Yokohama old Chinatown v new Life Entertainment Mall / 7 September 2013
I'm heading out again for Yokohama - visits to Japan would not be complete without my annual pilgrimage to its Chinatown. We make a stop at Minato Mirai to check out Mark Is, the new Life Entertainment Mall. It has 30 rest and relaxation areas (for adults and children) a fruit orchard and vegetable garden on the roof with workshops and hands-on gardening experiences; a natural experiences museum and like all the new shopping malls it has art exhibition space. It also links directly to Yokohama Museum of Art, I'm very impressed.
Looking at a large egg-shaped sculpture that looks like it is made of cut and pulled-out white paper I have this sudden instinctive feeling that Japan seems to have both more Japanese and more international awareness than last year. The Japanese concept of the idea and purpose of a museum seems to be evolving at light speed!
There is also a brand new 'groundbreaking entertainment facility tapping the latest digital technologies produced by both Sega and the BBC'.
The mall is deceptively large, and while it does have branches of large international chains, it also has lots of small local shops, some with craftspeople apparently making things. In one craft shop I stop to admire beautiful cotton fabric in traditional Japanese patterns and colours, the cloth turns out to be from Lithuania.
The air con is good. Outside the temperature is a fraction cooler than yesterday, but at 35C with humidity at 91% it is not the most comfortable.
Resisting the temptation to stroll, we take the metro into Chinatown, its just too hot and humid to be above ground for too long.
The freedom to be spontaneous, to (train) travel without having to give 'at least 24 hours notice' does great things for my perception of equality. And being out and about among people who never treat me like a potential threat, eases my mind, allows me to enjoy the moment, to feel comfortable in my own skin.
When we do emerge, Yokohama Chinatown is as packed as usual, so many people that all the small pet dogs are in prams with their heads up on the same level as mine. Such a total contrast to Mark Is with its 150 year history; with its links back into superstition and mystery; with the heat, the crowds and the riotous colours.
Dim Sum with a full-window-view of the ornate temple opposite, punctuates the day and later ice cream cools us down. Not that what we ate would pass any EU. regulations for ice cream. In a plastic container more like a vase, the base was filled with crushed ice, on top of that condensed milk was poured over a great heap of chopped mango and strawberries and the whole thing topped with a small scoop of mango ice cream. Somehow I ate all of it.
Browsing and shopping in the little crowded streets was fascinating, this Chinatown claims to be one of the largest in the world and has a wonderfully diverse bustle of visitors. Soon however, the crowds and the heat were just too much. Yokohama Walkabout was cut short and, sadly, we missed the worlds first exhibition of Yuka, a frozen wooly mammoth and Kolyma, an equally frozen wooly rhinoceros.
The Limited Express which takes us to and from Yokohama, is far from a smooth ride. It throws my wheelchair about rather alarmingly, but it is the fastest way to travel this route. I keep an eye on the view from the window, but there is never a point where I am sure of leaving Tokyo, or entering Yokohama. Japan, I am told, is gathering itself into just three mega cities: Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo.
Land of the possible;
of culture impossible
to change; dreams fly
on long tethers to past
norms. As I contemplate
the fantasy of wi-fi
power; electricity by
any other name, to
vanish the jungle
of cables and poles
decorating this land
of tectonic fragility,
I wonder if Japanese
even notice the
eyesore, that was
such a surprise
the first time.