Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yokohama & Tokyo

We sailed in to Yokohama harbor at dawn on Monday the 26th.

Japanese drummers welcomed us from atop the hill and grass covered terminal. 

We spent the morning in historic Yokohama where we were reminded of its historic past as a port frequented by foreigners and where Commodore Perry arrived in Japan.

Happy to get our land legs back after 11 straight days at sea.

We stopped at the post office to use an ATM and for Sarah to send a letter to some friends. We also spent over an hour in an internet café taking care of more uploading and quick internet business.

The Customs House has a Middle East motif.

The red brick buildings were once warehouses for the shipping of goods, but with the rise of container shipping they are no longer used for storage.

After lunch we joined others from the ship for a field program (organized excursion). We were bussed to the Asakusa area of Tokyo. I had signed us up for this excursion because the Jim Tueller’s really enjoyed it last year, primarily because of the visit to the drum museum—where most of the drums could be pounded upon. It was therefore confusing to me when we entered an apartment like building. Come to find out the drum museum visit had been replaced with a drum “experience”. That experience turned out to be lots of fun. In a recital like room we were taught by a drum master how to drum and even played a long sequence of set rythmns. The only down side to the visit was that there were only enough drums for half of the group so we wasted some precious Tokyo time waiting while the other half first drummed. 

 We then walked through a surprisingly uncrowded middle class neighborhood. The gold tower with the silver topping is the headquarters of a Japanese beer company and is made to look like a frothing stein of beer. The golden carrot was supposed to be a standing flame, but it was feared it would too easily topple in an earthquake so it was laid on its side. The Tokyo sky tree is in the distance.

I liked the geisha. Sarah later noted that she has red hair and blue eyes like her.

We then visited the Senso-ji Buddhist Temple complex with Red Gate protected by the god of fire and god of wind, a long shopping/eating street (Sarah, had sweet potato ice cream sandwich, the boys had ice cream (opting to not try any of the unique Japanese flavors) and we all tried red bean filled waffles), a pagoda, and the central temple that houses an unseen golden image that was miraculously pulled from the river when Tokyo was just a fishing village.


Land fill areas of Tokyo harbor.

That night we went to dinner with the brother (Takuma) and cousin (Arisa) of Ayae who married David the son of Marie’s brother Matt. They (with financial backing from Ayae’s grandfather) treated us to an amazing and delicious traditional Japanese meal of sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. The kids learned how to use chopsticks and they tired some new and unusual things without flinching—including dipping the boiled thin sliced meat of the shabu-shabu in raw egg and tofu (something Marie has always rejected—it’s a texture thing—but now ate with ease. Will gallantly tried to eat it but it was turning his stomach so with permission he spit it out). It was an amazing introduction to Japanese cuisine, culture and hospitality. Neighboring rooms in the restaurant were full of businessmen doing business or whatever it is Japanese men busy themselves with after work. 

Next day we set out to see some more. A nice agent at the train station helped us figure out the ticket machines and then we ran into an American who is working in Japan who helped us with stops/transfers to the tsukiji fish market in Japan. It was quite an adventure figuring out the trains and subway throughout the day. Luckily there were nice people all along the way who offered help and eventually we figured out how to figure out the complicated subway map.

 This old house reminded me of the thousands of wooden homes that caught fie in the 1923 Kanto earthquake when cooking stoves tipped over.

Our ride and walk time to the market took over 90 minutes which meant we got there later (10:30) than hoped. We missed much of the action but were still able to see enough weird fish, the band-sawing of a large frozen fish and the filleting of small eel like fish to get a good idea of the workings of the largest fish market in Japan. Of interest for future geography lectures: The market is on reclaimed land (which is what tsukiji means) which illustrates the on-going need for flat land in Japan. Because of limited flat land and agricultural options, Japan has turned to the sea to feed itself. We wandered the street and surrounding markets looking for a place to eat. Susi was ruled out by some because we had just seen too many fish.

 Last chrysanthemum

 Indian styled Buddhist temple

Udon noodles sounded good so after a pick-me-up drink from a vending machine we eventually found our way to the Ginza area and a basement noodle shop where we enjoyed curry and noodles (Marie, Will and Sarah), beef and noodles (Joel) and seaweed and noodles (me). I also ordered some tempura for all to try.

From Ginza we rode the subway to Shibuya with its famous intersection where hundreds of pedestrians cross at once in all directions. 

While waiting for the others to eat their McDonald's ice cream I had a nice visit with a very friendly Jehovah Witness missionary (right).

Back in Yokohama we still had a few hours before our onboard time of 1800. On the train ride back I had noticed on the Yokohama map a location for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We decided we should go give it a look. It is in the hilly area on the south end of town. Once there we were delighted to find a memorial plague outside the chapel noting that the first four LDS missionaries to Japan dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel on a nearby hill. We noticed four missionary looking bicycles in the back and the door was open so we went in and met the two elder, two sisters, bishop and his wife. The elders took us into a classroom where they had photos and information about the dedication and early history of the LDS Church in Japan. Gotta love serendipitous moments like this. My grandfather Henry Roland Emmett served his mission in Japan not many years after the dedication. My brother Bob and Marie’s nephew Andrew also served missions in Japan. 


We then walked through large Chinatown. Once the ship was in sight, I took leave of my tired traveling companions and headed out to see some more while they moseyed back. I climbed back up the southern hills to see the foreign cemetery when more than a century and a half of foreigners have been buried. The hill also provided great vistas north to Yokohama. We all loved our first two days in Japan exploring two amazing cities.

Protector of the water

The pilot in red (and raising his hands below) jumping from our ship to his pilot ship after guiding us out of the harbor.


  1. Hey, Chad. Nice entry. Do you know Gary Oba? He was my predecessor here in Kaohsiung, and is now the director of the Foreign Service Field School in Yokohama. Also a member of the Church.

  2. We visited Tokyo a few years back and we loved our day in the city! We visited a couple of the same places you went. Everyone in Japan was so friendly