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Homely Yokohama

Homely Yokohama

At the start of November, we went to Yokohama for a mid-year conference. Here are my assumptions. As Coordinators of International Relations are scattered all throughout the country, they needed:

 

  1. A central location in the nation.
    Yokohama is very close to Tokyo. It takes less than an hour, and you’re spoilt for commuting optionsstandard train, limited-express, shinkansen, you name it, it takes you to Yokohama for a price.

  2. Somewhere they could get a big enough hotel to fit roughly 500 of us.
    Because everyone knows how good the location is, Yokohama is now the second largest city in Japan by population (beating even Osaka, which is the third largest). It is a large business centre, which means many hotels.

    Digression: Yokohama (横浜) literally means “horizontal beach”, and the sea views are pretty breathtaking. Some ports might be unaesthetically cluttered by gigantic oil tankers and marine trade infrastructure. Not Yokohama, however. The famous Minato Mirai 21 (港未来21) waterfront is as picturesque as you could ask for (cover photo).

  3. Preferably somewhere cheap.
    Again, because everyone thinks this, it’s no longer cheap. But I still think it can be cheaper than Tokyo, if hotel prices are anything to go by. It’s entirely viable to do a day trip out from Tokyo, or even stay at Yokohama and do day trips to Tokyo to get your special shopping done.

 

Kadohei Tsuketen Soba (生蕎麦 角平)

For our conference lunch, we got an hour of time and were pointed to the many small eateries nearby for lunch, but I wasn’t about to waste weekday lunch deal chances on some half-baked canteen.

 

Announcing to my other eight Singaporean CIR friends that I would be making the 3km round trip (~40 minutes of walking) to a soba place highly rated on Tabelog, I told them that they were all free to join me, but I would wait for nobody.

 

Lunchtime came, and no one had a better idea, so it was one guy power-walking his way in the midday heat in a suit, and eight other girls huffing and cursing me from behind. I can’t speak for them, but it was a great bowl of soba.

 

Hunger something something best sauce. (Image credit: Jia Han)

 

Firm, fresh buckwheat noodles and simple hearty vegetables in a broth full of deep flavour. Some soba places put the tempura with the soba. I never understood that. Unless your tempura was fried in melted plastic, it’s always going to get soggy in 10 seconds flat. In any case, Kadohei’s prawn was a juicy beast, beautifully seasoned and fried, and thankfully sequestered away from the broth.

 

All in all, a great meal, only ruined by the fact that I was sweating profusely, and had another 20-minute hustle ahead of me back to a conference.

 

Kadohei Tsuketen Soba (生蕎麦 角平)
Address: 1-36-2 Hiranuma, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 220-0023
Nearest station: Yokohama Station (横浜駅) or Takashimacho Station (高島町駅)
Opening hours: 11am–8:30pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

 

Yokohama Chinatown (横浜 中華街)

(Image credit: Jia Han)

 

Yokohama’s Chinatown is the biggest of the three famous Chinatowns in Japan (the other two are in Kobe and Nagasaki). While (Singaporean) tourists might not necessarily want to visit a Chinese diaspora in Japan, my other friends came here especially to buy Chinese sauces and ingredients that would otherwise be hard to find in Japan, especially in the more ulu places. 

 

Like in Singapore, vendors call out to you to promote their street food, restaurants, and trinkets. It is not possible to feign ignorance by pretending you only speak English, Chinese, or Japanese because the vendors are classic street polyglots who will sell you their wares in whichever lingo you choose.

 

(Image credit: Jia Han)

 

We went to eat dim sum as well. A motherly staff was charmed enough by our rusty Chinese to give us a private room, and we promptly ate all the things that we had not eaten for months. The quality was so-so, but the cravings and sheer quantity made up for it.

 

Yokohama Chinatown (横浜 中華街)
Address: Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 231-0023
Nearest station: Motomachi-Chūkagai Station (元町・中華街)

 

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館)

One night, I made a trip to the Ramen Museum. The Ramen Museum has an entry fee, which allows you access to an exhibit area on the first floor, and an eating area in the basement. 

 

(Image credit: Jia Han)

 

The exhibit area was great. Ramen-related souvenirs and ingredients tempted my wallet in the gift shop, and the history of ramen was quite interesting. I found this exhibit particularly beautifulan installation of Japan, with the signature ramens of each prefecture laid out across. It was accompanied by an electronic display that explained the different broths and noodles of every prefecture.

 

Unfortunately, the eating was a poor showing. The Ramen Museum used to rotate seven or eight shops in a food-court-like area. They would sell ramen in mini bowls as well. The idea was that you could eat multiple mini bowls, and each visit would see a different line-up of stalls.

 

 

(Image credit: Jia Han)

 

However, when I went at 8pm, only four of the stalls were open. What’s more, the “mini” bowls were about two-thirds a usual serving, and cost a hefty ¥600 (S$8) per bowl. This might be really cheap by Singapore standards, but in Japan the average cost of a full bowl is below that. And don’t forget the ¥310 entry fee. I only managed two “mini” bowls before I called it quits, a creamy and delicate chicken broth and a burnt shoyu-based broth. Tastewise, they were decent, but nothing life-changing.

 

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館)
Address: 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-City, Kanagawa 222-0033
Nearest station: Shin-Yokohama Station (新横浜駅)
Opening hours: 11am–10pm (open from 10:30am on Sundays, PH)
Admission fee: ¥310

 

Closing

I spent the nights at Yokohama drinking my way through bubble teas and strolling the streets. The slightly chill of November nights came with a slight wave of homesickness. Yokohama is very like Singapore. The huge waterways that run through the city remind me of our own park connectors, except that you can enjoy them in air-con-like weather.

 

Header image credit: Jia Han

 

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