Saturday, April 15: This morning, I head for Yokohama at around 10 a.m., taking the JR Yokohama Green Line to Sakuragicho Station, then changing to the Negishi Line for Ishikawacho Station. When I ride my bike to park at Fuchinobe Station, I find an attendant there charging 100 yen to park: I guess it’s only free on Sundays. Oh well, 100 yen is hardly going to bankrupt me.
It is easy to find the beginning of Walking Tour 20 (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City) at Chinatown’s Nishimon-dori (West Gate Street), as it’s right outside the station and there are signs pointing the direction. The 11:15 start to my walk is later than I intended. Little do I know I’ll end up walking over 10 miles today, from the south of Yokohama to the north, all along Yokohama Bay and in and out on a circuitous route through the city streets.
Yokohama’s Chinatown, or Chūkagai, is the largest of three Chinatowns in Japan, followed by Nagasaki and Kobe. It was set aside by the Japanese government in 1863 and now has about 3-4,000 residents, mostly descendants of Chinese from Guangzhou who came as servants of Western merchants or as traders. Some acted as treasurers to Western firms, while others came as craftsmen who could make clothing and other essentials needed by foreigners. When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, the growth of Chinatown came to a standstill, but it started thriving again in 1955, when a large goodwill gate was built and Chinatown was officially recognized by Japan.
Almost immediately, I’m enticed into a three-story shop called Amina Collection. It has cute clothing, accessories and home decor mainly imported from India and Nepal. Why it’s in Chinatown, I don’t know; the shopkeeper, who has her hair wrapped in a large turban and wears a maize-colored flowing skirt, tells me her corporation owns many similar shops in Japan. What I really love are the incense aromas and the whimsical and enchanting music piped in through the shop. I ask the shopkeeper if they sell the CD with the music playlist, but unfortunately for me, she says the owner downloaded the playlist to an MP3. I also find some cute tops and kimono toppers (the kind of kimono cover-ups sold in America, not traditional Japanese kimono). Since I’m just starting my walk and don’t want to buy anything yet, I tell the shopkeeper I’ll return later. At this time, I think the walk will bring me full circle back to Ishikawacho Station, where I can easily return to shop before heading home.
I continue into Chinatown, overwhelmed by crimson and yellow signs, fierce dragons twisting and turning on buildings and signs, shops with Chinese lanterns and masks, huge restaurant boards with pictures of enticing dishes, and touts in front of each restaurant beckoning tourists in. It is getting to be lunchtime, but my stomach takes a turn at the thought of eating Chinese food. When I was in China, I was sick almost constantly from the food, but I think maybe in Japan the Chinese food will be fine. After all, the Chinese restauranteurs must cook to Japanese tastes, just like they cook to American tastes in the USA.
Though the large multi-ingredient dishes look mouth-watering, I figure maybe I can stick to something like steamed dumplings that aren’t cooked in oil. My hunger gets the best of me, and I drop into a tiny joint where I order three shrimp steamed dumplings with a Pepsi. It costs nearly $10 for that tiny meal, which is meant to sustain me all day. After I leave the restaurant, my stomach immediately cramps up and I wonder if it’s because of the food or just my fear of eating Chinese again.
Those stomach cramps are to stay with me the rest of the day, yet I end up walking over 10 miles. 🙂
After lunch, I’m in search of the Kantei-Byo. The original temple, known as the Kuan-Ti Mao Temple, suffered many disasters. It was built in 1887, destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, and suffered damages during the 1945 Allies air attack. In 1981, it was struck by lighting and caught fire. It burned down again in 1987, and finally, was reconstructed in 1990 as Kantei-Byo despite the political differences of the Taiwan and Beijing Chinese.
According to Japan Travel, Kantei-Byo is dedicated to the famous Chinese warrior “Kanwu,” who excelled in the areas of power, courage, justice, and loyalty, as well as business. For all these reasons, the people of Chinatown follow Kanwu as their “God of Business.” However, another source, my book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City, says the new shrine is dedicated to Sangokushi; to him, the Chinese can pray for good fortune and good business. Oh well, whomever a person prays too, he’s sure to be successful in business. 🙂
I finally find the temple, with a huge Coke Zero truck parked in front. The light doesn’t favor this view, so I go immediately into the temple courtyard.
