Archive for category Yokohama
Yesterday The Penpal and I went to her friend’s wedding in Yokohama. We spent the night in a hotel, and decided to spend today hanging out in Yokohama.
I have been living in Numazu for the past year after spending a year in Kawasaki. I do like Numazu, but I miss being close to a vibrant and fun city like Yokohama. There are lots of things to do, and it doesn’t feel as busy or crowded as Tokyo.
The Penpal and I spent some time exploring Minato Mirai and some of the areas I used to visit often. In the evening we returned to Numazu together. It was a fun day!
There is currently a shortage of teachers in the Numazu / Mishima / Fuji / Fujinomiya area. I made myself available to do some overtime shifts to make a little extra money, however schools in my area were cutting costs and were told not to allow any overtime.
Since I had nothing else going on, I decided to go to the Tokyo area to find something fun to do. My first stop was my old neighbourhood. I got a haircut from the really good barber near Shinyurigaoka station, and then stopped by a bank to send some money home. Thanks to advice from other teachers, I got a Lloyd’s account which allows me to transfer money from my SMBC Japanese bank account to my Canadian bank account with a flat transaction fee. The best part is that I can do this transfer from any SMBC bank machine. I need to send money home periodically to make sure that my student loans are being paid, and it also prevents me from overspending. Like other teachers, I try to watch the exchange rates and do my transfers when the forex is favourable.
After sending money home, I treated myself to Wendy’s for lunch. I then headed off to Shinjuku to buy some books at Kinokuniya. I love Kinokuniya – it is probably the best book store in the country. I was going to be productive and do some clothes shopping, but decided that since I had already been somewhat productive (getting up early, haircut, money transfer), that I should do something fun. I ended up heading to Yokohama to see a movie.
This was my first time going to a movie theater by myself. It felt strange to go solo, which is a bit funny when you consider that you really aren’t supposed to talk to people in the theater anyway. I bought a ticket for Million Dollar Baby and then killed some time playing video games at a nearby game center while I waited for the movie to start.
Million Dollar Baby is simply a fantastic movie, although it probably caught a lot of people off guard because it is marketed as one kind of movie and then half way through becomes something completely and totally different. No, I am not going to give any spoilers. I really enjoyed the experience, but would have liked someone to talk about the movie with after it ended.
After the movie I got a quick bite to eat, and then proceeded to drag my giant, heavy bag of new books through a few train stations on my way home. It’s great living so close to the Greater Tokyo area!
Tonight was Phoala’s official farewell party. I traded for an early shift so I could go home and get ready for a big night out. Our plan is Thursday night karaoke in Yokohama, then staying out all night in Roppongi.
I met up with Phoala, Archie, and K-Lo, who used to work at Kawasaki NOVA but had been transferred to Hiyoshi to try to improve the school. K-Lo was slightly annoyed to find that Ruby, one of our karaoke regulars, had brought along a female student that she was interested in. Hanging out with students was an official no-no, but since it was Phoala’s last night, K-Lo decided to turn a blind eye.
In addition to Ruby’s guest, Jem’s sister was visiting from England. I have talked before about how amazing Jem’s singing is. Jem had been telling us that her sister had an even better singing voice than she did. Jem has always been the best singer in our group by far, so we couldn’t imagine anyone actually being better. However, she was right and we were all treated to some amazing singing by Jem and sister. We were seriously blown away by their talent.
The rest of us sounded extra terrible by comparison, but all you can drink karaoke has little to do with actually being a good singer. We all had fun badly singing along to our regular songs. Archie made sure to sing the entire Styx classic “Mr. Roboto”. The album version is five and a half minutes long, but somehow it seems much longer in a karaoke room.
After two hours of karaoke, Phoala, Archie, K-Lo and I headed off for Roppongi. We got there just after midnight so the story continues on the next post.
Today I took my family to Yokohama. We took the Nanbu line from Noborito to Kawasaki, Tokaido Line from Kawasaki to Yokohama, and then switched to the still shiny new Minatomirai line to finish our trip to Minato Mirai station.
I had been to Yokohama several times before, but this was the first time I had ever gone inside Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building. There is an observation level on the 69th floor that is accessable by one of the world’s fastest elevators. The observation level offers amazing views of Yokohama, Kawasaki, Tokyo and on a clear day, Mt. Fuji. The ocean is on one side, and there is continuous city in every other direction as far as you can see. My family was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the neverending city.
From Landmark Tower we wandered around the Minato Mirai area. My mom bought a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, and I made sure to show off the dog walking video game at the nearby game center.
After exploring Minato Mirai, we took the train to Yokohama Chinatown. We spent a long time walking around the streets and enjoying the buildings. My mom and sister requested that we stop in a large tea shop. There were different kinds of tea from around the world from floor to ceiling. While my sister tried to communicate with the store owner, the owner’s young daughter (maybe 5 years old) came up to my mom and started talking to her in Chinese. My mom responded in English, so the conversation really didn’t go anywhere. My mom ended up giving the young girl a Canadian flag pin, which got a nice smile and some thanks from the owner.
My family enjoyed their day in Yokohama. Even though I did a very similar visit with my friends a month ago, I still had fun. Yokohama is a great place to visit.
(2014 Update) In 2014 the Abenobashi Terminal Building opened in Osaka, which is about 4 meters taller than Landmark Tower. Landmark Tower is now number two in Japan.
We met up with Rivers and Jem at Yokohama station. They were fresh out of NOVA kids training and looking for some beer. After some phone calls and texting we were able to meet up with the rest of the usual Thursday night karaoke group. All together we took a group of 15 thirsty people into Big Echo for some all you can drink karaoke.
