Sunday, June 14, 2020

Edition Chinatown - Yokohama Chukagai

Not to brag or anything, I am a bit of a connoiseur of North American Chinatowns: Toronto, where many Hong Kong hotel chefs retired to, is the place where you can find the best Cantonese cuisine. Simple dim sum dishes there made me go "Damn that's some 30 years of experience in a fancy hotel right there". 

The one in Houston has exploded in the last 10 years. When I first moved to H-town, it was once a mere China-block on Bellaire Blvd, now it so enormous that you can't get around without a car (yes there are great food). At first I really don't get why all Chinese residing in Houston seem to have the same family doctor and dentist (I was watching KevJumba's vlog and went "Wait, that's my dentist, the guy who removed four widsom teeth/two surgically in one go). I always wondered why couldn't my parents pick someone closer...Now I am here in Jersey and oh boy do I miss those folks at Bellaire dental center.  

I didn't explore Chicago Chinatown much while staying there (Chicago Symphony Orchestra and ma boy Muti got me filled) but the bakery was yummy, they got some pretty and reasonably priced jade I couldn't afford, and it has a unique American feel with that gate...The Chinatown at San Fransico exudes vintage, "cultured" and cinematic vibe. I missed all the little gem stores (Jenju and Co, where I bought a  strand of jade and wore it for a grand total of zero time) and the smiling uncle who sold me the cute little pair of jade goldfish earrings. 

Since I was in Japan, I had to visit their Chinatown down at Yokohama at least once. There are multiple ways to head to Yokohama from Tokyo (I used JR Keihin Tohoku line and Keio Inokashira...If I remember it correctly. Actually it doesn't matter how I just love myself some long train rides. 
This is the smaller gate near JR station (this post has pictures from two visits, one from Dec 2018 and one from April 2019). 
The main street, this is so incredibly clean and quiet (Chinese is less softspoken than Japanese)...In fact I barely hear any spoken Chinese. Most are just JK (highschool girls) going "I love chukagai" or practicing mandarins. 
Fortune tellers (they have like four of them at each block) and overpriced chestnut
This is some sort of Museum/giftshop
These lions are painted after the guys in Rose of Versaille (or other manga by the same artist). 

On my first trip, I was taken back by the weird feel (too many stores selling the exact same thing/the food didn't even look authentic) so I didn't get any food...The second time I was too hungry so I stepped inside one of the many restaurants (they all looked the same and sold the same food). 
As a foreigner, it always takes me time to decipher the katakana (mentally translate Japanese English into English) and when I see the menu (Chinese Pinyin transliterated into katakana...) I was like "The heck is this? Double encryption?"
I got the ramen set with two xiaolongbao, coconut jelly...
And the marinated shrimp rice...Jesus the cooking was so bad, I wonder if they opened it to launder money. 
A Chinese gift shop
A Japanese gift shop (the whole area is a tourist trap)
Fresh fruit and veggies are generally expensive in Tokyo (the farmers are not only subsidized, the import is also limited to protect those farmers) but you can always count on local Chinatown to get affordable fruit. They are not that fresh though...
Laoganma at 250 yen...According to Laoganma price index, Yokohama Chinatown has around the same price of living as Manhattan Chinatown.

Anyway, I wasn't very inspired so that's it for today. I heard that for actually authentic Chinese food (I mean I like Japanese food and all but not every random restaurant has great cooking), it seems that the west exit of Ikebukuro station is the place to be. 


  1. What’s chugakai?
    My impression of Chinatowns have always been cheaply made tourist goods. I only go to the San Francisco one (if I’m already in SF) bc there is a boba place there. Hahahah

    The one in Melbourne gave me the same impression, nicer buildings though. Bc I grew up in Beijing I just don’t expect Chinese restaurants to be any good in the US o_O so far I only like certain dimsum restaurants

    1. That's how they say 中華街 in Japanese. The train station name is Motomachi Chukagai. Haha those cheaply made stuff are everywhere in NYC (not just Chinatown) but I also associate Chinatown with very fresh produce and eggtarts!

  2. LOL don't ever eat Chinese food in Japan ^.^ On the other hand, Thai, Korean, and Indian in Japan are some of the best I've had anywhere, save for inside the actual country.

    1. I agree on the Indian food part (not an expert but that one restaurant beat all the Indian moms cooking back in highschool)...Hmmm maybe I will try Korean food next time, but the Korean restaurant in NYC and NJ are pretty darn amazing.

    2. Oh man, there's no comparing with Chinese and Korean food in NYC and NJ for sure. I want to hear what you think once you've tried the Korean food in Japan ^.^


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