November 4, 2010, Tokyo
Having rested well the night before, we started our second day early. There would be a lot of travelling to do because of the places we’ve chosen to visit but it was well worth it. We started the day at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography at Ebisu, a place I have yet to visit.
We wanted to have breakfast before we visited the exhibition, but before that, we stopped at the museum gift shop for a look. It wasn’t a big shop but there were very interesting items. It was still too early to start my shopping gear rolling, though, so we just ended up buying photography magazines on Tokyo. We stepped into the museum cafe, Chambre Claire. I was deeply disappointed, both at the size of the place, and at the menu they offered. Still they had a widely stocked bar, and apparently, they serve the best Belgian beers. I ordered a croque monsieur. It looked like something I could have done at home, so I wasn’t very impressed. Oh well.
We paid and entered a hall for an exhibition on portraits and were out in about half an hour. This, and about three other exhibitions were the only things going on at the museum, which is rather small. I suppose the museum was meant more for archival reasons than anything else. Anyhow, we left Ebisu with greater hope for our next destination: Yokohama.
I have been to Yokohama several years ago and I loved it. As soon as you step out of the station, you cannot miss the skies, which were the perfect shade of blue. You’ll see tall, modern buildings that were unintrusive, unlike those in Tokyo. If Tokyo were like Shanghai, then Yokohama would be the friendlier Beijing. I had planned a few things to do in Yokohama, and visiting the Red Brick Warehouse was one of them. Originally used as a customs warehouse a hundred years ago, it is now a shopping and food complex. After doing some shopping and eating, we went outside for the view of the port. The weather was perfect and the sky still blue, even though less than half an hour later, it was going to turn dark really quickly.
While walking around the back of the warehouse, I discovered a 100-yen tram service that picks up passengers from more than 20 stops around the main Yokohama area. Because we had time to spare, we hopped on the tram and did a tour of Yokohama. It went past the Motomachi area where Chinatown is, but it wasn’t on my itinerary today. Nothing in Chinatown I really wanna see. I fell asleep on the tram but he woke me as we were approaching the Osanbashi Pier. You could see this pier from the Red Brick Museum and earlier, I had said to him that I have always wanted to visit this place, even though I didn’t know how to get here. Quickly, we decided to get off because it was as if we were destined to see it. And boy, was I glad we did. The view was unforgettable.
Our last stop of the day was the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum. I’m not a fan of ramen, but I have to say the place was cute. It is a food court, sort of, as it houses a selection of renowned ramen establishments from all over Japan, nine in total. However, it’s not just any food court. It was designed as an amusement park of the 1950s era, with authentic looking shop decor and street performances. What was more important was the gift store. It has, in packed form, all the ramen that is featured in the museum so you can bring them home. So we did. We managed to taste the ramen from two different stores before we got filled up, but we particularly like the last Tsukemen we tried.
It was gonna be a long way home. What never fails to amaze me is how the Japanese have managed crowd control. It is as if they knew, intrinsically, that in a place where the population is large, the only way to be efficient and to get where or what you want quickly, is to queue up. Man, if I ever live to see a sight like this in Singapore…
We were really tired when we got back to the hotel, but for some reason, I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it had suddenly dawned on me that I was really in Tokyo and the excitement was keeping me awake. Or maybe I realised that actually being in Tokyo meant that I was going to leave in a few days and sleeping too much was just a waste of time. So I picked up my magazine and grabbed one of the several corn potage snacks (yes, I was determined to try them all) and read until my eyes couldn’t take it anymore.