Yokohama didn’t disappoint, even with bad weather in the way11 May, 2013 by Grace
After 3 days in Tokyo, we had a slight change of environment in the form of Yokohama. Having a bit of trouble finding the place to buy the special discounted Minatomirai Ticket due to wrongly understanding that it was not sold at Shibuya Station at all, our plans were delayed so during the day we had to cut short some places we intended to visit.
The Minatomirai Ticket included travel on the month-old Tokyu Toyoko Line, which apparently cuts short travel time from central Tokyo to Yokohama, and has been the cause for rise in visitorship to Yokohama. Because their website isn’t exactly clear, we exited at Yokohama station and re-entered before changing to the Minatomirai Line. Turns out it wasn’t needed and we could have just changed lines straight.
Going to the furthest point on the Minatomirai Line, Motomachi-Chukagai Station was where our first stop of the day was. We went to Yokohama Chinatown, the biggest in Japan. Unfortunately, it had been raining on and off since we began the day, and of course walking the streets of Chinatown meant being outdoors most of the time.
This was my first experience being in a Chinatown outside of my own country, and I must say it’s interesting to see the Chinese-ish architecture you don’t really see in Singapore’s. Perhaps a little on the exaggerated side but it adds to the atmosphere.
The vibrant streets are a mix of small clothes shops, souvenir shops, streetside dim sum stalls and Chinese food restaurants. We checked out a few shops, but didn’t stop by everything because it was a hassle opening and closing umbrellas. We also bought snacks from the streetside stalls. Since it was cold, piping hot meat buns were a delight.
There are also a fair amount of men trying to get you to try hot chestnuts so you’ll buy them. I don’t eat chestnuts, so I avoided them all the way. Etine’s mum, however, was curious enough to try one, but this particular guy scolded her when she didn’t want to buy. Not sure if she was just unlucky, but anyone reading this might want to take note.
Although we were supposed to find lunch here, we kept buying dim sum, because everywhere we walked, there would be a streetside stall enticing us. The dim sum is not cheap, but I suppose it’s because it’s more of a rarity in Japan, and that Chinatown is essentially a tourist trap anyway. And apparently, many celebrities have visited Yokohama Chinatown before, so there are many places advertising photos of celebrities at their stalls.
After a fair bit of walking, we finally decided to settle down at a Shanghai cuisine eatery called Yan Tai, as they were having some price promotions. Living in Singapore, we basically eat Chinese food almost everyday, and this is Japan, so we went in there not really knowing what kind of standard to expect.
It turned out to be good decision to step in, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know if I was hungry and it affected my judgement or anything, but I think it tasted better than a lot of the hawker centre fare I’ve been eating.
With this yummy meal, we left Chinatown, going back to the station to take the train to Minatomirai. We had intended to visit the Yokohama Marine Tower before leaving this area, but as mentioned earlier, due to delays we decided to forgo this.
Upon reaching Minatomirai, we found that it had stopped raining though the sky was still overcast. We headed towards Yokohama Landmark Square for some shopping, although I limited the time we had there for fear we would not have enough time to cover everything we wanted to.
The majority of our time in this shopping mall was spent at Pokemon Center, where a wide array of official Pokemon merchandise are sold. It was also the place with the most traffic in the entire mall, which says a lot about Pokemon’s popularity in Japan still.
Thereafter, we were going to make our way towards Kishamichi Promenade, but spotted something we hadn’t come across while planning the trip (don’t ask us how that happened, I have no idea). There was an observatory on the 69th floor of the Landmark Tower called the Sky Garden. We debated for a while whether to go up, but eventually did. It costs only 1,000 yen for a spectacular 360 degree view of Yokohama, and what’s more, we didn’t have to queue. Tickets are purchased via machines.
The staff were also extremely polite while ushering us up, although they didn’t seem to speak any English. Of course, we possibly don’t look foreign enough, but we were actually going in the same time as this Caucasian family, and the staff continued speaking in Japanese.
I did at least manage to understand that the lift we were taking to the 69th floor was the fastest in all of Japan. There was a speed indicator in the lift showing the staggering speed we were going at. In no time at all, we were on the 69th floor, greeted with breathtaking views.
We spent about an hour in total taking photographs and admiring the view. Okay, it was mostly my fault actually. Etine and her mum were done looking around in half an hour so they spent the rest of the time sitting down and waiting for me. Meanwhile I was too absorbed in the views to notice that they were already bored, and even spent 100 yen on those payable telescope things.
