Yesterday, I ended up going to Yokohama for the day.  It was my first visit to the area and I was wowed.  It’s absolutely beautiful, alternately reminding me of New York in parts, Paris in others, and even San Diego at times.  My friend, Moro-san, was my tour guide for the day, taking me absolutely everywhere.  We walked all day, from the moment Akemi dropped me off (she insisted on accompanying me for the 40 minute trip from Tokyo because she didn’t trust my metro-switching abilities) to our climb up the steep street to our eventual dinner destination.  Yes, we stopped for lunch, but it was a short reprieve.

Moro-san calls Yokohama home as do many who make the aforementioned 40-minute commute to Tokyo for work every day.  According to Akemi, much of the Tokyo workforce prefer the less costly option of living in the outlying area surrounding the city proper, something that is  referred to as “donuts kagensho”, aka “the donut situation”.  And, I have to admit, was weighing this fantasy option during my stroll through Yokohama.  Over the course of my day, I picked out a potential apartment building, a local supermarket, a dry-cleaner – even a prospective doggy daycare.

Akemi and I arrived thirty minutes in advance of the appointed meeting time so we headed up (and up and up) and out and checked out Yokohama’s famed Chinatown.

The streets of Yokohama’s Chinatown district.

The area is Panda-crazy, with all sorts of Panda-related merchandise for sale, from panda hats and slippers to panda pyjamas and oven mitts.
The Panda Store. Unfortunately, the one thing they didn’t have was the one thing I was looking for = panda cufflinks.
Even Kitty-chan gets in on the panda action.
Street vendors abound selling various delicious-smelling dim sum items.  In addition, there’s a guy/gal hard-selling roasted chestnuts every three paces.
Cha siu! Get yer cha siu bao’s here!
Crackhead Panda says: “Pssst. Hey, buddy, wanna buy some pork buns?”

Akemi grabs some lunch to-go.

I accompanied Akemi back down to the station where I saw her off, then awaited Moro-san’s arrival.  While cooling my heels, I checked out some of the advertised activities the area had to offer…

Like this one, a foot spa of sorts that involves dipping your feet in a tank so that hundreds of little “doctor fish” can nibble away the dead skin.  Enh, I think I’ll stick with the  Swedish massage.

Finally, camera-shy Moro-san arrived and we headed up (and up and up) and out once again for the grand walking tour.

First stop, Yamashita Park:

My future dog park.
A far cry from the hustle and bustle of crowded Tokyo.

Then, we headed back to Chinatown for a more thorough walking tour of the district:

The Hotel Oriental – located in the heart of Chinatown offers quick access to dim sum, fortune tellers, and panda-related wares.  Maybe cheaper than The Imperial.
We stopped for a Halloween-themed snack. I gave Moro-san the choice between sweet or spicy. She chose spicy – and, boy, was it ever. So much so that she teared up and had to stop for a drink.

We moved on and into the shopping district:

A Santa-themed heist. “Nothing to see hear, folks. Just delivering presents. Ho ho ho!”
Ronny takes a load off.

We then proceeded though the quaint, winding backstreets of Moro-san’s neighborhood:

We stopped off at Sakura, a tiny neighborhood ocha-ya (tea cafe). The owner was incredibly warm, stopping by to chat and gifting me a bag of green tea and cookies on my way out.

We had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Rega.  As we settled in, I complained about how hot it was.  I mean, I was really burning up.  As it turned out, it wasn’t me, it was my phone.  It had remained on camera mode since my last photo and the damn thing was sizzle-hot!  I turned it off and set it down on the table, hoping that would forestall any imminent explosion.  Fortunately, it did.  Unfortunately, the battery was almost completely drained.

We continued our stroll and I continued snapping pics until my phone died…

Wait, is that…?
Yeah, thought so.

The Hotel Suica (watermelon), so-named because – well – it looks like a watermelon slice.
Visit the Hall of Confiscated Contraband!

And that’s about when my battery tapped out.  After a full day’s walk, we sat down to a wonderful kaiseki dinner at a place called Chatubo.  The chef went to great lengths to achieve the autumn theme, featuring seasonal ingredients and decorating each dish with fall leaves and a sprinkling of fresh water with the shake of a matcha whisk to approximate the look of rainfall.

By the time we were done, I was exhausted.  I checked my phone, discovered it had reacquired enough power for me to check and respond to Akemi’s email, assuring her she didn’t have to come all the way to Yokohama to pick me up.  I was competent enough to brave the Tokyo subway on my own.  And I was – with the exception of the moment I got off at the wrong station and had to wait for the next train.

An early night meant another early wake-up.  6:30 a.m. for me.  Plenty of time to upload this entry, set my line-up for this weekend’s fantasy football league match (My Snow Monkeys take on Tebow Sucks and I’ve been deliberating over whether to start Dwayne Bowe as my WR2), and indulge in some in-room dining:

The matcha cookies from Sakura had a wonderfully intense green tea flavor. The chocolate moon cake from Chinatown, on the other hand, was a dry disappointment.

Today, we head to Naka-Meguro for lunch at my favorite pizza place, Pizza Seirinkan, and later tonight to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for Akemi’s first visit to The Molecular Tapas Bar.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has left kind messages for my sis.  The prognosis for her husky, Aspen, is not good and it looks like she’ll have to make the most difficult decision this weekend.

24 thoughts on “November 2, 2012: Tokyo Day #5! Actually, Yokohama Day #1!

  1. I’m so sorry to read about Aspen! Sending big hugs to your sister. At least your mom was spared that decision. How is your mom doing?

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your trip. It feels like I’m seeing Japan too. That was very brave taking the subway!

