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The Asian ApertureBack in Japan 2012: Day 6: Chinatown
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, April 23, 2012    Share


Woke up to a beautiful lazy Sunday morning and just stared out of my window. My friend was in the bed next to me reading something on his Ipad. The other guy was silent. He must have been still sleeping.
Eventually we all got up and went down to the onsen for one last hot spring bath at this hotel. The water seemed cooler in the other room. Then it was time to go back to the room and gather up everything. This is the time Iím nervous because I keep telling myself that I will forget something important, although it never happens.

Downstairs in the lobby, the hotel had a breakfast buffet. There was no tables available so my two friends picked up Japanese newspapers to read and I picked up volume one of Tokyo Daigaku Monogatari manga or Tokyo University Story, a comic based on Japan most prestige college.

Then a table became available and it was time to put away reading materials. I wasnít in the mood for Japanese food so I picked out all the Western items. It usually happens to me every sixth or seventh day in Japan, to look for something that isnít Japanese only because I eat Japanese food three times a day. So I got scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, and coffee. My friends got miso soup, natto, fish, and healthy foods. I just couldnít do it.

After breakfast, we loaded my friendís van, drove back to the parking garage, and went out walking. There werenít a lot of people out on this Sunday morning. I saw the water with the little tugboats tied to the docks that reminded me of St. Petersburg for some reason. The eternal child in me expected to see Godzilla come charging out of the water to knock those boats apart. In the distance I saw the huge Ferris wheel that is called Cosmo Clock 21. Yokohama is very picturesque on a laidback Sunday.

Eventually we where in Chinatown and I have always wanted to go and see it and eat Mabodofu. Chinatown is a nice area. Big entranceways with Chinese writing in royal blue and gold with dragons showed the way. My two friends went off to get a foot massage, while I strolled around. No businesses was opened yet. A few stores had the doors opened and when I went inside to browse the store clerks would politely tell me to leave and come back. No one was pushy. In Japan I can read the signs, for the most part; in Chinatown I am completely illiterate. So I walk in a childlike way gazing at signs and looking for pictures or some type of graphic to make sense. There was the quintessential Chinese art, two young children, male and female, with a panda and a dragon. Those are the images that come to mind when I imagine China.

Yokohamaís Chinatown is the perfect weekend getaway with lots of restaurants and shops. I walked into one area called Chinatown Square that was the only place opened. I saw the usually Dragonball Z, Doreamon, and Hello Kitty goods, but didnít see what I really wanted. Walking outside I passed a restaurant with a shark head in the window with rows of sharp jagged teeth. Even though I am a big fan of Jaws, seeing a shark with a big gaping mouth shows me how ugly they look. It might have been the fact that the shark was stuffed. This was a Shark Fin restaurant because several fins where also in the display window. I always hated the concept of finning. I recall watching Discovery Channelís Shark Week and being disgusted by the fact that the Chinese would cut off the fins and allow the shark to die. There is good meat to eat on a shark, especially around the head. Thankfully the US has laws set up to prevent this from happening along the Florida coast and everywhere else. If the entire animal was used, it wouldnít bother me this much.

Walking the main street, I didnít see the pop culture stores that I was looking for. I decided to walk down a side street, near the main entrance, close to a Dim Sum restaurant, and saw all the stores that were closed. The store I wanted to see had a black and white picture of Bruce Lee on it. There was a comical looking store that had a giant panda head as the door. You walk through the mouth to get inside. Shopping, I saw tons of anime goods including lots of One Piece and a cat shaped hat that I bought. I had no idea what the characterís name was or what show it was from until a week later when a friend suggested looking at the price tag and Goggling it. Turns out the character is Airou from Monster Hunter, an RPG video game series, anime, manga, and card game. I just wanted an anime cat hat to wear to cons back in the US. There were lots of Chinese markets opening up. I can go to Oceanic in Downtown Tampa anytime I want but I decided to check it out. It could be different in Japan. After a brief browse through one random market, it was the same. Then I walked back out to the main drag and went down another side street with more shops that were all closed.

