Dim sum and more in Yokohama’s Chinatown
If you are visiting Chinatown in Yokohama, it is because of the food.
Political arguments aside, Japanese love Chinese food.
From what I have heard from travelers about everyday reality of Chinese food, this must be Chinese food accustomed to satisfy local gustos and hygiene norms. Japanized Chinese food so to say.
Just like you will find with Italian, French, Indian or Thai cuisine around here – food quality and service will be top notch, adjusted to Japanese standards. I am not sure if Shanghai can compete but one day I will want to find out.
A few weeks ago, our active hosts – from whom we rent our home in Tokyo – took us to Yokohama so we could experience the taste of Chinatown – DIM SUM one term to describe an impressive world of dumplings.
Location: Motomachi-Chukagai Station, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
If you come by car (better not due to incredible parking fees and no space really), you might have to look for one of the fascinating car parks.
Your car will probably end up on a sort of swing attached to an elevator ferris-wheel which swiftly takes the car away. It’s an amazing mechanical device that multiplies parking capacity. That metal plate turns the car so you don’t have to turn the car around yourself. Perfect.
There are impressive entrance gates all of which are characteristically marking Chinatown.
If you come in the evening, everything will be light up and more atmospheric.
After dark, all the lights are on.
At any time of the day Chinatown is all about dim sum, colourful souvenir shops and Chinese temples tucked away in between all the bustle. Motomachi is the main shopping street but there are a lot more streets to get lost in. However, Chinatown is easy to navigate.
In case you get lost, helpful police officers are always helping out. Japan is such a safe country that it looks like the main task of Japanese police force is to navigate tourists.
But dim sum is the real thing to do in Chinatown.
Eat dim sum while you stroll, have soup dumplings or steamer basket dumplings in restaurants, baked, fried, steamed, with meat, vegetables or seafood, sweet, cold, hot, juicy, square-shaped or round… the choices for dim sum are endless.
It’s best to start off with an empty stomach.
You will be greeted by red lanterns, food stalls and chestnut vendors giving chestnuts to passers-by.
Yokohama’s Chinatown is spotless and said to be the cleanest, brightest and most orderly Chinatown in a foreign country. It sure is very different to Malaysia’s Chinatown or tranquil Bangkok’s Chinatown or the tourist trap that is Singapore’s Chinatown.
Despite the general standard, I have also read some mixed reports about cheap restaurants in Chinatown with service described to lack charm, grace and subtlety. So it is vital to look around a bit and stay away from the obvious tourist traps on the main shopping streets.
In Japan, prices for food usually correlate to quality.
The restaurant we were invited to by our hosts, was a bit off the beaten track and called Manchinro, offering the astonishing choice of sixty dim sum variations.
We were treated to an unforgettable dining experience with uniformed waiters in white gloves serving all (veggie and seafood) dim sum I can imagine – but one dish was about the price of a typical All-You-Can-Eat Chinatown deal. If you have made it all the way to Chinatown, I would say that it is worth to go all the way for the best dim sum.
I really enjoyed some state of the art shrimp dumplings. This delicately steamed dumpling has a very thin, almost translucent rice-flour skin and requires a chef’s skill to produce. We also had dumplings with vegetarian ingredients, such as tofu and pickled cabbage.
Quick note on the shark fin issue. Shark fins are commonly used to cook soup and make shark fin dumplings in Chinatown. The gruesomeness of shark fishing is the cruelty it involves. The fins of a shark are usually the only portions that are used and most of the shark is just dumped back into the sea. Shark populations cannot keep up with the killings. Sadly most restaurants serve shark fin… this is something I would check before another visit.
Back to dim sum.
The white round blissballs are sold everywhere you go.
You can even watch dim sum masters at work from the street and then line up behind the crowds.
There is always a queue to food in Japan and yet it is such a slim-fit nation.
Watch many happy customers having dumplings and listen to how many times you have heard the word ‘おいしい’ (‘oishi’ means tasty, very good, yummy…).
Dim sum is inextricably linked to the Chinese tradition of tea drinking. Teahouses along the famous silk road were accommodating travelers, teahouses gave rural farmers a break – serving dim sum snacks.
I liked our tiny tea cups a lot.
For individuals on high spirits there is always Chinese rice wine.
I wish this picture of our asparagus had some kind of food-sharing-possibility feature. It was so delish.
And this may look like regular cucumber but it did taste like the best pickled cucumber ever.
Custard tarts and sesame balls are a must for desert.
Totally loved the coconut flavoured rich muffin cup. A good Chinese pastry place is called Tung FAT.
Beware of, or enjoy the weird stuff. Colourful it can get…
And then, totally unexpectedly there was Canada. One of many Chinatown’s unexpected sights.
Like these examples of… dumplings, of course.
Dumplings! What else?
Chinatown offers heaps of restaurants and nice little shops. I liked this turning shop display located outside a shop.
Chinatown also provides the largest number of panda bear merchandise. There is one shop that has a panda bear head entrance, selling panda bear related items. However, the nicest Japanese souvenir shop I’ve come across anywhere in Tokyo so far, is located on the street to the right, if you come out of Starbucks. There are three floors of kawaii Japanese things and they play good jazz music.
Akira took this picture while we browsed inside.
We shopped for souvenirs and had no problem finding something.
It wasn’t going to be this shoe-sock.
It was almost going to be this bunny. Kyoot!
In the end we got a beautiful tea box and I found that awesome material-picture-poster I saw at Fiction, which had inspired tipsy deep thoughts at that cool bar in Tokyo.
They also sold those trendy DIY bags. All you have to get is a handle, to which you can attach any kind of material to make a handbag. Neat!
Japanese printed materials make for gorgeous wall hangings with traditional and kawaii designs.
If you are done with food and souvenirs, you can have your fortune told.
Remember palm reading in school? Checking for the longest life line and freaking out? May I suggest Japanese longevity secrets before getting a reading?
Another fun thing to do is to stroll down straight from Chinatown to Kaiko promenade.
A proper Japanese promenade with fountains and ships.
And a striking view.
You can spot the colourful Ferris wheel.
Thank you for a worthwhile visit to Yokohama, Asami and Akira!
When in Japan, you will notice how earthquakes are part of everyday life and learn about historic earthquakes that have devastated cities.
A beautiful but sad symbol.
There is more on the devastating effects of earthquakes in Yokohama.
This picture shows a part of the building which survived the earthquake.
This is all that remained.
In 1883 the street looked more like some Europen city.
None of the old buildings exist.
Yokohama is a modern rebuild city today.
With modern art. A hand to stop the quakes?
Like Tokyo, Yokohama had been almost completely destroyed by the 1923 Kanto earthquake that struck the metropolitan area with a magnitude of 7.9.
As if to cheer us up, this heart shaped balloon flew our way. I heart thee Japan!
Coming up next – on new perspectives and the amazing Shibuya crossing.