Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Caroline vs. Yokohama

Having my family visit me in May was a great excuse to get out of Tokyo for a while and explore a little more of Japan.  We spent one day in Yokohama, a port city just south of Tokyo, which takes about half an hour to get to thanks to Japan's awesome rail system.

Our first stop was at the Osanbashi International Passenger Terminal, which boasts a sleek roof deck open to the public, and is a great place to lounge as well as a popular wedding photo location.  Depending on the time of day there may or may not be food and drink vans open, but there are a couple vending machines available.  There are few shady places, so if you want to see the pier without other people around you, go on a hot sunny day.

From there we walked along the manicured waterfront promenades towards the !!! Cup Noodles Museum (yes, the exclamation points are part of the name!).  The design of the museum alone was enough to make me fall in love: the lobby was three stories high with whitewashed walls and tons of natural light, and the rest of the museum had clean white walls, bright hardwood floors, and pops of red.  The actual display area was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it packed a punch.  It had a cute 15-minute video with a brief history of instant ramen and its inventor Momofuku Ando, a replica of the work shed Momofuku was using when he created instant ramen, as well as a room lined with every version of instant ramen created by Nissin Foods, which Momofuku founded in 1948.  We also stopped for lunch in the museum Noodles Bazaar, which has international noodle dishes available for just ¥300 that were actually very delicious.

My favourite part of the !!! Cup Noodles Museum was by far the My Cup Noodles Factory, where we got to make our own Cup Noodles!  You pick up tickets for a 20-minute time slot when you get your museum entry tickets (¥500 for adults, free for children), and head up to the third floor at the appointed time.  This is a popular activity for school groups, so be prepared for it to be busy and loud!  Cups are dispensed from a vending machine for ¥300 each, and then you sit down to design your cup with a rainbow of markers; I drew some sakura on mine and then impressed my family by writing our names in katakana on each of our cups.  Then you go to the production line, where a staff member will put the noodles in the cup and then have you choose four ingredients from a choice of 12, then seal and shrink-wrap the cup.  The final step is putting the cup in a hilarious plastic bag/purse and then pumping it full of air so it doesn't get squashed on the way home.  It was so fun!  The museum is definitely geared towards children, but it was still really fun to visit.

We had to hustle a little bit after leaving the museum, as my mother wanted to visit the Yokohama War Cemetery, part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which closed at 5pm and was a little way out of town.  We got to the cemetery with about 45 minutes to wander its 20 acres and visit some of the more than 1500 graves.  A fantastic groundkeeper walked us over to the Canadian section, which was on a shared plot with New Zealand, and after spending some time there we walked up to the Indian plot, then to a plot at the top of a hill containing graves of 171 servicemen who died during the Allied occupation, including children.  This wasn't exactly a "fun" excursion, but as a Canadian military family we like to pay our respects to our war dead, and we were all very moved to visit the only CWGC in Japan.

Yokohama is extremely easy to reach from central Tokyo, with some great architecture and activities, and is well worth a trip down for the day.

xx, C.

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