The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Yokohama sights and rides

I am a bit behind in writing entries for my photos, and this outing to Yokohama occured almost three weeks ago shortly after we arrived back in Tokyo from our trip to Malaysia and Perth. Rob's aunt, who is a long-time expat in Hong Kong, was in Tokyo for some work-related event that occurs annually. This is her fifth year for her annual Tokyo trip, so she hardly needed any tour guides to show her around (we felt like more useful hosts when she visited us in the inaka (rural) Noto last year). In fact, she has been to more places in Tokyo than us, but then we do suffer from the we-live-here-so-we-can-visit-anytime-we-want syndrome. She hasn't yet been to Yokohama in the adjacent Kanagawa prefecture, and we ourselves have been meaning to pay a visit for awhile now, so we hopped on the train and took the 25 minute ride south of Tokyo into Yokohama to do some exploring together.

Chuukagai (Chinatown)

Our first stop was Chinatown which is actually a 5-minute train ride away from the main Yokohama station. It's the biggest Chinatown in Japan, and definitely larger than Kobe's Nankinmachi (Chinatown). Since it was the weekend, the streets were very crowded with locals, tourists and vendors alike. There were many stalls selling nikuman (steamed meat buns much like my beloved bao), gyoza (dumplings), roasted chestnuts and many sweet snacks. We had some decent Chinese food for lunch at a Chinese restaurant - not the best Chinese food we've ever had, but MUCH better than our previous experiences with Chinese food in Japan. Even Rob's aunt, who is a Hong Kong resident, approved of the food. After lunch, we found room in our stomachs to snack on some delicious egg tarts and deep fried sesame balls bought off some of the street vendors. We came across a small shop selling Chinese cooking wares, and I bought my very first iron wok and spatula.

Gate at the entrance to Chinatown: the kanji reads "Chuukagai" (from right to left, of course) which means "Chinatown" in Japanese; and the crowded street:

Landmark Tower

With our stomachs filled, we headed towards the Minato Mirai 21 district in Yokohama to visit the Landmark Tower, the tallest building in all of Japan. It is in the same area as the subway station, but I thought it was quite a bit of a trek to get to the tower from the station. From subway level, we rode on an escalator that spanned three storeys to get to ground level. Then we needed to cross over to the adjacent building where we encountered a large and elaborate steel art structure in between the two buildings.

The long escalator ride; and the strange steel art structure:

View of the Landmark Tower from ground level:

The tower stands at 295.8m, providing an excellent view of the vast city, and you can even see some Tokyo buildings from this height. On a clear day Mt. Fuji can be seen, but unfortunately for us, it was quite a hazy day. Incidentally, this tower has the world's second fastest elevator, reaching up to 12.5m/s or 45km/hr! We weren't in the elevator very long at all before we reached our destination at the top! On the observation level, you can get a 360deg view, but the nicest view was of the harbourside development of the Minato Mirai 21 district. I've manually stitched together a panorama of this view from three separate shots to give an idea of the view of the harbour. If you squint towards the bottom right of the panorama, you can see the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel that we rode on later.

Ferris Wheel

The Cosmo Clock 21 is one of the largest ferris wheels in the world (it was the largest when it was built in 1989). It stands 112m tall, which I think is a mere 0.5m shorter than the height of the giant ferris wheel that we rode in Tempozan Harbour (Osaka). It has a digital clock attached to the wheel, and hence the name. It was a pleasant ride post-sunset when the city lights were just beginning to come on.

The view of the wheel, and the view from the top of the wheel:

It was a good trip, and we'll probably visit Yokohama again to check out the other things that we didn't have the time to do.

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