Today I poked my nose outside Tokyo and went to Yokohama! I had to ask for directions to three people in each station I transferred to, and all went smoothly until the lady at Yokohama Station and I hit a dead end on my pronunciation of Tourist Office (I needed a map). “Tourist Office” “Nani?” “Tourist Office” “…?” “I need a map” “Aaaah, Tourist Office!”. Well, everybody’s a critic!
Apparently there had been an accident of some sort with the local trains, so I couldn’t transfer and had to walk across the MinatoMirai 21 District. It reminded me so strongly of Canary Wharf that I half-expected English bankers to start pouring out of the skyscrapers in any minute. Like the Docklands the few times I’ve visited, it was eerily empty, with wide, cold, traffic-less avenues between the huge glass buildings. Since the few people who were outside this morning were often wearing masks, the whole thing had a very 28 Days Later vibe. And like La Défense, if we’re comparing outskirty business districts, it also has a massive shopping mall for all the people that apparently visit when I’m not there…
I eventually made my way to the Landmark, the tallest tower in Japan, equipped with the fastest elevator (I read my brochures). It has an observatory occupying all of the 69th floor with a commanding view of the bay in which Commodore Perry parked his fleet before Japan opened up to the world. On a clear day, you can apparently see Mt. Fuji in the distance (today wasn’t that clear!). From up there I saw the amusement park that sits on one of the -I believe reclaimed- islands, like a tiny Japanese Coney Island, I guess. There was also an old Western ship turned museum docked right below the tower.
After stopping for lunch (I ran into another tourist for the first time today and we were so surprised we said “Hi”) and carefully considering whether I was stepping into a zombie invasion, I decided to brave it anyway and go to Yokohama’s Chinatown. Fortunately, what I found was one of the liveliest Chinatowns I’ve ever been to. This one is a very defined neighbourhood delimited by several ornate gates, with a few main streets laid out in a grid. It was absolutely packed (practically all Japanese), lots of restaurants and food stores, lots of souvenir shops, lots of people going in and out, and there were even a couple of genuinely interesting stores among all the touristy stuff -although even the touristy stuff was entertaining, due to the ridiculously high concentration of pandas! Pandas everywhere!
I also found two beautiful and colourful Chinese shrines. They were a welcome oasis of peace in the middle of all the bustle.
Afterwards I made a tired, half-hearted attempt to walk along the Yamashita Park nearby, on the waterfront, but the cold wind quickly discouraged me and I headed back to the nearest JR station.