Yokohama Chinatown

Kantebiyo Temple (Chinatown, Yokohama)

When Japan opened to foreigners in 1859, it started with ports and Yokohama was one of the first ports to open. Many Chinese immigrants came at that time to work in the port and many settled nearby. It is the largest “Chinatown” in Japan and one of the largest in Asia, with over 250 Chinese restaurants and between 3,000 – 4,000 Chinese residents. It used to be much bigger, but the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which killed 100,000 people and made almost 2 million homeless, caused many of the Chinese to pack up and go back to China instead of trying to rebuild. The Port of Yokohama is the third largest port in Japan after Tokyo and Kobe. None of the Japan ports compare in size to Busan, Korea, Singapore and several Chinese ports.

Akira and I in the bustling streets of 横浜中華街, 

I am in Yokohama for a basketball tournament and am staying in Motomachi, which is adjacent to Chinatown. My friend Akira and I went for a nice Chinese dinner and sento (hot bath). We walked around the narrow streets and took in the sights, including the extravagant Kantebiyo Temple. It is dedicated to the Chinese god of prosperity and good business. That is appropriate for a port town. It is nice to have some Chinese food for a change. We had a nice evening.

Owen and teammates wait to board the Nozomi shinkansen to Shin Yokohama

Cycling with Oliver

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Attempting a selfie as we ride through Japan countryside

I’ve been trying to get out into nature every Sunday to recharge my batteries. Two weekends ago, I rode with Oliver on a loop outside of the town of Kameoka in the Kyoto prefecture. We drove 30 minutes to the town of Toyono and did a 25-kilometer loop along forested rolling hills and rice paddies. An absolutely heavenly afternoon for me, and despite his complaints through much of the ride, in the end, Oliver enjoyed it too!

There are so many great cycling routes in Japan. Drivers are very safe and much of the countryside is depopulating rapidly which makes for really good cycling. I love riding and hope to do as much as I can over the next 8 months I am here.

Oliver and I found a really nice spot for lunch. In between rice fields, a small shinto shrine was nestled between hills. The large sugi trees which are a characteristic of any temple or shrine provided shade and a quiet place to eat and talk.

There were some decent slopes and Oliver complained going up them, but towards the end of the loop back to our car, we had a very long descent through the forest that he loved. We saw many downed trees from the recent typhoon that came through here last month. Oliver doesn’t like cycling too much, but he was nice to humor me and come along.

A perfect afternoon that I wish could have lasted forever!

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Halloween 2018

Halloween is widely celebrated in Japan. One sees all sorts of Halloween-related products for sale and people dress up. The modern customs of trick-or-treating and costumes are one of the gifts America has given to the world. Everyone enjoys dressing up, focusing on being scared and walking around collecting candy.

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Oliver was a big hit in the neighborhood

Our neighborhood, Onohara, annually organizes a Halloween festival. There are booths run by high school students at the school and families volunteer to open their homes to trick-or-treating, which is not regularly practiced here. Japanese culture is super organized and so families had to sign up their children in August. Participants are given tickets and a map to where the homes are located. It costs money to join and the neighborhood association gives candy to the homes. We supplemented our candy supply with American candy from Costco. We decorated the steps and entryway to our house and played Halloween-themed music. Many of the neighborhood children did not know trick-or-treating etiquette and had limited English so we did our best to explain to them how it works. The international school students, especially the elementary students loved seeing “Ms. Nadia” passing out candy. So many of the children were very cute and it was pleasurable to see their excitement.

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Elina, Ocean, Alona and Mako pose as a smack of jellyfish (the technical term for a group of jellyfish)

Oliver dressed up as a dinosaur. We bought a blow-up costume that was hilarious and a hit with everyone. We didn’t manage to save any of the photos, however, due to storage issues on our phones. I hope to get one.

Ocean and three of her friends used umbrellas, lights and colored streamers to dress as jellyfish, which is very appropriate for seafood-loving Japan. They were massively popular with other trick-or-treaters and posed for many photos.

