Tag Archives: yokohama

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.


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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