travel

Yokohama and steamed dumplings

14 Comments
By Jamie Rockers

Yokohama smelled good, like steamed dumplings and ramen. Of course, I was standing in the middle of Yokohama’s Chinatown, the largest in both Japan and Asia, so that might have had something to do with it. Located at Motomachi Chukagai station, it is about a forty-minute ride by express train from central Tokyo. As I wandered past brightly-lit shops selling an array of jewel-colored Chinese dresses and stuffed pandas, I resisted the temptation to spend the yen burning a hole in my wallet and moved on in search of dinner.

Walking down a narrow street crammed with restaurants, I scanned the multitude of choices. The prices were expensive, probably due to the fact that the Chinese food here is more authentic than usual Chinese fare in the rest of Japan, requiring ingredients to be imported from China. The fact that the place was a haven for tourists didn’t help either. Chinese food is popular in Japan but much of it has been modified for Japanese tastes. The plastic food models in the restaurant windows looked a little different though.

Settling on a modestly-priced restaurant offering a course for 2,100 yen, I entered, greeted by the smell of stir-fried beef and green peppers. The restaurant was beautiful inside, the wood lattice work directly inspired from China. The staff was all Chinese and as I sipped on my jasmine tea and stared at a giant laughing Buddha figure in the corner, I waited in anticipation for the first course. A bowl of steaming egg drop soup was promptly delivered, followed by a plate of chili-shrimp. As I dug in, the rest of the course ensued; fried rice with large chunks of juicy ham, perfectly-folded dim sum, stir-fried beef with a sweet sauce, and a mildly-sweet tofu dessert to top it all off. As I left the restaurant, I definitely felt I had gotten my money’s worth.

Walking out of the restaurant and into the early night, I took a rest under a red and green pagoda nearby and consult my guidebook for some facts about Yokohama, which is Japan’s second largest city, after Tokyo. It was the first city to open up to foreign trade, when in 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived from America with a fleet of ships. The rest is history. Yokohama became a major silk trader and through Yokohoma, many Western influences came to Japan’s shores; gas-powered street lamps and the first railway among them.

I decided to take a taxi to Yokohama’s waterfront and arrived there minutes later. The night was beautiful. Lights from Yokohama Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building, reflected in the bay waters and both Japanese and foreign couples strolled hand in hand, perhaps heading to Yamashita Park (a park built out of the rubble from the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923). From where I was standing near Yokohama station, I could see the Cosmo Clock 21, a huge, brightly-lit Ferris wheel (doubling as a clock and once the largest Ferris wheel in the world) and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. A huge shopping center advertising a variety of international clothing brands including UK high-street chain store Topshop and Next glowed in front of me. A New York diner to my right, offering “pie and coffee,” teemed with customers.

A man wearing a Yokohama Bay Stars baseball shirt asked me if I was lost. No, I told him, just confused. Was I still in Japan?

Of course I was still in Japan, I reassured myself, staring up at the glowing lights of the busy train station behind me. Looking down at my shinkansen ticket, I knew it was time to go but if I was lucky, there was just enough time for a piece of pie and some coffee.

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14 Comments
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I have a few remarks on this article.

The prices were expensive, probably due to the fact that the Chinese food here is more authentic than usual Chinese fare in the rest of Japan, requiring ingredients to be imported from China.

I for one don't believe this. The prices are high in some places, and they are not in other places. The fact that some are expensive is mainly because they are in the main road of the China Town, which is a tourist spot. I would honestly be surprised if many of these restaurants really import their ingredients from China more than any other restaurant in Japan.

By the way, I often felt that the service in these restaurants is far below that of other restaurants in Japan. In many places you have to pay extra for smiles.

I decided to take a taxi to Yokohama’s waterfront and arrived there minutes later.

The waterfront is "minutes" away from China Town even by foot...

A man wearing a Yokohama Bay Stars baseball shirt asked me if I was lost. No, I told him, just confused. Was I still in Japan?

I am wondering what you were confused about really... Not about the shopping center I bet, as they are everywhere in Japan.

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There are lots of authentic Chinese restaurants all over Japan, and the prices are high too, but nothing like Yokohama. It is a total rip off. Plus the ingredients can be found here so that is a bunch of bull. Go there to take pics, but forget about getting a decent cheap meal.

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Yokohama’s Chinatown, the largest in both Japan and Asia

Funny, one would think China is the largest Chinatown in Asia...

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Looking down at my shinkansen ticket, I knew it was time to go but if I was lucky, there was just enough time for a piece of pie and some coffee.

Gosh, I hope you made it. To get to the nearest Shinkansen stations from central Yokohama you either have to get to Shinagawa via Keihin Kyuko or else get to Shin-Yokohama. Both would involve at least 30 minutes, providing you make the right connections.

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I like to have a steaming hot dumpling when I get up in the morning, no better way to start the day!

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I agree with one post above that the service in these restaurants is far below that of other restaurants in Japan. The attitude towards visitors by most Chinese staff working in these restaurants in China town leaves much to be desired. Not so friendly I would say.

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Agreed, I don't know if they were aiming for authentic Chinese service, but the waitress in one restaurant I went to on the main street kept banging the water/tea cups on the table and splashing stuff everywhere.

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Meant to write Yokohama, can't type while holding a niku-man.

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I've been to the Chinatowns in London, SF and NYC, and I have to say they all beat Yokohama, hands down, on authentic food and low prices, especially dim-sum. As a vegetarian, I found that I was well-catered for in all 3 places - can't say it's easy in Yokohama.

I like to have a steaming hot dumpling when I get up in the morning, no better way to start the day!

At first, I thought you wrote dumping.

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Never was too impressed with Uokohamka chinatown. Fun palce to visit, some good food.

But tends to be pricey and as was said service is not all that hot. Also, IMHO, there are too many restaurants thre and not enough shops of chinese goods.

We usually stop at a hotel close to Chinatown for the night as we head early in teh morning to kamakura. So afternoon/evening in chinatown and waterfront, next day shrine hopping.

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I went to yokohama once, taking a deep breath as I got off the train I entered the busy thoroughfare. taking a deep breath I decided to try the famous chinese food. waiting in anticipation for my order I took a deep breath and perused the menu.

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I'm going to assume the writer is a travel authors who's trying to hype foreign tourists up.

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Ditto - Yokohama Chinatown has some of the worst Chinese food to be found in Japan. Total rip-off.

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"a moderately-priced restaurant offering a course for 2,100 yen"

I guess the place where I had dinner was a cheaply-priced restaurant - it was only 1,800 yen, and it was delicious and filling enough. And it actually has a no-smoking section.

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