Tag Archives: ocktoberfest

Rose-tinted glasses

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Upon hearing rumours of the German Beer Festival, Oktoberfest, being celebrated in Yokohama, we decided to take a day trip out and see how the Japanese have interpreted this small piece of European culture [and drink beer!]. Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city and so we were very much expecting another Tokyo-style metropolis. However, it seemed much more laid back and the walk along the marina had a particularly relaxed feel [not a phrase ever used to describe Tokyo!]. As with most towns in Japan, soft, ambient music is played in the street through loudspeakers. The effect is extremely subtle and for some reason, I can’t help but smile as I walk past. If such a system were to be deployed in London, I would probably be vehemently opposed on the grounds of encouraging an overbearing, Big Brother government. Perhaps I’m still looking at Japan through rose-tinted glasses, but it, and other quirky, ‘never-in-the-west’ elements, just seems to ‘work’ here. This is a feeling I suspect will change as I transition from a tourist to a long-term resident…

The bay area in Yokohama.

Yokohama is home to a China Town and so we paid it a quick visit before entering the beer festival. It is somewhat larger than the one in London and it was interesting to see how they have adopted some of the Japanese customs [shouting ‘irasshaimase’ every 5 seconds at you walk past their store], yet manage to retain the unique Chinese cultural feel. I had a small ‘char siu bao‘ type thing and was extremely disappointed to see that the bun was mostly empty! A great shame, since this was all I would have to eat for the next 6 hours…

Gate at entrance to China Town in Yokohama.

The entrance fee to the festival was 200 JPY, and I had naively thought that this would cover
all of the beer you could drink – how wrong I was! It turns out that every drink was about 1000 JPY (about £7.50) and you also required a 1000 JPY deposit for the glass. This is about 4x more expensive than usual (but the beer is of course, of the special German variety) so I decided to only indulge in a single drink, and sip it very, very slowly. I talked to some of Tom’s friends who were there, who had been working in an IT company in Tokyo for several years. Their kind advice? ‘DON’T WORK IN JAPAN!’ [too much pressure and expectation, little reward, inane customs and traditions] Duly noted.

Oktoberfest!

We got hungry towards 7.30PM and so some of us headed back to China Town for a suitable place to eat. There were a few ‘all-you-can-eat’ places for around 2,500 JPY (about £19.00) but we settled for a small place on a side street after being heavily marketed to by the proprietor. It was interesting that the owner kept looking at me whilst speaking [on account of the fact that I look most likely to understand Japanese]; I simply nodded at seemingly appropriate times and threw in a few ‘soo desu’ for good measure. They squeezed us on to a table in the middle of the restaurant and we had a set meal of about 5-6 different dishes. The dishes chosen for the set meal were quite unusual, including one with stir-fried vegetables and chicken skins. I thought I knew what to expect from the set menu in a Chinese restaurant, but apparently even the Chinese food in Japan is different! There was talk of karaoke after the meal, but the long journey home sucked the life out of us and so headed our separate ways and off to bed.

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