Sunday, February 7, 2010

Future Port 21

So I spent pretty much all day on Saturday on my computer, Skyping and such. I ate a lot of PB&J sandwiches (which are great on Japanese white bread, makes me feel like a kid again). I figured I'd have to go exploring today (Sunday), even though my compatriots weren't doing anything special this weekend. Exploring alone is pretty great, except when you're facing a bunch of rabid cosplayers with a bad attitude. More on that in a bit.

Some of my vocal readers (read: Dan) asked for more photos, so I'll have some visual aids along with this post.

So I went to Minato Mirai. Its the big port in Yokohama, put together in the last 20 years or so to be the new "Future Port" District of the Kanto (Yokohama, Tokyo, Chiba, the big trinity of Japanese cities) area. Everything is pretty much brand new and shiny. The site has some history though, this is where Commodore Matthew Perry arrived with a small garrison of American soldiers in 1853, demanding that the (then) shogonate Japan open its borders to the world (more specifically, to the USA) and end the period of isolation that had been going on for the last few centuries. Japan acquiesced to Perry and his big coal powered ships (the black smoke lent their names to the so called "Black Ships") and allowed the age of samurai and the shogonate to quickly and regretfully draw to a close.

Minato Mirai from the Pier

So you emerge from the subway station into a massive atrium called "Queen's Square", full of trendy shops and restaurants, including the local favourite Snoopy Shop. This is worthy of note, as a good friend of mine at my dorm has snoopy slippers, a snoopy cell phone charm, the works. But she has no idea who Snoopy is, she has never heard of Woodstock, or Charlie Brown, or Charles Schultz for that matter. To the Japanese, Snoopy is just a convenient cartoon character, with no back story to speak of. Much like Pandapple is to me, I suppose.

The escalator up from the subway station, complete with the giant inflatable Snoopy.

So first things first, right? Check out the tallest building in Japan. I went in expecting a Burj Dubai with attitude, but I got this monolithic muther:

Landmark Tower - 340-some meters of lame

Its not to impressive. It doesn't look so tall at all, maybe because there are a bunch of buildings only a bit shorter all over the place. The metal piece of art near the base is straddled by the (surely) two highest paying tenants in the building. They got the place of honour thats reminiscent of the center of the posh Milan shopping district I went to in Italy.

In this corner...
McDonalds. Its closed, thats why it looks so deserted.

I don't go to McDonalds anymore. They've been bringing out these new burgers every month or so since I've got here, and the advertise the hell out of them (TV, posters, subway-screen-commercials). Beginning of January was the Big Texas Burger (it sold out in 3 days), beginning of February was the New York Burger (it sold out in 1 day). I wanted both, but I'm not up for fighting the crowds for a fucking burger. I do dig the Mega-muffin though (think about the best McMuffin you can think of, its that... but with ketchup).

Anyway, in the other corner:
Krispy Kreme. The shortest I ever saw the line. The donuts are $3 each. (or a dozen for $25, omg)

Japanese people go crazy for Krispy Kreme. Theres always been a line wrapped around the building at every one I've seen. Except for this one, I swooped in after taking this picture to get a good spot in the line. Then I saw the price, and left to get a cheap coffee and donut at Starbucks.

So then I went walking around, and found my way to a park. It was a nice sunny day, so I figured a place to sit around and relax would be in order. Its called Kouwan park, if you're ever in the area. I entered and immediately knew something was amiss.

Uhh, some Anime character. Maybe Final Fantasy? Naruto? Whatever, its a cosplayer.

I was surrounded by cosplayers! And they weren't just chilling and being immensely nerdy. They were all taking pictures of each other, in poses appropriate for their characters. Some girls were being photoed skipping away, hand in hand, some guys were holding seriously large and heavy looking swords, most were just looking very serious and thoughtful and emo.

Is this Grey's Anatomy?

These girls were skipping away from the camera, and being films by daddy/creepy uncle/fanatic.

