Archive for category Yokohama
Today I got my fist sample of solo travel with a 3 year old. By the end of the day I was exhausted.
Whenever we return to Japan, The Penpal makes some time to check in with her church. The main branch is in Shin-Yokohama, conveniently accessible by shinkansen. We discussed and decided that Tiny Dog likely didn’t have the patience to spend a few hours at church, so we would both take separate trips to Yokohama and meet up for dinner with some of The Penpal’s friends.
The Penpal’s father dropped TD and I off at Mishima station around noon. Before boarding the train, we picked up some ekiben (train station lunch boxes) to eat on the ride to Yokohama. The clerk was surprised that TD thanked him in Japanese. It’s still funny the different reactions people have to TD depending on which parent he is traveling with.
TD munched away on sandwiches and rice balls on the shinkansen ride to Yokohama. His face was pressed against the window, jumping back in delight every time we entered a tunnel. This train ride was a lot more fun than the 15 minute subway ride from Shin-Yokohama to Sakuragicho; with nothing to see out the windows TD got bored quickly. I made a mental note to take above ground trains as much as possible in the future.
From Sakuragicho, we started our long walk towards Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building. The entire area around the tower is fantastic to visit: there are stores, restaurants, rides, games, and endless other fun things to do. Even with all of these distractions, TD was most impressed by the walking escalator that took us towards the tower.
We took the elevator to the observation deck on the 69th floor and were greeted by spectacular views of Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Tokyo. TD was impressed with the view for about 5 minutes, and then decided that it would be more fun to run laps around the building. We compromised and got ice cream near one of the windows while I tried to take as many pictures as possible.
On the way down, TD tried to touch the elevator doors as they closed. The elevator attendant said “yubi wo chui kudasai”, which TD translated into English for me as “Daddy be careful your fingers”. Everyone laughed at the sight of a 3 year old wearing Canadian flags translating for his gaijin father.
Instead of taking you back to the entrance, the elevator down from Landmark tower takes you to the 5th floor of a massive shopping center. As we walked through we found possibly the most exciting store ever for a 3 year old kid: The Tomy store. The entire display window was filled with an elaborate display of purarail (plastic train sets) and Tomy car tracks. We pushed our way into the store and TD spent about half an hour looking and playing with the display along with a mob of other children.
I eventually dragged him out of the Tomy Store and we walked to Cosmo World to play games. We wisely avoided the giant ferris wheel and waterslides, and ended up playing medal games (again). Getting him out of Cosmo World involved crying, bargaining, and eventually me having to carry him all the way back to the station. I should note that the humidity was about 6 million percent, and a fussy child is actually a portable space heater. By the time I got him to the station I had sweated through my shirt.
After some very busy Sunday afternoon trains we met up with The Penpal and some of her friends for dinner in a restaurant that was inexplicably not visible on Google Maps. By the time dinner was done, Tiny Dog and I were ready for sleep, but we still had a long trip back to Numazu.
Our adventures in Yokohama were a lot of fun, and my day was a great learning experience. Also, I have nothing but respect for single parents who try to get anything done.
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.
Bouken day (adventure!). My new floor couch was delivered in the morning. I had to use Japanese on the phone when the delivery people called. This sounds impressive, but I basically just said “hai” about 6 times until they hung up and delivered the couch.
After a nice nap, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a walk. I started with a 15 minute walk to the cool park near my place. Upon climbing a really large hill, I found there was an exit on the other side. So I kept walking through this really cool residential area with big houses on a hill. Residential areas are like mazes here, and I was lucky to find my way out the other side after much walking. By this point, I decided to head back home, but I didn`t really know how to get back the way I came. I found a road sign, and started following it. However, the road back had no walking path. So I made a useless 30 minute circle around the area, and started walking towards one of the other stations listed on the sign.
Just after the 2 hour point in my walk, I pass a sign which says I am now in Yokohama city limits. After many more wrong turns and cutting through another park I found a bus route and decided to walk along side it to the next station. Finally about 3 hours after I started, I found Azamino station, which is on the Den-En-Toshi line and the Yokohama subway. I took Den-En-Toshi to connect with the Nanbu line and then returned to Noborito. It took me about 20 minutes to get home by train!
I estimate I walked about 10km in total, possibly more, so I rewarded myself with some Wendy’s. Random walks in huge cities can be fun.
(2014 Update) – According to Google Maps, I walked at least 7.5km, but probably more due to the unexpected loop I made.
Today I spent a great day in Yokohama with the Penpal. We started the day off with a trip to the famous Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum. Just like the name would indicate, this museum is dedicated to the history of Japan’s favourite noodle soup. Japan has some unique museum ideas.
The upper level has a history of ramen in Japan, including pictures, videos, old packages, and TV commercials through the years. They also have an impressive collection of ramen bowls from famous ramen shops across Japan. The basement is the truly interesting part. There is a recreation of a city block set up to look like 1958 Tokyo. Within the city block there are 8 different restaurants, each specializing in a different type of ramen. Also, there are long lines. We waited about 45 minutes (the shortest line) to eat some really delicious noodles. The Japan geek in me loved the experience, but the cynical Canadian in me pondered the wisdom of paying to get into a museum so I could wait in line and pay for ramen.
After the museum, we wandered around Yokohama’s Chinatown. Even though I had been to Chinatown recently, I still saw new things on my second visit. From Chinatown we moved on to Minato Mirai to see the port area. Since we had been walking all day we stopped for karaoke to get a break. I sang Barbie Girl, various Beatles songs, and some Radiohead. The Penpal sang a lot of Sheena Ringo
After karaoke, we headed to Cosmo Clock, the giant Ferris wheel together. About one month earlier I had gone on Cosmo Clock with Asako, misread signals, and ended up making an ass of myself. However, the Penpal and I had been talking to each other often and started to see a bit more than just a friendly connection. Today, I was finally able to interpret signals correctly and made a move that was well received. Redemption in Yokohama!
We walked back to the train station hand in hand, cautiously optimistic that this could be the start of something good. I love Yokohama!