Chinatown, Cup Noodles, and Culture Festival

Yesterday, after breakfast at the hotel, we moved to the Yokohama prefecture government office (essentially like a state government building).  There, we learned about the area more specifically, including a long but interesting and enthusiastic presentation from a tourism department representative.  It was kind of interesting to get to see inside, and the workers there were formal but not unapproachable, which was nice.

We were let out onto the roof again.  More places in America need to let you do that.

Everyone on the roof.

There are three towers in the city that foreigners nicknamed King, Queen, and Jack.  The government office has the King tower, and from that building we were able to see the other two:

The Queen tower, as seen from the roof of the King.

The Jack from a skybridge in King.
And the King itself from the front.

 On the way to lunch, we passed a cool monument with mirrored pillars.

The tourist official was a pretty fun guy, and he led us to Chinatown, where we ate.

One of the gates of Chinatown.

Cute hedgehog buns and other treats.

Our dinner at the restaurant was corn soup, rice, and, pictured above, mabodofu/maaboudoufuu.  I can't say I understand why Kanade (Angel Beats) likes it so much, but I can understand why everyone else thought it was super spicy.  I didn't particularly care for it, but I don't really like tofu.
After lunch, we were free to explore Chinatown.  I went around to a few shops with a large group, but when several of them decided to go to "Doctor Fish" and have them eat the dead skin off their feet, I decided to move on on my own.
Doctor Fish at work.

You don't usually see black ice cream.  This one is black sesame flavor, apparently.
 I was thinking about buying some little animal figurines that I found at one of the shops, because they looked really cool and I thought they could add to my family's collection, but they were way too expensive.  $30-40 for a 2-inch mouse carved of some sort of black stone.  They had jade and gold figures, too.

We walked past the other side of the monument that we saw on our way over, and I found out it was for the Japan-America Treaty of Amity and Friendship.

Bluegrass Bus - Traveling in Style.
Our next stop was the Cup Noodle museum.  At first, I was thinking this would be kind of a waste of time, especially when I walked in and the first room was literally empty except for a massive staircase and a giant inflatable Cup Noodle cup.  It ended up really being a museum to innovation, telling the story of how the noodles were invented and each of the major additions over the years, and relating that to how people can work to come up with all sorts of new things.  It also had some of the most creative displays I've seen in a museum, but the whole thing was pretty short overall.

This was my favorite room.  It used the miniature trees and various lights, some on tracks, some still, to show a whole short movie in shadows on the wall, with words scrolling by for narration and everything.  It was really impressive.

That's going to take a while to clean up.

They had one of those trick perspective rooms.  This is the first time I've seen one in person, I think.

Switching sides.
While my favorite exhibit was the shadow room, my favorite activity was definitely making our very own instant ramen from scratch.

The workroom.  We all put on bandanas and aprons and sat through instructions before getting to work.
We got to mix the dough, shape it, run it through the flattening machines, and cut it into strips.  It was pretty fun.  Then we watched them deep fry the noodles (which is how they dry them to be preserved and ready for instant rehydration) and they gave us the exact ones we worked on in bags that we drew on and labeled ourselves.

My finished product.
They also gave us a normal bag, I guess in case the ones we made didn't turn out well, or just to compare.

Then, on to dinner.

Dinner that night was at a karaoke place, but we didn't actually get to do karaoke.
This was definitely the weirdest dinner yet.  Since it was a karaoke place, they didn't actually have much real dinner stuff.  We got some sort of fish/daikon salad (with the little white eel-like fish that I can't stand), pizza, breadsticks, fried chicken bits, onion rings, and pudding topped with coffee (which I had one bite of before realizing what it was and giving it to someone else).  They were served in that order, with a good 5-10 minutes between each dish, and in rather small amounts.  Very strange meal.  For drinks, we had orange juice, some sort of brown soda (Coke or whatever), and... cold coffee.  I didn't know that was a thing, but no one willingly drank that that I saw.

For the rest of the night, several of us went to the mall, which was basically like any normal mall in the US.  This one wasn't geared towards tourists at all, which the others we've been to have been.  I still found something I liked though, and ended up buying a cheap K-On! Azusa figure.  Actually, it's in the same set as the Yui one I bought last time I was in Japan.

Today, we went to Nihon Minka-en, an outdoor museum of all the different old Japanese house styles for the past few hundred years.  They actually moved real houses to the museum area, and let you walk around inside most of them.  We also had a fairly fluent tour guide, an older man who obviously knew all about and loved the houses.  It was a pretty interesting tour.