Two golden dragons greet me on the wall of the temple.
I love the wonderful details under the eaves of Chinese temples.
The visitors to the temple light incense sticks and bow and pray to the gods within.
Here’s the view from the temple to the outside gate. Much better than the outside-to-inside shot with the Coke Zero truck.
I find colorful and intricate architectural details and relief carvings under the temple’s eaves.
Inside the temple is gorgeous, but they want 100 yen to go inside and I’m not allowed to take pictures. If I were allowed to take pictures, I’d gladly pay the entrance fee, but as I can see the altar from outside, that’s enough for me.
Just outside the temple, I find another in the line of Amina shops and I go inside to try on more cute tops. The two salesgirls look so cute, I can’t help but try on tops in the shop that are similar. They look terrible on me, sadly. I guess when you’re super tiny, you can get away with wearing anything!
Outside the shop, I encounter these two characters, one of them next to a wide-mouth panda entrance.
Finally, I make my way out of Chinatown and head to the waterfront. First, I encounter the memorial commemorating the Reverend James Curtis Hepburn, a medical Protestant missionary who created the first Japanese-English dictionary in 1867 and Romanized the Japanese characters. He often treated Japanese and Chinese patients for free in his house if they couldn’t afford payment. The memorial marks his and his wife’s work from 1859-1892.
The south end of Yamashita Park extends 2/3 mile from the Yamashita Pier to the Osanbashi Pier. To cover the flood control pumping station at the south end, a raised platform has an ornamental water cascade that extends from the upper level to street level.
At street level, the ornamental water cascade ends in a pretty pool.
From Yamashita Park, I can see Yokohama Harbor. Today is the perfect day for a walk, with temperatures in the high 60s and a brisk wind. How I love windy days when the temperature is right.
Looking inland, I can see the buildings fronting the park. The Marine Tower was belatedly constructed in 1961 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Yokohama’s founding in 1859. There is an observation deck at the 100-meter level, but I don’t go up today. At 106 meters is a lighthouse lamp visible over the bay for 24 miles; it is the biggest inland lighthouse in the world.
General MacArthur stayed at the Hotel New Grand on the evening of August 30, 1945 to begin his stint as the commander of the occupying American forces in Japan. Also from the hotel, he boarded the USS Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945 to accept the Japanese surrender, thus ending World War II.
A fancy rose and flower garden in the park invites a stroll.
Along the harborside walkway, I can see the north part of Yokohama.
Off a small pier south of Osanbashi Pier, the Hikawa-maru, a luxury ocean liner built in Yokohama in 1930 is permanently moored. It made 238 crossings between Japan and the U.S. West Coast from 1930-1960. It is now retired from service.
The Guardian of the Waters statue was a gift from sister city San Diego to Yokohama and its people.
Looking south along the waterside walkway, I can see the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge.
As I approach the north end of Yamashita Park, I have a better view of Yokohama with its iconic Ferris wheel.
The Osanbashi Pier is at the north end of Yamashita Park. From here, I’ll be heading inland.
Here are a few notes on how I get to places in the Tokyo area without access to GPS:
Westgate provides teachers with a phone, but we’re only allowed to use it to make calls to a pre-programmed list of numbers. We are not allowed to use it to call anyone who is not programmed into the phone. We can accept calls, but we can’t make them. Besides, it is an old-fashioned flip-phone and not a smart phone with fancy features like GPS.
I have my iPhone from the U.S., but so far I haven’t had the need to get a pre-paid SIM card for my phone. As long as I have access to wi-fi, at home and at work, I can use the phone for data or messaging. I was advised that I can Google directions to a destination by just entering in the beginning station (in my case Fuchinobe) and the end station, and I can get directions as to when to switch trains, how many stops between stations, etc. I can even get a timetable.
The problem of course is that I don’t get GPS when I’m out and about. My phone is worthless at these times. So, before leaving my house, I look up the information and take screen shots of the train route. Below is a version of how I made today’s trip. I have another screen shot that expands the 12 stops so I can know exactly which stops I’ll be passing, so I can be on the lookout for my particular stop. So far this method is working pretty well for me. 🙂