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  • Writer's pictureNigel

🛳 Yokohama 横浜!

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

2023 年 1 月 13 日

Just over 4 years ago, in April 2018, I landed in Tokyo Haneda Airport. It was the first time I had ever been to any Asian country, and I was terrified. アジアの国に行ったのは初めてで、とても怖かったです。To make matters worse, the sim card which I had inserted into my phone did not work - meaning I had no internet. Why was I there? Through my work as a Geigenbauer (violinmaker), I had met Japanese musicians in Germany. Not only was it impressed upon me how difficult the language was, 日本語は難しいですね 🤣...but the sheer expense of getting there....🛫

Something recalcitrant in me; something in my wandering celtic genes, or some carpe diem instinct had nudged me to book that flight. Frankfurt-Tokyo. Direct.

But where on earth to stay? Tokyo? one of the world's biggest metropolitan districts! I turned to Airb&b. Why not stay just outside Tokyo - say in Yokohama? I sat at my laptop and took the plunge. The best decision I have taken for years. In Yokohama I was to meet the crazy Kanakura family, who have warmly welcomed me into their home ever since. Kanakuraファミリーはいつも私を歓迎してくれます.

So here I am, sitting on a Solaseed flight from Kumamoto to Tokyo. Solaseed is a regional airline based im Myasaki. So it is somehow not surprising that the plane seems to be full of middle-aged women out for a weekend shopping spree in Tokyo. Needless to say I am the odd man out. Haha. I doze off to the sweet sylables of a cabin crew member reciting the safety procedures. Every second word seems to be "Onegaishimasu" please. Suddenly I am sitting bolt upright, assaulted by this deafening announcement...大声で不必要なアナウンス (on your smartphone? press "Listen in browser")

Who is this for?

Not to worry. Nobody is listening anyway. I crane my head out of the window and notice a summit poking itself out of the low cloud.....Fuji-san..富士山 🗻 Mount Fuji. I can almost hear the housewives talking about me....what does he find so interesting out there? I admit it is not the most spectacular shot, but it is Fuji-san! Please be impressed at this point....🤣


Fast forward and I am at Yokohama train station. Now I am a person who likes to orientate themselves and not blindly follow signs. This is my fourth stay in Japan, but I still get lost in Yokohama Station. 日本に滞在するのはこれで4回目ですが、いまだに横浜駅で迷います。It all looks the same, and there are few orientation points (a central clock would be a good idea). Thousands of hurrying commuters, endless announcements and a veritable forest of Kanji signs. I do blindly follow the signs to the Sotetsu Line - the local line which will bring me to my destination - Hoshikawa 星川駅

The trains are comfortingly blue.....spotlessly clean and punctual.電車は青く、きれいで、時間に正確です

Hoshikawa station has completely changed. New shops, gleaming escalators - I can hardly find the right exit. But I know I need to find that footbridge across the river and then it is a slog up the hill to my "home from home".

I genuinely find it moving - 私は感動しました - here, on the other side of the world - to walk past the familiar little park where the elderly play some sort of boule game together, to see (a new generation) of schoolkids running through their athletics routines behind the school fence, and to wait at the town hall with the beeping road crossing........道を横切る

And now I am ringing the doorbell and here are Misako-san and Toshi-san to greet me. 😊. My host family. It's been 3 years! Three years of closed borders 3年間国境閉鎖 and the blasted covid pandemic. I am so happy to be here again. Time for a cup of tea.....紅茶1杯

...and to greet the new cat on the block....on my bed.....新しい猫

.......and underneath it.....


So what's new それで、何が新しいのですか in Hodogaya ward I wonder? Later I walk down the road, and there is this gigantic new AEON department store for one. Let's investigate. I need a new notebook and maybe something to write with. A few hopeful looking signs in English direct me to the stationary shelves. But here Kanji takes over, and the selection of pens is, well.....maybe a bit excessive? 😂 ペンは足りていますか?

...and no shortage of calligraphy brushes and ink....."Items for the first Calligraphy

(かきぞめ) of the New Year, says the sign".

Now what about this?....Maps?....but the English sign is only for show....... a street map of the area.....

.....and you quickly shut it. Better charge my iphone......

...need to wrap up your purchase before you leave? They have thought of everything. 彼らはすべてを考えました

...but you would be disappointed here. Best head for the fresh products..... juicy persimmon 柿 fruits. I'm hooked on them now........😋..only 70c per fruit...

Actually what I really need is a haircut. 実は私が本当に必要としているのは散髪です.....But somehow I can't summon up the courage to go to this guy across the road........😄

Instead I end up in my favourite junk shop......(this reminds me of school)......私のお気に入りのジャンクショップ

...but at least we didn't have to use these when I was a child.......a soroban (そろばん)...they have these crazy competitions in schools where pupils race against time to do sums with these things - well a modern version anyway). Can you use one? Don't look at me!


