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11
Sep

Yokohama

(SEE VIDEO FROM MY TRIP TO YOKOHAMA IN EPISODE FIVE)

Excuse me Yokohama Tourism Board. I was less than enthused with my time in Yokohama.

As bad travel tends to go, I followed some bad advice and made some poor decisions. My first stop was in Shin-Yokohama, home to two sights, the 70,000 seat Nissan Stadium and my destination, the Ramen Noodle Museum. Well, if you dream of the thought that someday you might walk through those turnstiles into 10,000 square feet of noodle soup paradise, I hate to disappoint you.

It sucked.

It has been said that I exaggerate. People have assailed me with labels of pessimist, cynic, and whiny, complaint-filled brat. But, let the Shinto gods strike me down if I didn’t pay 250 yen for a ticket into a gift shop and a food court.

250 yen is barely more than $2 U.S., you say. Ramen is one of the world’s widest eaten foods, from traditional Japanese fare to money-strapped American university students, you remark. The history of ramen is fascinating, enthralling even, you shout.

Yeah, I hear you. That is why I turned on my camera and put on my traveling shoes.

However, all I saw in the Ramen Museum was a shop with every ramen product known to the Japanese consumer class, two running video compilations of ramen commercials, fifteen historical markers written in Kenji (which I can’t entirely read), and a food court, all of which someone felt was worthy of a small cover charge. Note: I can go to the 125-year-old Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its 225,000 works of art, for free.

I bought a fish croquette and walked out into the overcast, rain-threatened Shin-Yokohama humidity. My complaining subsided as I strode through another Japanese skyline, with the Landmark Tower and its architecturally creative neighbors fighting the monotonous sky.

Having already wasted some 400 yen ($3.50 U.S.) to get to Shin-Yokohama, I trudged on and took another train to a ferry to get to the doorstep of Yokohama’s heart. I did find some admittedly interesting, if perplexing, street art and my first Japanese water fountain (they exist only in parks, apparently).

From there I made my way to Yokohama’s Chinatown, Japan’s largest. Feel free to point out to your friend who is trying to learn what irony is that Japan, despite its historically volatile (and violent) history with the People’s Republic of China, has one of the world’s largest Chinatowns.

I do concede that walking through the streets of Chinatown was another experience about which I will gloat. Another bustling Japanese urban district for sure, but its lights, signs and denizens were of an origin and feel unlike others.

I took a picture standing in front of the Goodwill gate, a familiar sight to anyone that has been to any large Chinatown, from Philadelphia to South Korea. I even ate some ramen.

It is always that way with travel and the new experiences you find. Grudges die quietly, with a smile and a new line of thought encroaching on your hostility and sweeping it (and 21,000 yen) out of persistent memory.

Jaa:
Christopher

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