Saturday, March 29, 2014

yokohama chinatown

After a less than stellar morning in Tokyo, I decided to head over to Yokohama which has the largest Chinatown in Japan and is also its second largest city. Even though I know Yokohama Chukagai (Chinatown) is the biggest draw to this city I wanted to give the city a chance and chose to explore Minato Mirai, a seaside urban area located a 30 minute walk from the Yokohama Station. The biggest reason I wanted to come to this area was because of the Red Brick Warehouses that used to serve the area when it was a port. However they have since been converted into a mall and actually most buildings and attractions here were shopping complexes. Very disappointing since I was hoping to find some cultural or unique stuff and not to do shopping (not even good stuff like H&M or GU - just expensive boutiquey stuff).

The outside looks pretty nice but the inside was narrow and so crowded I couldn't even move. I entered and I quickly exited - too claustrophobic for me. Also around this area is a Cup Noodle Museum which I actually wanted to visit but was turned off by the hordes and hordes of children inside. The only problem with weekends is that everywhere gets so crowded. Give me my empty quiet Mondays any day!

Yokohama Chinatown is definitely the biggest one in Japan with several different streets that I got quite lost easily. The other Chinatowns were just one or two streets of Chinese restaurants and shops. I went on a panda themed shopping frenzy: socks, towels, bags, etc.

pandas know how to get it done :P

The panda theme didn't just stop at the merchandise...

A lot of the stores sold the same stuff so walk around and try to get the best prices! In terms of food I enjoyed the Chinatown in Kobe more because of the variety of food stalls they had there. Yokohama's had food stalls which is better than the Nagasaki Chinatown, which had nothing but restaurants. However most of the stalls were selling the same stuff and at exorbitant prices!

soup dumplings - forgot the price but I believe somewhere between 300-500 yen for a set of four

Oh man these soup dumplings were horrible. I was expecting something like a xiaolongbao but this style had a thicker skin more akin with Chinese buns or bao rather than the skin used for dumplings. The thicker skin made it difficult to eat it all in one bite which meant most of the juices leaked out after the initial bite. Then the sauce they gave wasn't just regular soy sauce but one with a strong vinegar taste! Blarghh and I poured so much of it on my dumplings. If I wasn't by myself I would have preferred to eat at a restaurant but each dish were upwards of 900 yen! Freaking expensive!

sesame tangyuan in gingery rock sugar syrup - 400 yen

I have been craving tangyuan so badly that I braved sitting by myself in a cafe restaurant just to eat some! The syrup was too gingery for my taste but was still delicious. I still prefer the ones we make at home. If I can find some rock sugar I could probably make these in my apartment (tho I lack that dedication). Definitely enjoyed the shopping that can be done here and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves panda stuff but not sure I would make the trek all the way to Yokohama again just for the Chinatown. Having visited all three Chinatowns, I really want to go back to Kobe's Nankinmachi just to be able to try all the different types of food I wasn't able to before.

The Details
Minato Mirai
Access: Minato Mirai Station - Minato Mirai Line (2 stops away from Yokohama Station, 180 yen) or a 30-40 minute walk from Yokohama Station.

Yokohama Chukagai
Access: Motomachi-Chukagai Station - Minato Mirai Line (210 yen from Yokohama Station) or Ishikawacho Station - JR Negishi Line (160 yen from Yokohama Station)

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