When you walk out of Berlin`s main station there is a vista. ベルリンの主要駅を出ると、自分がどこにいるのかがわかります....Likewise at Victoria station in London or Temple Meads station in Bristol. If you walk out of Yokohama Central Station you could easily find yourself seamlessly transported into a department store or faced with a bewildering facade of neon lights. The last time I was there I actually wrote down how to get out of this station.

I have now spent my first night in Yokohama and it's time, as always, to get to the harbour. This is what I like about Yokohama. The city is the harbour - the Minato Mirai. I manage to escape the station, passing through the Nissan Heaquarters....

to reach the water, although my personal route noted 3 years ago is blocked by a massive new development. No signs of recession here......

but soon familar spacious vistas open up ......見慣れた景色

....and now I have reached the quayside....the lovely white lines of the Nippon Maru appear through the trees....

And things have changed since I was last here...I pay for a ticket and climb into the new cable car....そして、私が最後にここにいたときとは状況が変わりました...私はチケットを支払い、新しいケーブルカーに乗ります....

......this is fun, but short!……これは楽しいけど短い! But it means I am soon at the Osanbashi Cruise Liner terminal, 大さん橋国際客船ターミナル, where you can pose.....either as a tourist......観光客...........

or as a newly wed....Good luck you guys!!!! 結婚したばかり……頑張って😊

When I was a schoolboy my family would joke about my interest in "old things"....私が男子生徒だったとき、私の家族は私が「古いもの」に興味を持っていることについて冗談を言っていました it derelict tin mines in Cornwall or wind-up gramophones. So it would be no surprise to them to know that I now headed to the intriguing NYK Hikawamaru, moored on the eastern side of the harbour....

I have already written about this ship in earlier blogs. Built in the 1930s, it is not too far removed in design from what you would have seen in Newhaven, Sussex at the time.....(photo 1933) ニューヘブン、サセックス、英国 1933

Now, post-pandemic (if you can say that), more of it is open to visitors.....Its eclectic history - passenger liner to Seattle, Washington/troop ship/hospital ship/coals from Hokkaido transport and now museum ship, make it a microcosm of early 20thc. Japanese history. 懐かしい. Add in the fact that it was hit (but never sunk) in combat and you have a nostalgic icon from the past.....日本の歴史のノスタルジックなアイコン......

...and the Japanese are not aftraid of 懐かしさ..nostalgia. In the wheelhouse the shinto shimenwawa, the sacred rope, hangs at the rear....reminding us that the ship is named after a shrine.

....and original charts are laid out......the entrance to Tokyo Bay......

French Art Deco in the dining room.....

.......and the bows still point out to Tokyo Bay and the wide Pacific......

Yes, it's ok to take our masks's a selfie.......(n.b. Despite the fact that the government has said it's not necessary to wear masks outside now, many still do).

Bye, bye old ship....さようなら、さようなら古い船 were one of my first Yokohama discoveries back in 2018......see you next time.....またね

And all the while the couples; the families; the dog walkers; and the odd European blogger 😅 enjoy the promenades and walkways.....


Now with all these nice sunny photos you would never think it was November, with Christmas just around the corner. But in the evening here I am, a Christmas tree behind me! a small town west of Yokohama.......Emi-san and Taihei-san are cooking a delicious okonomiyaki...お好み焼き...and we are knocking back the Asahi...ビール...友達と一緒に 😉

followed by Takoyaki たこ焼き (octopus dumplings!)....mmmmmmmmm......😋......

...and Bach, of course....🎵..


Thank you for reading this 🙏.

Feel free to share it with friends if you like. よろしければ、リンクを友達と共有してください😊

I send out the blog pretty randomly to whoever I think might be interested. Either by email, LINE or WHATSAPP. If you don't want to be sent this blog, don't hesitate to tell me and I shall take you off the list. No problem.

この投稿を読んでいただきありがとうございます。 新しい投稿のお知らせを受け取りたい場合は、上部の購読フォームに記入してください。 ありがとう!Nigel.😊




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Jan 14, 2023

It is interesting that other than Tokyo Station, most Japanese train stations are just warrens of passages and tunnels, with none of the grand vistas you would expect in a major metropolitan transportation hub. Yokohama Station is so.. pedestrian! My stomping grounds are Ikebukuro, so I have that station down, and over the past few years have been exploring Shinjuku Station. I finally did a complete circumnavigation of the facility - took two hours!

Jan 15, 2023
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You should write a book....something like "Escape from Shinjuku" 😅

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