    I’m so thankful that our East Coasties survived the storm. We seem to get hit frequently with storms in Mississippi but we never get used to the personal tragedies. Watching the news during the last gulf hurricane (Irene?), some of people had lost homes multiple times! I can’t begin to image…..

    Anyway, keep having fun and thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Ah..memories of Chevron 7.7 this time last year..Torri Higginson in the hotel beauty parlour getting a pedicure whilst Musetta Vander had her feet “nibbled” by said Doctor Fish..they were all the rage in the UK a while back..didn’t seem to last though..

  3. P. S. they have a portable USB chargers so you can charge devices (phones) on the go. This from my teen who knows of such things 🙂 .

  4. I’m sorry to hear about Aspen. But the right decision is rarely easy. I find it somewhat ironic we take care to give our companions a gentle departure from pain and suffering, yet won’t allow two leg persons to make that kind of decision for themselves.
    So, already at the scoping out apartments and doggie parks, eh? If it makes you happy, I wish you well on the move. You can get earthquakes and tsunamis in Vancouver as easily as Yokohama or Tokyo, so there is nothing there to stop you. It will be interesting to see what the next few months bring in terms of your future.
    Thanks for sharing the pics. I also hope this means you may be willing to venture outside Tokyo proper in the future. My memories of some of the other sights and sounds of Japan are badly faded, but the fact that they were wondrous has not faded with time. Anyways, enjoy the rest of the trip!

  5. In the side creeks of the Grand Canyon, there are often little fish called Speckled Dace, which if you dip your feet in the water (in the case of my last trip, to keep cool) they will nibble your feet just like the ones at that spa. On my recent trip there, one (obviously particularly large) took a good nip at my big toe that had me jump out of the water!

    All that touring and eating, you must be exhausted. Are you guys planning any “down” days, where you just relax and take it easy?

    So sorry to hear about Aspen. All the best to your Sis and everyone who is in his family.

    I did take Bart (the lovebird) to the vet today and despite my fears it seems that the main issue is she has a bit of a sinus infection.

  6. So sorry for your sister.

    There’s a lake not far from my town up here in New-Brunswick. (Lac Nictau) When we stay still in the water, little fishies come to us and nibble on our feet. It’s actually quite fun. They tickle and they’re cute.

  7. Aspen: 🙁 (hugs)

    “(she insisted on accompanying me for the 40 minute trip from Tokyo because she didn’t trust my metro-switching abilities).”

    One of many reasons to propose to Akemi. 🙂

    Cool pics, Thanks.

  8. So sorry to hear about Aspen.

    From what you wrote, that area reminds me of parts of San Francisco, too, in that you can get to a full variety of places on foot, yet you can still find areas that aren’t claustrophobic if that’s what you’re looking for, or be face to face with the locals if that’s your speed. If I had to live in such a populated area, I think that area’s something I could handle.

  9. My sympathy to Sis and Aspen. Sorry he is not doing so well.

    Joe – no Curry Museum? I’m so glad you did some sight-seeing! And walking (besides to and from meal destinations). I was just reading a manga where they rode the big ferris wheel in Yokohama and then went to China Town!

  10. Sounds like you are having lots of fun and eats–it’s great how the Japanese take such care presenting the food.

    So sorry about your sister’s lovely Aspen (such a gorgeous face and expression). We had Bilo in at the vet’s this week for a recheck and the vet was shocked at how well he looks and behaves–the tumour is definitely growing but not at the rate he expected, so it looks like we may have gained a month or more with my bestest pal. I really really can feel for your sister.

    On a lighter note, I saw a pug and a French bulldog dressed up as hot dogs–would you do that to your gang? 🙂

  11. nice! sounds like you had a good time!
    (i think the watermelon hotel is called Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel tho…! lol)
    Did you see some total weirdo (old guy) in Chinatown on a bicycle with a doll’s head on his helmet? all while wearing the traditional Chinese dress??

  12. I’m so sorry to hear about poor Aspen. My thoughts are with him, and {{HUGS}} for Sis for too soon having to make such a sad decision.

  13. Further re portable chargers: I picked one up last month at a Burnaby Future Shop, brand name MyCharge, about $50 CAD. Good investment.

    Disney travelogue: We go home today. Beth B & I have had great fun, and she’s taken many great photos. Hoping I got a few decent ones on a disposable film camera.

  14. Great pics Joe. Thanks for our virtual visit to Japan.

    So sorry to hear about Aspen. I’m keeping him and Sis in my thoughts.

    Some people from my Jeep crew and I are headed up into the war zone tomorrow to bring much needed generators, gas, water and non-perishables to some of our friends in the Brick & Toms River, NJ area so devastated by Sandy.

    Wish us luck. Apparently shit has hit the fan in a big way up there.

  15. @JimFromJersey: Watch it, you might not be able to help if you’re non-union! Did you read about that crap?

  16. Do very many people use bicycles? Ever thought about renting one? They would be good exercise too and think how far you could go in one day! You could park it out front of wherever you stopped.

    If you move to Tokyo or Yokohama, would it be possible to get the dogs there via a cruise ship? If flying would be too difficult, go by ship.

    If you are thinking about getting a new camera, aren’t you in the perfect place to pick one up? Seems like since Japan makes them, they would be pretty inexpensive.

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip!

    My heart goes out to your sister. With my last dog, I had a final weekend with her like what Andria is going through. Very, very sad time.

  17. My mother and I send prayers for Aspen and your sis. We know how hard this choice will be as do you and other members of your family. As my mom says: “Puppies take hold of your heart as all pets do.”

  18. I love Yokohama! Chinatown was a favorite haunt, I still use the delightful noodle bowls I purchased there twenty years ago. Missed out on the ferris wheel, before my time. The silk museum was cool, but then, I’m a geek for such things. Mom liked the doll museum.

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