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  • Shona McCarthy

China Inside Japan: Yokohama


Yokohama Chinatown is a place I have longed to visit since my girlhood. I had seen it show up in Sailor Moon, as a place where Molly/Naru visited with Serena/Usagi just after the death of Nephrite. So, I always imagined it as a place of great joy and leisure. I was wrong in that it was more than just a place of joy and leisure. It was a land of radiant and remarkable beauty.

(Gates in Yokohama Chinatown, taken by me, 2019.) As with most Chinatowns in the world, Yokohama's Chinatown has its own dramatic Chinese style gate ways. Four are meant to correspond with the four winds, or four directions on a compass. But I found another which seemed to have historical significance, but since I couldn't read Japanese, I couldn't tell much.

The main kind of establishments that fill this place are Chinese restaurants. These contain cuisines from many regions of China including Canton, Sichuan and Shanghai. It's very hard to choose between them, since they are all decorated so beautifully. I couldn't help but take an almost infinite number of pictures with my camera.

(Just a small percentage of the beautiful eateries in Yokohama Chinatown. Images taken by me, 2019.)

What I found was that even though the restaurants seemed all equally beautiful, at least from the outside, the prices would vary between establishments. Sometimes they would vary dramatically.

(Photos taken by me in Yokohama, 2019.)

It's possible to look at the prices and dishes of many restaurants. Many will feature plastic versions of their dishes in display windows, or signs outside their doors depicting potential prices you could pay. I'm not ashamed to say I wandered Yokohama Chinatown for hours before making a decision for myself. I wanted to eat in a restaurant that would be both very beautiful and very cheap. Eventually I chose a place that felt comfortable to me.

(A restaurant where I ate and what I ate there. Yokohama, 2019. Me.)

I wish I had the presence of mind to make note of the name of the restaurant. Or even the name of what I ate there. All I remember was that I was feeling weak, sick and dehydrated. So I chose a classic noodle soup dish full of vegetables and prawns. It was delicious and did a lot to revitalise me. It didn't cost too much, either and the staff were nice. The restaurant itself was very nice, even if the fact that they only had one toilet cubicle meant I spent much of my meal holding on to my bladder.

Restaurants aren't all that can be found in Yokohama Chinatown. There is a Chocolate museum. I didn't buy anything there, since I was mostly in town for Chinese culture. But it's still noteworthy because there is a Chinese style photo studio full of costumes in the top floor of that building.

(Chocolate Museum in Yokohama Chinatown. 2019.)

(I photographed miscellaneous stores in Yokohama Chinatown, 2019.)

For those wanting souvenirs, there are gift stores, herbalists and other variety stores in the area. There are also beautiful examples of Chinese style architecture in courtyards and parks.

My key advice to other travellers would first of all be to make sure you identify public bathrooms before you wander too much. I spent much of my visit attempting to "hold it" since I was struggling o find a toilet. Also, if you do visit in the late winder as I did, bring lots of warm clothing. It was very windy the day I went, so I felt very cold.

But my main advice is that Yokohama Chinatown, as majestic as it is during the day, is infinitely more beautiful at night. This makes a nighttime visit ideal.

(Photos taken by me in Yokohama, 2019.)

A final note. When you visit significant tourist locations in Japan, you may want to take a closer look at the vending machines. They will often be themed to match the area they are in.

(Vending machines I saw in Yokohama Chinatown, 2019.)

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