Sights, Sounds, Smells and Savoriness

Oct 8 was a sea day.  This cruise is referred to as a back-to-back.  The last port of our first leg is also the first port of our next leg.  While there are many activities on board the ship, a lot of people are simply getting ready to get off tomorrow.  Some had done a cruise that started before ours and continued on, others had simply come on board for this specific cruise.  Many new cruisers were going to join us tomorrow for just the upcoming cruise or, carrying on with the one right after (for their own back-to-back).  There are never any shortage of passengers and always a generous mix of nationalities.  This sea day, for us, was just another to laze around and do very little.  Yes Mom…doing lots of that! 🙂

It is now Oct 9 (Happy Thanksgiving Back Home!) and we have returned to our starting point, Yokohama.  This time, however, there is time to do a more thorough investigation of local sights, sounds, smells and savoriness.  A goal set, a better map in hand, and out the door into the city.

Amongst other things, Yokohama is host to the largest Chinatown in Japan.  Never having really explored those areas in San Francisco or Vancouver, it seemed like a good choice today.  It was thought a cab would be necessary and immediately off the ship, at the bottom of the hill leading up to the terminal, there were a multitude of them.  They, in turn, were all waiting to make their way up to the terminal proper to pick up fares.  When we had walked out of the ship, it was by a slightly different way.  In so doing, we had bypassed all the cabs that were actually in line for passenger pick-up.  In speaking to a gentleman who turned out to be the person guiding cab traffic, we learned that walking back up(hill!) to the terminal was the only way we could hire a cab.  Definitely a turn-based system.  However, he was also kind enough to point out that walking would probably take only about 15 – 20 minutes and save us money.  Done deal!

As usual, walking is not just the cheaper choice, it again reveals itself to be the more enjoyable one.  Shops, businesses and parks make up the short blocks and people watching is just as interesting.  Like Paris, dogs are as many and varied as their owners.  Most are small (not surprising) and more than a few are the occupants of baby-carriages.  That, too, is easy to understand.  Given so many people walk everywhere and the inherent diminutive size of the dogs, being stepped on is a concern.  Safety first.

In the window of another store was samples of furniture.  Miniature samples.  All hand carved from different woods and all with amazing detail.  Whether these were samples of life-size items or just what they appeared to be was unclear.  But they were for sale and not outrageously priced given the craftsmanship involved.

Soon the crossroads in front of us were definitive in appearance.  Above was Choyo Gate (East) proclaiming an entrance to Chinatown.  The easiest choice was to simply continue straight and hope we could follow our map well enough to not become hopelessly lost.  No problem at all.

The next few hours were spent just being guided by our eyes and our nose.  Staying on the (somewhat) main roads made it fairly easy to complete a full circle.  Having said that, we did manage to get sidetracked a few times.

Only a very light breakfast had been eaten prior to this adventure and with so many choices begging indulgence we just threw up our hands and gave in.  This was a steamed bun, but as mentioned before, Japan (and China it seems) is big on Halloween.  The bun was orange, with both a Jack O’Lantern face and a wonderful pumpkin filling.  Definitely not the familiar pumpkin pie spice, but one more true to just pumpkin itself yet slightly augmented.  The dough was what one would expect, albeit orange through and through.  An opportunity seized and appreciated.  BTW, one is certainly enough for two people.

On we walk and try to take in all that surrounds us.  An impossible task yet failure is not a loss.  Everything that fills this land has given us much more than it has taken.  But there is too much and once more we are faced with the fact that a return visit must happen.

However, before that can happen, a late lunch is in order!  How can we return if we are too famished to even continue?  (yeah…right….THAT’S going to happen!)

The chosen restaurant is one that has seating indoors which our tired feet and legs all but demand.  Not overly hungry but I would be remiss if I did not try some Dim Sum.  Sharing between us is more than adequate and 3 items were chosen.  Shumai is first, out of respect for a dear friend back home that does a Fabulous recreation despite not being Chinese.  In fairness, it’s an honest tossup as to which is better.  Each are made differently and both worth devouring without hesitation.

Next is something we were told by ship crew members to Not Miss were Soup Dumplings.  These are truly noteworthy in that they look very similar to almost any Dim Sum dumplings you may have had.  However, inside is not only a wonderful ball of flavored pork but there is also very hot broth!  Be very careful when biting into these as they can burn your tongue and will definitely squirt all over the place.  That said…order more. 😉

Last, but an absolute Had-To-Find, were the Shark Fin Dumplings.  These are always enjoyed back home (assuming the restaurant has them on the menu given their controversy).  However, the ones here are the best I’ve had.  Fuller, and somewhat sweeter, several orders of just these could easily make a meal.  And make you a very happy diner.

More walking and more the eyes and nose are piqued by curiosities.  It is a marvel at how much can be packed into what is such a small area.  At least, it’s small by standards we are accustomed to back home.  It covers about .2 km square and boasts about 600 shops.  The hours of operation, holiday hours and Wi-Fi connectivity are all universal in Chinatown.  It depends on the shops. 🙂

Enough is enough and we need to be back on-board by 4 p.m. or risk being left behind.  Yes it is a relatively short walk but that was earlier in the day with fresh feet.  A cab, although plentiful, didn’t seem like the flavor we were looking for.  However…right beside us now are a group of young men with (motor-enhanced) rickshaws.  Now we’re talkin’.  For a well-earned 800 yen, back to the ship we go travelling slowly, but uniquely, through the traffic.

Another day with bodies spent but minds opened even further.  Can’t wait for the second half!

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