Various tools used to make the houses.  Rather than nailing the pieces together, they would fit like an interlocking puzzle, so pieces could be replaced as necessary, and in this case transported more easily to the museum.
The roofs of several houses.  You can see thatched, ceramic tile, and stones on wood shingles.  The stones hold the wood in place.

This was outside the samurai's house.  Water runs into the bamboo stalk, and when it fills up, it tips, pours it all out into the pond, and falls back into place with a light clatter.  I've heard that it was supposed to keep away small animals and such.  Not sure if that's true.

This was probably the most interesting house.  Commoners weren't allowed to have houses over a certain size, and weren't allowed to use straight wood for their beams in the roofs (that was reserved for the samurai class).  Whoever built this house cheated the system as much as possible.

In order to have a larger house, he built two right next to each other and opened the wall in the middle.
A fire burning on the inside, with a pot hanging from the ceiling.  These were on adjustable-length poles so that the heat level could be controlled.

The second cool thing about the cheating house: those not-straight beams are awesome.  He had a real eye for it, and managed to turn what was supposed to be a disadvantage into a really impressive and elegant addition to his home.

Some of the thatched roof styles used plants - specifically Japanese irises - on the top to hold the thatching in place.  This swampy area is growing those irises, presumably for use on the houses in the museum.
After the Minka-en, we got to do something I never thought I'd actually be able to experience.  We went to a school culture festival.

We returned to Yokohama National University for their Seiryo Festival.  They don't have any school events even close to this in the U.S.  All sorts of clubs had stands set up selling food, and there were lots of events happening all day all over the place.

One of the first areas of the festival, lined with stalls on one side and packed with people on the other.  These things are a big deal.

One stall was using anime to advertise.  In particular, the poster on the right is the most popular current-season show, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), which I immediately recognized.  They're selling curry rice.

We went to see some a capella performances.  Apparently, it's a pretty big thing at this school, because there were a few dozen different groups scheduled to perform throughout the day.  We stayed for just a few of them.  The first one was doing some English songs that I was vaguely familiar with.
In another building, I found acoustic guitar performances and listened to a couple of those, including one of my favorite songs, "One More Time, One More Chance", which was used in 5 Centimeters Per Second.  He did a decent job, though clearly not as good as the original.  I still mouthed all the words along with him.

I found a guy dressed up as Hatsune Miku (no picture), and then later a girl dressed as... Kaito?  I think?  But if so, it was a weird version of him.  Anyway, I got a picture.
The next big event we saw was a martial arts demonstration.  They showed a few moves as normal for these things, punching and kicking at the air, but then they went into a short series of actual sparring matches, which were really fun to watch.

This picture was after those, when they were doing choreographed throws, demonstrating various defensive techniques.
Other than the real spars, I think my favorite part was when they were showing how to defend against knife attacks.  One person would use a wooden knife to stab at the other, who would dodge, grab some part of the attacker, and throw them down, sometimes also disarming them in the process.  At the end, they also had some two-on-one fights, which I'm not sure if they were choreographed or not.  The club leader took on one knife-wielder and another member at the same time, constantly knocking both of them down.  So I guess martial arts like that can be used in more than one-on-one fights, but you rarely see it for real.

They also had a live rock concert on stage after a while, but it was too loud for my tastes, so I didn't stay there long.
Eventually, it was time to go, and we went to dinner at the same karaoke place again.  This time, it was a bigger room, and we actually got to do a bit of singing towards the end.  I didn't, because time ran out, but others did.  The food was also better proportioned and made more sense this time, and was served mostly all together.  Slightly different dishes.

After dinner, most of the others went to a small amusement park by the lake and Cup Noodle museum, but I decided to head over to a Book Off I had located (by asking the person at the hotel desk) and buy some manga.  I'm not really into roller coasters, and while the ferris wheel is huge, I've ridden in them before, and already seen the city several times from high up.  And I think that's most of what the park had, so I wasn't really interested.

I ended up buying a few random manga again, along with a few old Playstation 1 and 2 games: To Heart 1 & 2 and Valkyrie Profile (only 500 yen!).  I figure owning a Japanese version of VP gives me at least a reasonable claim to be able to play a translated copy on my computer rather than having to buy it used from someone for over $100.  And maybe I'll eventually learn enough to actually play the one I bought, too.

This entry took way too long to write.  Gotta go to bed; it's already after 1 a.m. here.  Tomorrow's our last full day here, and therefore my last entry before I go home next Thursday.  Coming up in tomorrow's post: zen meditation.

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