From the top of the Cosmo Clock, we could see the entire city, lit up. Cars looked like crawling ants and small clusters of lit up boats slowly made their way across the pitch black sea.
My favorite place in Yokohama was Chinatown, roughly a fifteen minute walk from Minato Mirai. As someone of Chinese descent, I felt both relief and nostalgia as I recognized the food and atmosphere present in Yokohama’s Chinatown. The tacky linoleum floors, the greasy pan-fried food, the gold-trimmed red signs in doorways promising luck and wealth all seemed familiar to me. My friends and I ate family-style–sharing the same meal from several large dishes–at a Chinese restaurant and then bought cha siu bao (steamed or baked pork buns) and jian dui (fried rice flour balls with sesame seeds on the outside and red bean paste on the inside) from streetside vendors. Red lanterns lighted our way as we shuffled our way through the hot, crowded city streets back to the metropolitan Japan that waited outside of Chinatown’s gilded entrance.