Germany and China in Yokohama

4:13 PM

Discovering Chinatown

Christmas in Japan is a hodgepodge of cultures and traditions. Mainly romantic, a little bit religious and - for me - last year it was a little bit German and a little bit Chinese. Yokohama is home to the largest Chinatown in Asia and it's the perfect location for a day trip from Tokyo. 

Of course, I discovered all this by accident. Last December I got slightly lost on the way to a German Christmas market in Yokohama and found myself stumbling through Chinatown. It was all very Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately I couldn't stop to take a look around because of my German market date, but I made a mental note to come back later. As impressive as Chinatown is, hot wine and pretzels were calling me. 

Gateway to Christmas

The German Christmas market was held at Akarenga, old redbrick warehouses that have been re-purposed into shops, restaurants and more. If you think that redbrick doesn't sound very Japanese, then you're right - but Yokohama has always had an international flavour. It's now home to a number of foreign curriculum-based schools, such as German and French. 

So it's a good choice for the location of a European-style Christmas market. Full disclosure: I've never been to a real German one, though I have been to Czech and Belgian ones. There's nothing like a good market anyway, and my belly was ready to be filled. As it was a Japanese event, the light displays were naturally spectacular. I think that walking down a tunnel of fairy lights is possibly my favourite Winter activity.

O Tannenbaum

Snack time: pretzel and hot spiced wine

There was a decent selection of food, mostly of the German sausage and related dishes variety. I wasn't very hungry so just had a delicious pretzel and a cup of hot spiced wine. We all sat together on public benches and feasted. Living abroad can be tough, but moments like these forge a bond between all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds. The magic of Christmas?

It wouldn't be a festival without incredibly over-priced souvenirs

The one area in which the market was lacking was souvenirs. I was hoping to buy some ornaments for my Christmas tree and maybe a wreath for my front door. Those are typically found at Christmas markets, right? Unfortunately, there were no tree decorations, just some mugs and figurines. Personally I thought they weren't worth the asking price and it was disappointing to come away with nothing.

The creepiest Santa you ever did spy

After all that we made our way back to Chinatown for some food. The market was great, though not as great as it could have been. On the one hand, it's always nice to have events that are free to enjoy if you don't want to spend any money. On the other hand, it can make you homesick when it's almost what you want...but not quite. I'm not German and I'm not Chinese, but spending time in those cultural zones made me feel a little closer to home. Given the choice, I'd rather not spend Christmas in Japan, but I suppose that good food and good cheer can be found everywhere!

Back to Chinatown for supper

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