Friday I attended the AISA (Association of International Schools in Asia) meeting hosted by the Yokohama International School. AISA is our high school’s athletic conference and includes international schools from Korea, Japan and Taiwan. It was my first time visiting and I wanted to give my impressions.
Yokohama is continuous with the Tokyo being part of the largest metropolitan area in the world, but on its own, it is a city of almost 4 million people. Thanks for US Commodore Matthew Perry landing with his “black ships” in 1853-54 just south of present day Yokohama, it went from a small fishing village to the first port and enclave that foreigners could use when Japan opened up to the world. The Tokugawas chose Yokohama because it was not too close to Tokyo. The Yamate area where the school is located, is on a bluff overlooking the bay, and it had a Mediterranean feel to it. It was still Japan, but one could notice the foreign style residences, which are much more spacious than regular Japanese housing. There are spectacular views from the park and foreign cemetery on the hill. We had lunch in the largest “chinatown” in Japan and there is a fashionable shopping district similar to Tokyo’s Ginza, called Motomachi close by also. It seemed to be a really nice place to live, although probably very expensive.
The port is huge and well developed like most urban coastline in Japan. The reclaimed land holds a large warehouse converted into shops and restaurants. There are plenty of parks and a bicycle/running trail all through the bay. They were hosting a major tour event by International Triathlon Union on Saturday. It inspired me to run a bit faster to see all those young men and women in such excellent physical condition. I stayed at the Hotel New Grand, the same hotel that General MacArthur stayed after Japan’s surrender ending World War II. It was one of the few places undamaged. Large, western-style rooms, a decent Western breakfast buffet and an International Herald Tribune delivered to my room in the morning, made for a very relaxing stay. I see why MacArthur stayed here.
The highlight for me was the opportunity to watch the Osaka Hanshin Tigers play the Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars on Friday evening. The Nippon Professional Baseball game between the fourth and sixth place teams in the Central League was played to a capacity crowd. The stadium is much smaller than the Tiger’s Koshien stadium and there were more Tiger fans than the home fans. I finally got to see a Hanshin victory thanks to Ryota Arai hitting a ninth-inning home run to give the Tigers a 3-2 win. It is interesting to see Japan’s take on the American sport of baseball. I was shocked to see the starting pitcher for the Bay Stars pitching while his team was batting to keep loose. In the MLB, managers are restricting the number of pitches to reduce injury, and in Japan, they disregard this. He threw 112 pitches before being taken out in the 8th inning, but with his between innings throws, he probably threw over 200 pitches. The between innings throws were not game speed, but they were pretty hard. I don’t understand it. Anyway, it was an enjoyable game except for the tight seating arrangements. I was in a group of large North Americans and the seats were designed with smaller people in mind.
I really liked the feel of Yokohama, much less busy than Tokyo and I would like to bring the family up to stay sometime. It would make a good weekend get-away and has something for everyone in my family, shopping/restaurants, the historical Yamata district and lots of parks.