We visited Minato Mirai (Future Harbor), the Yokohama bayside area, which has been redeveloped into a shopping/hotel/entertainment complex. Look at how small the bus seats are - I am taking up a seat for two people!
At Minato Mirai, we entered Queen’s Gate, a multistoried, multi building shopping center. That`s right, a British-sounding American-style shopping center in the middle of Japan. But it looks way cooler than any shopping center in Oregon. I saw so many customers with Hawaii T-shirts over here, as if it is a status symbol to say, "My uncle went to Hawaii and all I got was this lousy T-shirt." I have seen many t-shirts from Haleiwa supermarket here. Why, I don`t know.
Students from a high school and a local design school also put on a fashion show. Most of their fashions looked like something straight out of anime, so I took lots of pictures. It also gave me the creeps seeing middle-aged men taking close-up shots of the young girls, but then they could have been the fathers or the teachers so I shouldn’t pass judgment. Then again, I realized that I am also in the early stages of middle age as well. I sometimes forget that I am no longer in my twenties. So others must have thought me equally creepy.
I felt like I was back in the U.S. while shopping at this mall. I saw so many stores that specialized in goods from America. One shop, “Labrador Retriever,” use the most interesting display of cans of spam, Vienna sausage, and retro canned goods. They sold shirts from Hawaii and from America. Now, what the buyers here have done is to wade through the mass of shirts you can buy in America and find shirts that truly look good, but we just don’t realize it. BTW, Sponge Bob, although nowhere to be seen on regular Japanese TV, seems popular at a store that specializes in American goods.
I could not believe it when I saw yellow ribbons printed with “Support our Troops” on sale. For one, very few Japanese troops have been sent to Iraq. However, the Japanese explanation on the booth said that the ribbons were to pray for one’s friend’s safe return. True, but it only tells half the story as it omits the whole war context. I also saw many other ribbon stickers on sale, along with colored wristbands. Japanese customers were buying these bands, and I wonder if they truly understood the context of these ribbons. Must be like buying Buddhist prayer beads and selling them as good luck charms in America.
And then I stumbled across a Sam Choy’s in Yokohama! But they specialized in Loco Moco (A sign described a loco moco) and the Japanese“Omu-rice” – fried rice and meats cooked in tomato sauce, then put into an omelet and then covered in sauce.They were also serving bubble tea from Hawaii to a long line of customers. So Hawaii culture still influences Japan. The line was too long so we went to a curry shop that had been running since 1915 and was now a chain. We had an old-fashioned curry called Maze (pronounced "Mah-zey")-curry. It is dry curry (rice fried in curry powder) with a raw egg cracked on top of it. You then mix Worchester sauce on the egg, and then mix the rice and egg. Surprisingly delicious.
And then there is Snoopy Town. Snoopy goods everywhere, and the store was packed with high school girls and even middle aged women. Snoopy must be more popular in Japan than in the U.S. for I even saw Snoopy toilet seat covers.Devoted fans can even be with Snoopy in the bathroom. Yoko told me that in the 1970s, stuffed Snoopy dolls were selling for $100, and that they were all the rage in Japan. She wanted a doll back then when her parents bought one for her older sister. However, the stores had run out of Snoopy dolls and more would not come for a while, so she never got the Snoopy doll. I had to rectify things, so I bought a small Snoopy for her. She seemed quite embarrassed, but hey, psychic wounds like these must be healed.
Afterwards, we strolled around the beautiful harbor area with its splendid futuristic buildings (See top photo for a sample). We finally got to an Internet cafe and after tons of paperwork and then a briefing, then we were allowed to use the internet booth. This cafe even has an optional shower room, and you can rent towels there. So Internet cafes are more like mini-hotels, with private booths, TVs, manga, and DVD movies of all types.