Sunday, December 24, 2017

China Days

When I lived in Shanghai, I had a lot of what we used to call "China Days."  That was when living in China put you in such a rage that you couldn't shake it off.  Everything from pushy old ladies and people spitting literally EVERYWHERE could trigger a China Day.  By contrast, I didn't really have Mongolia Days.  While the cold and the pollution were more awful than I have words for, even when something annoyed me, I got over it relatively quickly.  This is probably why I still miss Mongolia.

I don't miss China.  I missed my friends, when they lived there, and I miss my tailor (oh HOW I miss my tailor!), but I have no lingering nostalgia about any "good old days."  This is probably most of the reason why Yokohama's Chinatown had no particular attraction for me.   I didn't need to spend time in Chinatown, because I've actually spent more than enough time in the real China.  But when I was wondering how to round out my blogging for the year, Chinatown was part of the answer.  When I started following Hozuki on Twitter, I found out that the Kinokuniya in SOGO department store at Yokohama station was having a special exhibition the week before I left, complete with (of course) special merch.  So I waited none-too-patiently for the day to arrive - fortunately I was part of the winter concert committee, which kept me busy enough that I didn't go too crazy waiting.
One of the reasons why I'm in love with this anime is the fact that the art is just that good.  The mangaka, Natsumi Eguchi, is actually a fully-trained artist, rather than someone who studied manga.  For your average nerd, this may not make a lot of difference, but as an art teacher it's like day and night - the way he uses lines, the details...there's so much more substance there than in an average manga.  The special character designs for this exhibition really demonstrate that.  And since one of Yomaha's main draws is Chinatown - we were the first port to open to international trade - the special illustration for the event showed the characters in Chinese dress, standing at the main gate of our Chinatown.
So.  I visited the exhibition, bought a couple of things (I finally tried the bath salts, and immediately regretted only buying one pack) took photos of the artwork.  Ate Mexican (unrelated, but El Torito is in the tower next door).  It was not actually as exciting as I'd thought it would be, but I didn't complain - there are little otaku boys and girls all over the world who wish they had the opportunities I had.  With one Saturday left before I was home for the holidays (where I am writing this now), I decided that I would visit that Chinatown and make this my (maybe) last post of 2017.
Now, I wandered into Chinatown once before.  The night I met Flower Boy for the Harvest Moon he was a little late, so I went exploring, finding the temple pictured in the first photo.  This time it was under renovation, so it was just as well that I wasn't looking to pay my respects to the Sea Goddess.  No, my first order of business was lunch.  I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but when I almost walked past a signboard showing fried dumplings with soup inside, I knew I'd found it.
My friend Meen tells me these are not xiaolongbao, but that is what I called them for two years in Shanghai, and another five years in my dreams, because nothing would have warmed up Ulaanbaatar like a bite of one of these babies.  Because they have soup inside, you can't just pop them in your mouth - instead, you have to take a little nibble and suck the soup out before devouring the rest of the dumpling.  Its the kind of experience that in a certain anime would result in your clothes exploding off and some awkwardly sexual sounds...and that anime is the reason I bought the bun pictured (to be honest, although I enjoyed the Hozuki cafe, what I really want is to see someone make a Shokugeki no Soma cafe...every time I watch that show it makes me hungry).

After lunch I wandered down the streets.  It was pretty busy with people shopping, and the goods for sale mostly looked like what you'd expect to find - kitschy golden dragons and chopsticks, although I did find one shop selling some really nice hand-printed tenugui.  At first I wondered why a shop in Chinatown would be selling quality Japanese handicrafts, and then I mentally smacked myself, because it's a shop in a tourist attraction in Japan - of course they sell Japanese souvenirs.  Maybe it was the xiaolongbao talking, but for a moment my suspended disbelief had kicked in, and I was convinced I was in China.  But then reality took over, and I realized that everyone's behavior was way too polite for China, and I hadn't caught a single whiff of stinky tofu.


  1. I know you really miss China, but mostly, you just miss me. ��