Monday, 29 March 2010

PostHeaderIcon Yokohama

 Yokohama:  Japan's international city... 

My internet connection at work has been down for an excruciating ten minutes.  Therefore, I thought I would write about my trip to Yokohama before it is lost in the archive of “never quite got around to writing about that when I still remembered it”.

Yokohama is actually the biggest city in Japan if you account for the number of residents.  The Tokyo area is massive but thousands commute to the actual city from Yokohama during the day.  Also, it is actually south of Tokyo.  I’ve lived here for two years and I was certain that you travelled north from Tokyo.  How embarrassing.  Yokohama was traditionally the biggest port in Japan and it was where Commodore Perry and his black ships forced Japan to open up to the world in 1854.  Therefore, it became the main Japanese hub for foreign trade.  It is said to still contain this international vibe but I personally couldn’t tell it apart from any other city.  It is famous for its Chinatown which has about 500 restaurants cramped into about two streets.  The World Cup final in 2002 was played here as well.  That’s about it for the brief history lesson.

 Here's some shark fin soup I never had.

I have been to Tokyo a fair number of times but never got around to going on the day trip to Yokohama.  It’s probably for the best that I didn’t because there isn’t actually that much to see and I would have been bored on a second visit.  The reason I went there last weekend was because my girlfriend’s dad comes from there and she has family that she hadn’t seen for about a decade.  So I tagged along in the hope that my presence would not scare or increase the awkwardness of the situation.  It did.  It wore off eventually but there were times where I stood out like a sore thumb whilst Naomi struggled to reconnect with her distant relatives.  I’m not the most awkward of people but I have a problem when a conversation turns silent and nobody is saying anything.  I can always feel a lull coming when a topic of conversation draws to an end.  I always reach for a drink to stall for some precious seconds but then it returns… and with each passing second there is a silent screaming in my brain that escalates uncontrollably.  It reminds me of that scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone is about to shoot the mob boss and police chief… the sound of the train grows louder and louder as the pressure inside his head increases before he jumps up and shoots them both in the head.  Although, in my case I’ll end up coming out with some ridiculous or mundane point in a desperate attempt to steer the table into a safe course of conversation.  Of course, I had to do this in Japanese this weekend when Naomi went to the toilet or something.  I only have a limited number of conversation starters so I found myself in the surreal situation of being alone with somewhat strangers… telling them in Japanese some very interesting facts about medieval history.  

 The Iwasaki family

I did have a very enjoyable weekend though.  We met her aunt, uncle and three cousins over a few days of sightseeing and meals.  It was very strange to be a witness to this unusual family reunion as the Japanese folk seemed a bit nervous.  That’s just the way most of them are though.  Her younger cousin was nice but very shy.  We bonded briefly over our hatred of tomatoes.  We passed her older cousin in the house entrance.  After a decade of not seeing Naomi they communicated for about twenty seconds.  The middle cousin was a cool guy about my age who fancied himself as an actor.  Her uncle was a very standard, middle-aged Japanese man who designed bridges for the city.  He was friendly enough and took us to a very nice restaurant in Chinatown.  It struck me that he felt an obligation to show Naomi and I around because of his brother rather than showing a genuine interest in his niece.  It was understandable though since he has hardly seen his brother in the last few decades.  He was pleasant enough but talked very fast about vague things.  Naomi’s aunt and only non-blood relative was the one who really showed us about.  She was nervous when we first met her but was an exceptionally friendly and cool woman.  On our last night, the three of us went to her local yakitori (chicken skewers) bar.  It was basically a really small bar in which everyone stood talking and watching television.  We ended up drinking about 5-6 beers and some sake.  In the end, there were about a dozen people in the place having great conversations about Japan, Kochi, Ireland and the like.  As usual, Naomi dominated the evening and we got polaroid pictures of us put above the bar.  On the way back to the hotel (we got a cheap price thanks to her father’s friend) we went to a bar and ate blowfish.  I knew it wouldn’t be the risky poisonous stuff but it was still fun regardless.  

 It's oishii fugu.  It's a strange feeling when you're wishing for posion to make it more interesting.

That was one of the best nights I’ve had in Japan in relation to socialising with Japanese people.   I don’t think I’ve ever spoken so much Japanese as I did this last weekend.  It took me a little bit of time to get into it but before I knew it I’d been in a pretty fluent conversation for a few hours.  It’s a shame that it is quite a rare thing to happen as I reckon I’d vastly improve and pick up some useful vocabulary.  Anyway, her family showed us around the Yokohama seafront on the Saturday.  Chinatown was interesting but it was also just two streets of Chinese restaurants.  We went up a tower, saw a famous ship or two, some famous ‘foreign’ red brick warehouses but the best attraction was easily the massive ferris wheel as seen in the Motorcycle Emptiness video by the Manics Street Preachers.

The rest of the trip revolved around going to western globalised chains such as Krispy Kreme and TGI Fridays and feasting on the delights of the civilised word that are not available in the dark despair of the countryside.  

 Naomi's very cool/intelligent aunt

Oh, one more thing.  Naomi’s aunt said I looked like Apollo.  You know… the Greek/Roman God.  I’m finally getting the recognition that my masculine figure deserves.


Noah said...

Ha, yeah right. And I look like Tom Cruise and Beckham. Is it cause I'm short, bad actor or because they know I kick ass at football? No, it's because I'm WHITE. Just like they think Apollo was (albeit a curly-haired white dude). Also, let's go drinking again in the city soon.

Ahoy hoy said...

Japanese people never say I look like anyone cool so I'm milking any attention I get. I'm always surrounded by other ugly chaps like yourself being called Brad Pitt and the like.

I'm skint and hungover but yes... more drinking.

Super Awesome Guy said...

Wow Craig. Just wow.

I always knew you had a blog, since I actually discovered it before I moved to Japan, but I've never bothered to read it. I have now wisely spent (read: wasted) the last hour of work reading this junk.

It's fukin sweet. I can't believe you actually put time in to something so productive. Photos and all! I guess this just goes to show how much time you spend at work doin fuck all. I hear ya.

I wonder if you've guessed who this is yet?

Anonymous said...

You do look like Apollo - Greek version rather than the Roman one. The reason maybe because of the unkempt look of the unshaven and that wavy curly hair. The Romans were too idealistic and made Apollo look like a pretty boy aka Brad Pitt style.

Great to read that you are able to write words beyond vernacular language, unlike ahem...the previous person who left the above comment. You are doing a great job in internationalization and language proficiency.

Ahoy hoy said...

Super Awesome Guy: Thanks very much. I have a spy tracker thing so I can guess that you are one of two people. I'm like the CIA.

Anonymous: I agree. The Roman looks like me about ten years ago. Thanks for the comment but you might have made my friend cry. Sad face.

Super Awesome Guy said...

Vernacular language is naught, but proof of stupidity after all right? If you knew Craig in real life you would know all about vernacular language ;D Ahhh the sweet irony.

I've dried my eyes though and am getting over the scathing insult via an intensive and expensive, though effective, psychiatrist. His name is Mr. Asahi and though sometimes his punches fall below the belt, we love him just the same.

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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.