November 2, 2012: Tokyo Day #5! Actually, Yokohama Day #1!

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.