Monday, October 11, 2010

Yokohama and the Infinite City


Today about the trip to Yokohama, Japan's second largest city. Actually, size doesn't matter, since most towns in the Tokyo Greater Area kind of blend with each other, forming one big city - hence the title of this post. But we'll get to it later. Introduction time: Yokohama was the first Japanese town to open itself to foreigners in the late XIX century. Since then, it became a lively and fast developing port town with lots of minorities among its inhabitants and of course some interesting architectural clashes. This is obviously some travel-guide-like bullshit. Yokohama was very pleasant for us (we went in a group of around 20 Vulcanuses) and we actually felt it's more open for gaijins and more international all together. Even than Tokyo. Even better than Tokyo - more spacey, less smelly, less crowded and really fun. The trip was quietly directed by a volunteer - Marie Wakana. She is a former Vulcanus in Europe student, lives in Yokohama and was very happy to show us around with some of her Japanese friends (also Vulcanus students). The offer was made at the Reception Party and we all agreed on it - thanks again Marie, you were there for us.

First we went to the famous Landmark Tower, which reigns over the city's skyline. You can literally see it from everywhere, like some kind of evil tower watching over you (Half-Life 2, anyone? :). Fortunately, it's far from that - I loved going to the 69th floor to the highest observing point in whole of Japan. There's a super fast elevator (750 meters per minute - now that's some strange speed measure unit) and you get to the top in around 40 seconds. The view from there is definitely one of the best things I've ever seen in my life and I'm not going to describe it - look at the pictures. I felt godlike, watching the coast, the Ocean and of course the huge Yokohama smoothly shifting to Tokyo on the horizon line. It was like the world was covered with a thick carper of skyscrapers - the Infinite City. When we came down and turned human again, we walk around the harbour (the beautiful old ship docked in front of steel and glass giants looked both fragile and impressive). We also visited a local carnival with shops, concerts and various entertainments.

Then we headed for the Chinatown. Another small marvel hidden in the concrete maze of Japanese modern buildings. Narrow, colorful streets and elaborately decorated gates showed us greatly the difference between Japanese and Chinese in terms of aesthetics and their way of life. We dined at a traditional Taiwan restaurant - the food was way better than in similar places back in Europe. Probably because of the atmosphere and some nostalgic Chinese pop music in the background. Watch out - boiled chili peppers don't get less spicy at all. Too bad that the Chinatown was so expensive, but it was clearly because of all the tourists coming to visit. Oh well. Still a must-see.

And last but not least - after party! During the sightseeing, Marie got a call from her friends back in Tokyo, who prepared a surprise party for us. Actually it was a birthday party for one of them, but we also got invited. So that's cool anyway. I got the be on my very first Japanese house party. Overcrowded and extremely hot, but grand. Met some really nice people (who were very happy to see some gaijins), practiced my basic Nihongo skills and drank some Japanese beer called "Asahi". And the best thing - for the first time in two weeks I briefly touched a guitar. An acoustic one. I missed it so. The trip to Yokohama ended late at night somewhere completely different. The whole day was great and much needed after a tiring week of illness and studies.

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