The pitchers started flowing fast and furiously, as everyone filled the karaoke queue with an eclectic range of songs ranging from Ring of Fire to Anarchy in the UK. Code Red had his video camera out and decided to start filming our experience. After a while, Code Red took a page out of my book and started visiting other karaoke rooms. He would open the door and tell the surprised people inside “smile for American TV!”. This got a lot of smiles and cheers.
We had a busy, beer soaked two hours of karaoke. Since it took so long to get our group together, we had only 10 minutes to catch the last train after we paid. Half way back to Yokohama station, Code Red suddenly announced that he didn’t have his video camera and then ran back to Big Echo. I quickly gave Jem some (incorrect) instructions to get Flounder, Hippie and Green on the last train and then I took off after Code Red. In the worst case I assumed that Flounder, Hippie and Green could find their way back to Hello House, and Code Red and I would find alternate transportation or a place to crash.
I waited outside Big Echo for a few minutes, and then decided to go into the building to look for Code Red. I took the only elevator up to the floor where our room was, just as Code Red was coming down the stairs. He got outside and saw that all of his friends were gone. He was on his own, drunk, in a city far from home. After a brief moment of panic, he cleverly walked up to the first gaijins he saw and asked where the station was, explaining that he needed to get to Noborito. The two Australians looked at their watch and told him, probably in an awesome Aussie accent, that he was f**ked.
After looking around for Code Red in Big Echo, I went outside to see nobody that I recognized. Just then my phone started ringing – it was Jem and she couldn’t remember which train to put the other guys on. By this point the last train back to Kawasaki had already left. On the way to the platform I received another call that Code Red had just showed up on the platform. I met up with the group and we found out that the video camera wasn’t actually missing, it was in his backpack the entire time. As a group we voted that Code Red was not allowed to talk for the next 30 minutes.
Jem and her roommates came to our rescue, offering to put us up at their NOVA apartments. We took a quick train ride to Hodogaya station and started walking. And then we walked more. And then we kept walking.
I like to complain about Hello House at times, but it is only a five minute walk from the station. Jem’s apartment was a full 15 minute walk, mostly uphill. The apartment building itself was literally built on the side of a hill with a steep 50 degree staircase. Flounder, Green and Code Red slept at Jem’s place, while Hippie and I got a spare room at the other NOVA apartment that was about half way down the steep hill.
Travel lesson for the day: before you sprint off on your own in a strange country, check your freaking backpack for your lost item. It will save some excitement.
Due to another late night, we got yet another late start on our day. In the morning we did laundry and watched 3 episodes of The Simpsons in the Hello House common room. When we finally got mobile, headed out for Yokohama. We took Nanbu line to Kawasaki, Tokaido line to Yokohama, then changed to the new Minato Mirai line for Minato Mirai station.
We explored the area around Landmark Tower, and then made our way over towards Cosmo Clock. We decided that the five of us didn’t want to divide up and ride the romantic Cosmo Clock ferris wheel in groups. Instead we found ourselves in yet another game center. This one featured the incredibly cool (and incredibly Japanese) dog walking simulator.
The purpose of the game is to successfully walk your virtual dog.The controls are a treadmill and a leash. The treadmill is used to walk your dog at an appropriate pace: too fast and the dog gets upset, but too slow and the dog gets bored. The leash is used to steer your dog away from hazards like other dogs, cars, and food delivery bicycles. It seems simple, but is actually pretty hard and fun to watch your friends fail at.
After getting our fill of the Minato Mirai area, we caught a quick train to Yokohama Chinatown. The area is full of delicious looking restaurants. The problem was that the menus featured Chinese food that I didn’t know how to read in Japanese, and there weren’t many pictures. Also, lunch specials in the area are quite reasonable, but dinner can be pretty expensive. After about 30 minutes of searching we finally found a restaurant with reasonable dinner prices that had enough pictures on the menu so I wasn’t afraid of ordering. The food was fantastic! After eating, we slowly worked our way back towards the station, and took Minato Mirai line back to Yokohama station to meet up with my coworkers for a karaoke adventure.
After work a group of teachers from different NOVA branches all met up in Yokohama for nomi-hodai karaoke. For those new to this blog, nomi-hodai means “all you can drink”. To leave enough time for everyone to get to their last train, we only rented the karaoke room for 90 minutes. As soon as we got into the room we immediately started ordering drinks on the convenient wall phone. I sang some of my usual karaoke songs, and tried out “Bust a Move” by Young MC and “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy (Canada represent!). We all had fun and decided to try to make Thursday karaoke into a regular event.
On the way home, there were two drunk guys waiting for the train. There was less drunk guy (LDG), and really drunk guy (RDG). RDG couldn’t stand by himself, so LDG was holding him up and got him some water. Seems like a pretty nice guy, right? That ended when they got onto the train.
When the train started moving, LDG called RDG’s girlfriend or wife and then put RDG on the phone. RDG was barely intelligible, which I am sure didn’t do him any favours when he got home. After the phone call, RDG was starting to fall asleep. Just as he was nodding off, LDG leaned over and flicked him on top of RDG’s bald head. Hard! RDG tried to swing a punch at LDG, but he was so intoxicated that he basically just flailed his arms ineffectively. Naturally, LDG found this to be funny and so he flicked RDG’s bald head again. RDG started yelling “ITAI!” (it hurts!). LDG was an ass, but at least I got a free show on my train ride home.