19 Oct 15
In Junior College (that’s the last year of high school in the US), I wanted to join the hockey or baseball teams. The practice days happened to both fall on the same day on the day I had lessons so it didn’t happen. I’d later go on to play a good amount of unicycle hockey in my adult life but I never managed to get into baseball. I think I got interested in it from how fun it seemed in Peanuts strips and when I was in San Francisco two years ago, I made plans to go to a game. Someone in the office had free tix too but I had work so I had to miss it and then tickets were out.
Since I didn’t have much plans in Tokyo sans unicycle, I made a point to get tickets to a Yokohama game.
I loved it. I paid probably around US$60 for a ticket but I didn’t know how good my seat was until I got there and I was this close to the field. In the west you’d have hot dog stands all around but since it is Japan, the kiosks and food booths were selling… bento sets. Beer babes were obviously a global phenomenon. If you brought beer to the game, there are tables around the entrance with plastic cups so you can transfer them over; it’s quite amazing how organized the Japanese are.
During the intervals, like in the west, you’d have mascots scooting around and/or dancing with cheerleaders BUT the coolest moments have to be where the karmen (ie. power ranger-esque) guys run out to interact with the crowd. I was seated on the other side of the stadium so I didn’t get any shots of them unfortunately.
I was at the game between the Chunichi Dragons and the Yokohama DeNA stars and was seated funnily enough between supporters of each side. Yokohama lost the game quite early on and as a show of Japanese etiquette, supporters of each side were able to celebrate their points without getting slugged in the face. When the game ended, everyone gathered their trash and streamed out through the exits where the sole trashbags were, leaving the stadiums spotless. I don’t think there’s any other country where you can witness such and for that I’d recommend a visit to the ball games.
Right beside the Yokohama stadium is Chinatown – specifically the largest Chinatown in Japan.
I think the only Chinatown I’ve visited outside of Singapore is in San Francisco where you’ll pass by it anyway so this is quite new to me.
The first things I spotted were the signs in chinese and a stall selling mutton kebabs which I found funny because it’s so northern China.
I had a bunch of onigiri while at the ball game so I didn’t really feel like kebabs but I caved in when I saw the cheesiest (literally) sign for dumplings. Gyoza specifically but I was still amused enough to want to try this. Look at the signboard!
There was quite a crowd the second time I passed by it but the gyoza were mediocre. The cooking technique was a show though despite being very excessive. Dumplings were cooked in individual orders on a HUGEASS pan and took something like 10 minutes. I don’t really know if that’s necessary given I usually do them in much larger batches at home on a way smaller pan. You could choose to eat at a side table but the only condiment offered is a bottle of oil which I wasn’t sure what to do with. No vinegar or ginger or any of the good stuff.
If there’s any food I’m truly impressed by in Chinatown though, it’s the 生煎包 – shen jian bao or pan-fried pork buns – that can be found at literally every street corner. I had this at multiple shops and I liked it most at the shop with the longest queue. Hey, there has to be a reason for the queue right?
I didn’t really understand the katakana for the buns so I ordered in Chinese at the counter and the first cashier (who’s definitely Chinese because I heard her speak chinese) seemed completely annoyed for some reason. In any case, they’re magnificent and I could easily pop 10 at a go.
My original intention had been to spend a night in Yokohama but I couldn’t find accommodation so I had to head back to Tokyo. I actually managed to head to the area twice – once through Kamakura and another through Tokyo – and I think Kamakura might be the nearer and more convenient option still. There doesn’t seem much to see in Yokohama though so I don’t know if it warrants more than a day-trip.