Slowly the stores began to open, one by one, and on no real schedule. When I thought that most of the stores were open I dashed back to the store with the Bruce Lee picture. They were still moving display stands to the front. I was in the way so I jumped out. Then when that was finished I asked the store clerk about Bruce Lee. She knew who I was talking about and her son came running downstairs to help me. He took me upstairs and showed me the Bruce Lee books for sell, figures, buttons, and then something I had to buy, the yellow and black track suit from Game of Death. I have seen similar suits on the Internet but there you have to be careful. A lot of those suits are two pieces. The real one from the Game of Death movie zips up in the back. So I decided that would be my last purchase on this trip to Japan. I went to the changing room and tried on the large, which was way too small, and thanks to pizza and the occasional beer, had to settle on extra-large. I wasnít going to buy the track shoes but at the last moment bought them because regular white tennis shoes would look awful wearing this tracksuit. Plus, I couldnít return to this store next weekend because I would be back in the Tampa. I took off one shoe and the guy studied it and came back with a size 7 and Ĺ that fitted perfectly. I am such a Bruce Lee fan that as I was buying it and talking to the salespeople I had to act it out. So I thumbed my noise did the loud Waaaa shout and punched in the air. This got a laugh from the two people assisting me. I talked to the son in Japanese and he loved Jackie Chan and we both agreed that Legend of Drunken Master, aka Drunken Master II, was our favorite. For Bruce Lee we both liked Way of the Dragon. Great minds do think alike. Then it was time to part.

Now it was time to meet my friends for lunch. I walked into a restaurant just to sit down. They came in and got me and took me to another place. Inside my friend ordered for me. The first item was a gray egg with black along the sides. It tasted funny to me. I only had a few bites. Next was Shark Fin soup. Despite finning and how ugly sharks can look, I was reluctant to try it. I made myself take the first spoonful and loved it. The fin itself has no real taste but the broth has so much flavor. Finally the Mabodofu came. It was so hot. My friends tried it before me and told me it was hot. It is spicy tofu with a chili bean sauce containing fire hot Szechaun peppers. The taste is so good that you want to keep eating despite the pain. Thankfully my friend was thoughtful enough to order Sweet and sour chicken to balance it out. He also told me that Japanese people didnít care how I ate, with chopsticks, a spoon, a fork, or my own hands. I had a host mother in Osaka, who criticized the way I ate with chopsticks, pointing out that I was using the wrong part of the chopstick to touch the food with. It got quickly annoying so I was glad my friend told me to eat however I wanted. I used the soup spoon because we had to leave. Normally I am good with chopsticks but we had to hurry.

Finishing up, my friend paid, and we left. We went back to the parking garage so I could pick up my bag and suitcase. My suitcase was so heavy now. Then we walked as I pulled my suitcase behind me. We needed to go to Yokohama Station so I could catch the Shinkasen for Narita. We came to steps that seemed to go up forever. I did my best to carry it. The next time my friend carried my suitcase because he goes to the gym often and I was slowing everyone down. We eventually made it to the station. Then, standing outside the Shinkansen, we said our goodbyes, my friend told me to lose weight and played with my stomach. I am always sad to leave. Then I got on the train. I sat down on the first seat and my friend knocked on the window to explain that I should check my ticket for the reserved seat number. I found my seat, sat down, and waved bye as the train took off. I looked out of my window at Japan and didnít want the scenery to end. The train stopped at Narita International and I went into frantic mode as I often do at the airport. I walked in and the person spoke English, which made it easy. I checked in my bags, went through customs, and found myself sitting with other people waiting for the plane to board. This is the worst time for me. I always hate returning to the US. Japan is such a nice place that I really never feel the need to go back home. Oh well, I was sad waiting around but happy to know that I will be back soon. I talked to some of the people waiting. They were from connecting flights from different parts of Asia. I learned from two Chinese girls that a lot of Americans are traveling to Beijing to be English teachers and that competition is fierce. Then boarding began and I had to make myself get on the plane, mainly because I had no other choice.

Several hours later I was back in Tampa. For the next few days, I didnít want to go out anywhere, I didnít want to communicate with my fellow Americans, they just donít understand. The food wasnít good to eat. I had to force myself to join society again. Although I was sad, I had hope that I would see Japan again.



"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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