Chinese New Year in Yokohama

Following last year’s exciting trip to Beijing over Chinese New Year was always going to be a difficult second album, but with the record label breathing down our necks to do something vaguely ‘Chinese-y’ over CNY, we headed out to Chinatown over in Yokohama.

Easily accessible in around 40 minutes from Tokyo, Yokohama’s Chinatown is apparently the largest Chinatown in the whole of Asia (excluding presumably towns in China). Originally founded by Chinese immigrants in the 1860s after the opening of Yokohama’s international port, nowadays many of the Chinese have moved on, but it’s a good place to get some authentic Chinese food and have a look at some nice Chinese gates.

After a short walk from Ishikawacho station, we passed through one such gate and into a road full of pedestrians and many Chinese restaurants (and bizarrely a Greek one too) and shops selling authentic cuisine to take home with you. For the first time since HK we saw delicacies such as shark fin soup and speciality dim sum restaurants (which we thought were quite expensive), but we settled for an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet for the reasonable price of 2000yen (about £12). Often in Japan the buffets come with a time limit of an hour and a half, or two hours, meaning you have to stuff everything in under pressure so that sometimes you can’t enjoy the food so much. Our restaurant didn’t seem to have a limit, so we were free to pace ourselves and indulge in some delicious food.

Amongst others, we ordered xiaolongbao, barbecue pork buns, and crystal prawn dumpling dim sum, honey roasted pork with noodle soup, chicken fried with peppers, a nice fried green beans dish, spring rolls, and jasmine tea which really brought back memories of the dim sum restaurants we frequented in HK. Needless to say, the food was absolutely delicious, and really highlighted the difference in flavours between Chinese and Japanese food.

Having gorged for a good couple of hours, we continued around Chinatown and found more ethnic shops and restaurants (and of course a Starbucks). Leaving Chinatown, we had a lovely walk through Yamashita Park on the waterfront, watching street performers and people wheeling their dogs for a ‘walk’ in prams (mental).

Walking round a bit further we stumbled upon Yokohama strawberry festival. What is a strawberry festival, I hear you ask? Sadly due to the time (about 4pm on Sunday at this point) it was winding down a little so I’m still not entirely sure myself, but inside a marquee there seemed to be stalls selling different kinds of strawberry goods (i.e. lots of jam). We managed to sneak in a cheeky crepe for pudding, before bloatedly walking back to Yokohama station to head back home. Not quite the same as spending Chinese New Year in Beijing, but probably the closest we could get in Japan!

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