Yokohama Chinatown, It's For Everyone
Over 150 Chinese Restaurants.
And that's not all!
YOKOHAMA - When Commodore Perry arrived in Uraga in 1857 and Tokugawa Shogunate proclaimed Yokohama an official port for foreign trade, little did anyone envision anything but trade. Chinese served as the trade broker between Japan and the Western World because of their command of English and Japanese. But as trade increased, so, too did the Chinese population and with it a demand for business ventures and burgeoning trade. And so was born a new Chinatown outside the motherland, Yokohama.
In its early years the new Chinatown stores stood side-by-side on both sides on 500 feet of street, a far cry from its current occupancy of over 50 acres and 500 businesses and roughly 150 Chinese restaurants. In 1887, Heichinro, the oldest Chinese restaurant in Japan opened its doors (it was moved to its current location after the Great Kanto Earthquake).
Yokohama Chinatown, in its present state, was completed about ten years ago. Unlike some old-style Chinese establishments complete with pig feet, ears, and exotic ingredients hanging on display, is a conglomeration of modern retail stores, improved streets, and, oh, yes, very crowded with tourists, especially on holidays.
An old saying in Yokohama could be an automatic invitation to not just buy pork bun and take it home, why not eat in restaurants. Simple guidelines can help you navigate through the crowded streets. One is to divide your choice of Chinese dishes into four separate regions; Peking (Beijing), Cantonese, Szechwan, and Shanghai, two, get recommendations from friends or cuisine experts, and, three, refer to a guide book such as this MeSay.
Peking cuisine originated in China's political, economic, and cultural center Beijing. Great cooks and superb ingredients gathered here to influence and develop today's Peking (Beijing) cuisine. Because of its cold climate, many dishes are hot and sizzling, and, like Restaurant Kaseiro, dishes are traced to Imperial Palace cooking methods during an era long past.
Shanghai cuisine originated in Shanghai located in the Yangtze Delta. With is status as a top world trade port and plentiful fresh water and salt water fish, a variety of grains, fresh vegetables, and choice teas, Restaurant S-U-Ro Saikan is a top choice.
Szechwan cuisine originated in the Yangtze River Szechwan Province. Because it's far from the ocean, chefs developed a variety of seasonings for their dishes and in the process became master creators of complex tastes delicately blended in herbs and spices. Chungking Chinese Szechwan Restaurant is a top choice.
Cantonese cuisine originated in China's southern costal Canton Province. Many ingredients and cooking styles were imported from foreign countries to create complex dishes, which use generous portions of sea food, pork, poultry, vegetables and dry food. Because of the number of available Cantonese ingredients, an old saying, FOOD IS IN CANTON, is often heard. Our recommendation are Restaurant Heichinro and Restaurant Manchinro.
Done trying out the local cuisine? Think you're done seeing Yokohama's Chinatown? Think again! There are 10 peilou (gates) based on Feng Shui's east, west, south, and north sides, all with different identities and guarded by demigods: Bluegreen Dragon in East Gate; Red Bird in South Gate; White Tiger in West Gate, and in the North Gate, the Dark (Mysterious) Turtle.
Kantei-Byo is dedicated to the famous Guan Yu from Anguish (Three Kingdom Saga). He was incredibly loyal and honest, and is worshipped as a god of business prosperity believing the most important part of business is trust and keeping promises. A birthday celebration is held annually on June 24.
Maso-Byo, originally worshipped as a goddess of the sea and later as a goddess of protection and safety during voyages, natural disasters, plague, piracy, and pillage. A birthday celebration honors her every year on March 23.
To round out your visit to Yokohama's famed Chinatown, by all means take the local transportation-if only as an experience you must surrender to-a stroll around the city in a Rickshaw. First used as a means of transportation at the beginning of the 20th century, the Rickshaw offers an alternative to the traditionally modern taxi, driving a car in a congested city, or a risk-all bicycle ride on an equally people-logged sidewalk. A return to your hotel or a ride through the city in a Rickshaw sightseeing adventure will cost from 3,000 to 5,000 yen. ■