Well this park is a gold mine for hilariously Japanese photos to put on my blog, right? I took a bunch of the funniest photos I've ever seen, complete with gravity defying hair, tails, kitty-human hybrids and french maids. I was a happy gaijin.

And then this guy in a faux-snakeskin suit, pointy elf shoes and a very large and in-charge emo bang jogged up to me and said "What are you doing?" (in Japanese). "I do photos", I say, already stressing my FOB level of Japanese.

The guy then procedes to grab my camera, pass it to his Misty-lookalike assistant (thats Pokemon's Misty), and set me with a glare. He begins to rattle on in Japanese really quickly, angrily, and homosexually (the lisp-accent is universal). After maybe 5 minutes of him yelling and pointing at me, I'm tiring of switching between "I'm so sorry", "I understand", "Is everything okay now?" - (all in Japanese) - and "Jesus Christ dude, gimme a break" - (In English). He says "You should go now", I grab my camera, and high-tail it out of there. Misty deleted all my hilarious cosplayer photos. Bitch. (The ones above were taken later, secretly).

This is the cosplayer park. Everyone you see (except for the copper) is in full on anime nerd-garb.

On my way back to the main attractions, I check out a massive ferris wheel, which doubles as the world's largest clock. It apparently has hands that show the time, but I never noticed them. Theres an amusement park on an artificial island around this place, but Tiltawhirls don't do it for me anymore, so I skipped it.
Does having a digital clock in the middle of a ferris wheel make it the world's biggest clock?

I headed over to the posh shopping district of Minato Mirai, called Motomachi. The only store I recognized was the Gap, which isn't very posh by my standards, but whatever yings the collective Japanese yang.
Fancy shopping district is fancy.

Fancy shopping district has STREET CHANDELIERS! I can dig it.

Oooo elevator parking in the Motomachi district. This parking lot was really sketchy looking, and went up like 6 stories. I wouldnt trust its structural integrity.

Nanotek cigarettes, I need some of these to fit in better.

Next came Chukagai (or China Town), to grab some cheap good food.

The people inside China Town look about the same as those outside. They're SECRET GAIJINS.

Not much to say about China Town. It was full of very narrow streets, and reminded me more of Venice than China, which often had quite wide streets outside of the markets. I got extremely and irredeemably lost in this Chinese maze. I now know that my mistake was that I remembered taking a right turn at the very large wooden Tiger, but it was a three-way intersection, and this was my undoing.

While lost, I found myself in a tight alley with little restaurants on each side, very Chinese looking, except for the plastic-meal replicas that the Japanese love so much.
Oh, wrong picture. Though I like this one too. So I'm going to include it.

Ok, this isn't the sketchy little alley either. This is where I bought my bubble tea.

Well I found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and had some cheap and awesome squid fried noodles, and finally got to writing a post card for Dan'Au (Now I just have to figure out how to get international stamps). I found some bubble tea (which is an alien concept to Japanese people, no one else has every heard of it). And then 20 minutes later finally stumbled out of China Town, completely intact. It was dark.

Pretty Nippon-maru with Minato Mirai in the background.

Minato Mirai from some artificial island I found myself on.

NB: Don't look at the tallest building in Japan, think "Hey, that looks pretty close, I can walk it", and then start walking in a straight line in its direction. There was a BAY in the way. Luckily it had lily pads/artificial islands that could get me where I needed to go.

American guy with serious juggling skills. He juggled chainsaws on that unicycle. Its much taller than it looks. I crapped myself when the other guy tossed the chainsaws to him, since he couldn't carry them up onto the unicycle himself. Now hes just being a showman with a latex glove.

This guy was impressive as well. But no chainsaws.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, I wish I could post pictures on my blog, haha. I especially like the "Dan'Au" =D

    That must have been pretty interesting when Misty showed up and went crazy on you. Should have Freaked out on her in English, haha! Great job with the pics! Keep them coming! =D

    Oh..and Snoopy Store! Man, I gotta go to Japan!