Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yokohama with Angelica

We stayed in the Ashikaga area for most of last week, but on Thursday we each packed a backpack and went to the train station. Our destination this time was Yokohama.

I don't think I've posted this view from the Ashikaga train station yet, but I've seen it a million times. It's a terraced cemetery. Cremation is the norm in Japan, so they don't need a ton of space for burying.

We picked up a few snacks for our journey. Angelica thought it was funny that Seven-Eleven sells individually packaged hard-boiled eggs.

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Yokohama is situated south of Tokyo and is Japan's second largest city.

We started our exploration of the city in Minato Mirai 21, a thoroughly developed area on the coast. A cool fact is much of it is built on reclaimed land.

A shot of Landmark Tower with the Nippon-Maru docked nearby.

There are a few little patches of amusement park here and there. One unique bit was a little vehicle that could be pedaled along on an elevated track.

While the area was clean, new, and well planned, it felt a bit sterile. After taking away the malls, the restaurants, and the little amusement park, I didn't feel like there was a ton to do or to see. Time in Tokyo is probably better spent.

The not-so-imaginatively named Red Brick Warehouse is a nice break from all of the steel and concrete of the rest of the city. While it is currently filled with shops and restaurants, they are trendy and I enjoyed strolling around in them. No McDonald's here.

We had a spring strawberry flavored ice cream at Bashamichi Ice. It was tiny and delicious, topped with a couple of fresh strawberries and sprinkled with dried bits as well.

Lunch was an avocado burger at the Hawaiian themed KUA`AINA. Sure, it's a chain, but its a pretty cool one.

It was one of those burgers that is so big and packed with toppings that you have to really hold on to the bun to keep everything from falling out. It was really good.

I was a bit disappointed in the brick wonderland because it didn't seem to address any of its undoubtedly interesting history. It was completed in 1905, served as a customs building for the bustling port, and survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II. I think I missed something though, because I was too worn out to check the twin building on the other side. I assumed it was just more shops. My bad.

One of Yokohama's strong points, and one that differentiates it a bit from Tokyo, is its Chinatown.

We checked out a Chinese styled temple with a nice incense aroma.

Japan's vision of China: Hello Kitty in a panda suit.

You can check out the previous time I visited Yokohama's Chinatown here for more pictures and witty observations.

Angelica and I discussed not even going to the Ramen Museum in Shinyokohama. We were pretty tired already and the museum was a little bit out of the way. I am soo glad that we went. I wouldn't think twice about taking another multiple hour train ride to visit this place a second time.

Even the exterior was pretty cool. The lights above are giant soup bowls.

After paying a small admission of around 3 dollars, we entered. It was a bit of a rocky start. The first thing one sees after entering is a large gift shop full of ramen related trinkets. I wondered if I had been tricked into buying a ticket to a big store. Around the edges of the the merchandise was a bit of the history of ramen. There was little English signage, and I didn't find it incredibly interesting.

An instant ramen cup featuring Arnold had me laughing.

One level down was where the awesomeness started.

It's a two-story little ramen theme park set in 1958, the year when the first instant ramen was sold. The people that work in the little city are all in character more or less. Super awesome.

The upper floor has nice winding alleyways that are very well themed. Sound effects come from all sides, really pulling you in to the time period. There was even a penny candy store that I bought several interesting items at.

Little ramen restaurants are embedded in the city streets. Sometimes they looked so much a part of the scenery that I had to poke my head in the window to check if they were real.

I only had the stomach room for one bowl of ramen, but the Ramen Museum has assembled an all-star collection of restaurants from all over Japan. We chose to eat at Komurasaki, a ramen shop from the southern island of Kyushu.

It was really good. It was flavored with grilled garlic, something I don't think I've ever tasted in my ramen. Two thumbs up!

So yeah, the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum is awesome. I strongly suggest a name change for them though. Some people find museums boring, and this place is anything but.


  1. Hey! This is Bridget, I am teaching at Keyaki Elementary School! Are you on facebook?!

  2. I've been to Minato Mirai also. It was pretty nice but I also felt there was not a lot of activity there. I was surprised that it was not very busy or crowded. Maybe there needs to be more residential housing to make it more lively.

  3. You asked me about the Ashio mining town. I have not been there but I have read about it. A really good blog I visit often called MJG did 4 posts on his exploration of Ashio. Here is the link to the 1st post.

    He has done a lot of other haikyo as well.