By the time we were out of the place, I had caused our schedule to delay further, and so we struck out going to check out the Nippon Maru ship museum. It was something we had agreed to strike out if we were more interested in other things than a museum, and we were.
Snaking through the Sunday crowd and getting across the super long travelators, we finally reached Kishamichi Promenade, whereby we took more photos of the scenery while crossing it towards the Akarenga Souko (also known as the Red Brick Warehouses).
The smaller block of Akarenga Souko was apparently an exhibition space so we didn’t spend time there. The bigger block was filled with stylish cafes and shops. It looked completely different from a 2003 variety show I randomly watched recently, but I guess the interior changed a lot since then.
None of us spent any money here, although it was really interesting to look around. There was one shop in particular, an omurice restaurant called Yokohama Tachibanatei, that attracted a crowd. We poked our heads through to see what people were looking at, and we discovered the kitchen had a glass window for people to view the preparation process of the omurice.
I can’t adequately describe how fascinating watching it was. We actually stuck around watching a few rounds of it. The chef obviously had a lot of experience and was able to flick the omelette from the pan perfectly onto the ketchup rice on a plate. Everyone who came by to watch were so amazed that there would be audible gasps of surprise. And the chef liked to show a victory sign to the crowd. You can actually watch the process in the video on their website, where they got featured in a Korean TV show (skip the very front part of the video).
Unfortunately since we were there at neither lunch nor dinner time, we passed on eating there. I would definitely want to go back and try it some time when I get the opportunity.
There’s also this balcony on the second floor of the warehouse, which faces the Japan Coast Guard Museum building. Of course, I took out my camera there ready to capture the scenery, but to my surprise, there was this police-looking guy who was standing in the area directly below the balcony calling out to me and telling me that photography was not allowed.
Then I noticed there were a whole bunch of police-looking people near him, seemingly discussing something. But it was still weird that photography is not allowed from an open balcony, and I wondered if it was just for that day because they were doing something sensitive. There were others on the balcony with us but they were taking photos of themselves against the interior rather than with the view.
Done with the Akarenga Souko, we decided to proceed towards the Cosmo World theme park, where we planned to take the Cosmo Clock 21 ferris wheel and try to catch the evening to night view. On the way there, it started raining again, and it was so cold that my feet were freezing up and it was starting to hurt while walking, so we hurried towards World Porters Mall first to get some warmth.
It seemed the section of the mall we were stuck navigating had like a outdoor concept though, and I didn’t want to stop to look at any shops because of the weather. At some point we saw a pretty big apparel store that Etine’s mum suggested we could walk through from one exit to the other just to warm up. And… well, let’s just say a lot of things caught our eyes in that shop because everything was so attractively priced and they were having a 20% off promotion (last day!) on top of it.
We got stuck in that store for probably more than an hour, so there went the plan for evening views from Cosmo Clock 21, but all of us bought stuff from there so no complaints. Plus I hadn’t really been buying stuff the last three days, so I couldn’t have been more glad to be able to spend some (exchange-rate-dropping, loss-making) yen.
When we reached Cosmo World it was already pretty dark. Quickly purchasing three tickets for the ferris wheel, we went to the 4th floor where a long queue for the attraction awaited us. Let me just mention that I regret not taking a photo of the ticket – I thought we would have it as a keepsake, but the staff just take it from you when you enter the ride. Also, like all theme park attractions, they take a photo of you before you go in, and then try to sell it to you after the ride.
In 15 minutes, we were back onto the ground. Since the theme park doesn’t have any admission fee, we didn’t desire to take any other rides. We were heading towards the exit when Etine got attracted to one of those throwing game stalls to get prizes. Without any luck, we walked back towards Queen’s Square to find a place for dinner.
After a lengthy debate over what to eat, we eventually settled for this food court that -get this- had McDonalds’, KFC and Subway all in one. Amazing. They were individual stalls but all shared the same dining area. There was also a western cuisine restaurant, named American House, inside the food court and that was where we settled for.
We were so tired from the day that we had forgotten to take photos of the food that we ordered until after we cleared our plates. Thanks to that, my memory is blurry of what we ordered, but I remember there was California Hamburg Steak, Chilli Cheese Hamburger and fries. And they looked and tasted good.
Then, it was time to call it a day and bid Yokohama farewell. And I thankfully remembered to take a photo of the Minatomirai Ticket before the train gantry sucked it away upon completion of a round trip.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.