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Ocean is trying to get out of our front gate

We finished the night with a dinner party at a friend’s house. The weather was perfect and it was a delightful evening.

Autumn Cycling with Owen

 

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Harvesting Rice

Sunday afternoon Owen and I went for a bike ride up in the forested hills north of our suburb of Minoh. I just love cycling and going with my son combined with the scenery, it made for such a pleasurable afternoon. Many of the farmers we passed were harvesting rice, one of the many signs of autumn. Most of the rice fields near us our small and farmers use a harvester that looks like a riding lawnmower. You can smell the rice grains as you are riding by the fields.

 

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Owen rides through the sugi forest

We drove 30 minutes up to the village of Ooiwa and parked at a temple parking lot. We rode 10 kilometers north and turned around. There was a good mix of forests, fields, deep valleys and rolling hills. I want to ride all the way to Kameoka, a city just outside of Kyoto, which is about 40 kilometers away.

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Ripe persimmons (kaki) 

 

Sports Day is a National Holiday in Japan

(Oliver runs a leg in the relay race at our school.)

I love sports and being active so thoroughly enjoy the unique Japanese national holiday, Sports Day (undoo kai – field day). The government started field day in 1966 being inspired by hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They wanted to promote an active lifestyle and chose mid-October when the weather is mostly sunny and cool. It is traditional on this day for schools to host relay races, tug-of-war, and other sports. Students and parents eagerly await the day and it is the biggest crowd of parents we get at any school event, except for perhaps the International Fair.

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Oliver uses his mass to excel in the tug-of-war

The Japanese students take this very seriously and have extensive practices for the day. Our school does a range of events including ultimate frisbee, dodgeball and even a dance performance. The different grade levels for teams and winning the overall competition is big deal.

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Owen’s team came second in ultimate frisbee! (Owen is with his friend Josh)

The elementary school students also participate but in non-competitive games. Ocean liked the swimming portion of the day but was not so excited about the field events.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous day with bright blue sunny skies, although it got a little hot in the afternoon. It was our last Sports Day in Japan and I tried to get the most of the day.

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Sunset over Minoh – view from the top of Oasis parking garage

 

Hiking with Ocean

Ocean and I had a delightful afternoon hike around the Minogawa Reservoir yesterday. With the boys out of the house with friends and Nadia still not feeling well, it gave me the perfect conditions for an afternoon with my daughter.

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Ocean is not happy about hiking with Dad, but the sandwich was good! 

I had to drag her out, but by the end of the walk, I think she was enjoying it. The hike took about 90 minutes and it was not too strenuous. The weather in October in Osaka is ideal for being outside. It is so nice to have such a large wilderness area on our doorstep. Walking and talking while being surrounded by tall trees and lovely ferns is so very peaceful and recharges my batteries and clears my mind.

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A nice trail goes around the Minogawa Reservoir

I now know where to consistently find Japanese macaques in the park. Once again, they were near the reservoir.

 

Azuba & Roppongi: Upscale Tokyo

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Grand Hyatt Tokyo 

Every time I visit Tokyo I see something new. Of course, it is the largest metropolitan area in the world so it would make sense that there is a lot to explore. The Japan Council of International Schools meets in different schools every year in Tokyo and it gives me a chance to see different areas.

This week I spent the night in one of the richest and most exclusive residential and shopping districts in the city, Azuba and Roppongi. I was really curious to see the area because the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) is always holding events there. There are many embassies and foreign residences in these suburbs. I arrived late on Monday evening after taking the shinkansen after school. It was an absolutely perfect night for a walk, with a fresh early autumn air and a clear night.

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Japanese Garden juxtaposed with the Roppongi Hills Shopping Complex

I was staying in a small business hotel in Azabu and walked over to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo Roppongi Hills. There are hundreds of designer boutiques, high-end shopping stores, restaurants, etc. The mall is beautifully designed with gardens, nice views to the city, etc.

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Asahi TV studios are also in the complex

I have been to Tokyo many times and the city still fascinates me. I didn’t have a lot of time to see the area because of work, but I did get to feel the swanky luxury of one of the most exclusive areas in the city.