Yokohama, Japan just outside of Tokyo has the largest Chinatown in Asia. We were fortunate to be staying near Chinatown during their Lunar New Year’s celebration. Walking to dinner in Chinatown, we unexpectedly encountered many loud celebrations involving firecrackers and drums.
The celebrations involved over a dozen people in each of many groups walking around in Chinatown banging on large drums. Two people under a dragon costume go inside a designated restaurant and dance, presumably to chase away demons and bestow good fortune. As the dragon exits the restaurant door, the dragon has to jump up and retrieve a good luck red envelope hanging above the door. Red envelopes for good fortune are big in the Chinese culture. They must contain only crisp new money, an even number of bills and never contain the number 4. Giving odd numbers of bills is reserved for funerals. The money is given from the elders to the younger unmarried kids as protection against the demon Sui who terrorizes children. Watch for the red envelope in the short movie clips below.
Chinatown was so crowded it was difficult to get into any restaurant. Finally I found a line that was relatively short, so I stood in it a while. When I reached the front of this line they refused to sell me any of their dumplings or other dishes. As best I could discern, they were selling only frozen food to take home and cook. Thankfully they could tell I did not know what I was really ordering.
Fortunately, a large fair was going in the park just across the street from our hotel. It had nonstop terrible shrieking of young singing groups and the Japanese version of fair food. No corn dogs or hamburgers here…
All I had to do was point to the octopus or squid on a stick and I had an instant lunch, no waiting lines if you came early.
It seems I was quite taken with the hungry carp at a nearby temple. I took over 250 photos of these beasts. I’m not sure what I was hoping for, but their gaping mouths entertained me for much of the afternoon. The rest of my party had long gone back to the ship. The red in the photo below is the reflection of a nearby red foot bridge.
If octopus and squid on a stick are not for you, certainly you can find something good to eat at the extensive hotel breakfast buffet. My plate would get filled with a dozen or so food items, none of which were familiar to me. After cleaning my first plate, the second plate would contain even more unknown items. What a great opportunity to try new foods!
This adventurous dining practice was not followed by everyone in our party.
Homeward Bound, Finally
We are filled with relief and joy at the prospect of boarding our cruise ship back to the States, finally homeward bound. While the trip will be a long three weeks, there is a feeling that once we get aboard, we are basically home. No more big decisions and no more language barriers. Unfortunately, no more fresh squid on a stick either. Only one flight remains, which will be a piece of cake. We will have been gone for about six months.
Hello Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia
No roads lead into or out of Petropavlovsk, which is located on a peninsula in the Pacific on the far eastern coast of Russia. You must arrive by boat or air. Half their security work is already completed.
In order to get off the cruise ship you must be booked on a Russian approved shore excursion. Our tour bus did not stop by this statue of Vladimir Lenin. It seemed appropriate to visit this statue and take a photo of Lenin when in Russia. I requested to be let off of the bus before the tour ended and I would walk back to the dock on my own. Even the cold desolate mountain in the background seems to fit in with how we may expect Russia to appear.
This Russian Orthodox church was one of the highlights of the tour. While this turret is not the main structure, I liked the mountain in the background.
Turns out we were supposed to pay for the privilege of having our photo taken here. We were never told the Russians would readily accept dollars, so we left our money on the boat.
We had a great time exploring the Russian shopping area. As often happens we had a good time trying to communicate with the locals. The young people especially seemed curious about us and wanted to try out their English skills. While we were relieved to finally be in a cooler climate, we were still very anxious to get to Alaska. Between Russia and Alaska is over a week at sea. Days and days of exercise at sea, trying not to overeat, leisurely reading a book and doing puzzles, such troubles. The days at sea are the most enjoyable for me.
Next stop, Alaska.