Monday, February 3, 2014
We've been using The Story of the World for a general "world study" curriculum that encompasses history, geography, culture, and social studies. One of the areas we studied that my girls had a particularly enthusiastic interest in was Ancient China. So when we were looking for something to do on a free Sunday, we thought the girls would be excited to visit Yokohama's Chinatown during the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Yokohama is an easy and quick trip from our house (especially compared with Tokyo), taking roughly half an hour and only 1-2 train transfers. Yokohama's Chinatown was established in the mid-1800's because Yokohama's port opened to foreign trade. Many Chinese traders settled in the area, and today, Yokohama's Chinatown is not only the largest Chinatown in Japan, but in all of Asia. The area is one of the most popular tourist areas in Japan, largely due to the amazing selection of food. There are over 200 restaurants within the few blocks making up Chinatown, as well as many food carts and stands where you can sample foods from nearly all regions of China.
We got into Chinatown around noon, so our first order of business was picking a restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, everyone else in Chinatown had the same plan and most restaurants were covered up! We almost stopped at one, but the woman outside ushering people in and passing out menus showed us that it was an all-you-can-eat buffet. And considering it was going to be a miracle if our kids ate anything, we opted not to spend the money on a buffet. So we finally just stepped into a random restaurant that didn't look too crowded, and had some nice plastic food sitting in the window.
We were seated, and handed menus, and were a tad bit disappointed to find absolutely no English inside the menu. You can't always expect to find English wherever you go, but many restaurants - especially in tourist areas - will often have English on the menu. No such luck here. So we reverted to looking at pictures and trying to pick something that looked good. There were several sets (meals with several plates) in the front of the menu, so we decided on one that looked like it would have plenty for all four of us to split. It was roughly $32.
We motioned to our waitress that we were ready, and we pointed to the set and then tried to explain that we'd all like to share. She started speaking quickly in Japanese (too quick for my poor brain to translate) and when she realized I probably didn't understand her, she took out a pen and paper. She wrote down the price, and then wrote "x2" beside it. I looked at The Hubs with a look that I'm sure expressed my concern.... The waitress must have noticed my confusion/hesitation, and she pointed to another set and wrote the price x2. Ohhhhh.... the prices are per person. And we couldn't split it up.
So we reluctantly ordered two $32 sets, because it seemed like the set most likely to appease our children, and because we really weren't sure we had any other choice.
While my children might look happy in the pictures above, lunch was a bit of a struggle. They brought out one plate at a time, which was great, but everything was so freshly made (again, not necessarily a bad thing) that it was BURNING hot. More than once, one of the girls was in tears because her mouth/lips/tongue had been burnt. And while they gave almost everything a good try, they only liked 1-2 items. Oh, and in the middle of lunch, The Hubs started getting calls from work about a patient and had to step out to answer them. Thankfully, the last items in our set were two bowls of a fruity dessert, and the girls were thrilled to finally have something they really wanted to eat. Do I think the meal was worth the $63.00 we paid? Probably not. But it was definitely another experience to log in our books, and we got to try some new food.
After lunch, we went in search of one of the Chinese temples located in Chinatown. We had no idea where we were going, but when you see a bunch of ornate dragons and gold on the roof of a building, you're pretty sure you're headed in the right direction. That's exactly how we found the temple.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the front of the temple, The Hubs wasn't feeling so well. He was the last in our family to be attacked by "The Sinus Infection from Hell," and he wasn't quite over it yet. Add that to the interesting dishes we had just eaten for lunch and he was looking pretty rough. The girls wanted to go in the temple, but it was so crowded - and their Daddy was feeling so bad - that we decided to just take a couple of pictures out front before heading back home.
We did stop in a couple of souvenir shops on the way out, and the girls loved all the ornate jewelry, golden Chinese dragons, and fat, happy Buddhas. There is also another, larger, temple in Chinatown and I think we'll probably try to make another trip at some point to walk around a bit more. I'm not sure we'll be eating in Chinatown next time... or if we do, we'll be snacking on food from the carts and stands. At least the girls had a good time experiencing a little piece of China. I think a trip to the real China might be in order before we move back to the states....