I Left my Hat in San Francisco

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August 21st 2017
Published: August 21st 2017
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Still a slight headache this morning, but I had to be up early, because we had decided to go to Yokohama today, and it's a long way away. We weren't sure exactly how long it would take (because we hadn't yet really researched how to get there) but Yokohama is on the opposite side of Tokyo Bay from Chiba, so it would certainly be a while. I was awake and up a bit before 7, by which time Stephen had already looked up how to get there and what we might do when we got there, so that was good. We made ourselves a plan over breakfast, and were off less than 10 minutes after our theoretical ideal start time of 8.30.

The trip took three different trains, one of which went under the bay (and yet had stations to stop at every 3 minutes), and the third one we took to two stops past Yokohama itself (I read somewhere several months ago that Yokohama Station is not where the sights are, so if you go to Yokohama don't go to Yokohama Station) and it took almost exactly 2 hours. We walked along a historic street ("Horse-Carriage St") that the
From Ferris WheelFrom Ferris WheelFrom Ferris Wheel

Yokohama City, with amusement park immediately below; Yamashita Park is the green near horizon to left of cable
station map told us had had a number of firsts: first ice-cream sold in Japan, the first camera shop (or photo stand, something like that, I can't remember: I didn't take notes and it wasn't written in English on the actual memorials on the street) the first gas lamps and so on. We stopped for a quick coffee, and continued on towards an amusement park that had a Ferris wheel. I had seen this from a distance in 1997 when I came here by myself on Sunday, and I thought it was a thing, you know, like the London Eye or the Singapore Flyer. Maybe it was then, even, but now it's just a Ferris wheel in a kids' amusement park. It is the world's biggest clock-type Ferris wheel, and I just googled that to see what other kinds there can possible be. And apparently I was right: this one was quite a thing 20 years ago. From 1982 to 1997 it was the world's tallest, but then another in Japan was built taller, and this one was dismantled and moved. But it was good to do today, actually. It was a reasonably sunny day, but still too misty to see Mt Fuji, although we could've, just, if it had been really really clear.

From there we walked about 500m to the Red-Brick Warehouse, a development of boutique and gallery shopping in, surprisingly enough, an old red-brick warehouse. There were lots of restaurants and cafes too, and we had lunch at an organic-food restaurant, that served a salad dressing of some kind of avocado vinaigrette that was just divine. I would have liked to put some over my cold pasta dish too, but they took it away when I finished my salad. Luckily the pasta's pesto flavour was pretty good too. We wandered back to the beginning of the arcade, buying a couple of little bits and pieces, and outside we were just in time to catch a bus to take us to the next point on our list: Chinatown. We didn't need to spend much time there, but were just curious as to what a Japanese Chinatown looked like, (it's blue! Lots of shop frontages, the big gates on the edge of the area: you'd normally expect a bright vermillion, but they were blue) so we only walked down a couple of streets on the edge of the
Yamashita Park, YokohamaYamashita Park, YokohamaYamashita Park, Yokohama

Goddess of Water statue
neighbourhood before heading in the direction of a museum we were interested in. We went a block or two out of our way so that the walk would lead through Yamashita Park, which runs for maybe a kilometre along the waterfront. At the far end of the park is the Silk Museum, and I'm sure it would have been interesting if today hadn't been Monday. Traveller's folly: forgetting museums close on Mondays. So we had a coffee instead, at an American-themed cafe opposite. During the coffee Stephen realised that he hadn't got any distance or approach shots of the Ferris wheel, so when we'd finished the cuppas (and cake, and a crepe, yum) we caught a taxi and headed back towards it for the necessary footage. Then we asked the driver to bring us back to the area of the coffee shop, because our plan was to catch a bus to a garden, about 5km away, and the bus stop had been just 4 minutes' walk from our intended starting point.

We had to get off at the 15th stop, but we soon lost count, because the recordings of announcements of stops coming up, and what would be after that, and get off here if you need to go to this place or that place, and the next stop will be, and so on, often coincided with stops for traffic lights as well as actual bus stops, so when it seemed like we'd passed 20 bus stops already, in fact we were less than halfway along the route. But our stop had an easily recognisable name (although I'd called it, let's say, Plum Way to the driver, and it was actually Cherry Blossom Street - honestly, I could recognise the kanji, even if I couldn't actually read it aloud!) so we got off with no problems, and then it was just 4 minutes' walk again to the park, and it was well sign-posted too.

This was a place called Sankeien Gardens. A Mr Sankei Hara (same name as the family of the historic house we saw a week or so ago - wouldn't be surprised if it was the same family) was a wealthy silk merchant at the end of the 19th century, and a patron of the arts and a public-spirited philanthropist as well. He built a house for himself here, as well as gardens, and he
Sankeien Gardens, YokohamaSankeien Gardens, YokohamaSankeien Gardens, Yokohama

Lake, and pagoda on the hill
brought in ancient buildings from places like Kyoto and Kamakura to preserve them, and in 1906 he opened most of the gardens to the public for free. The gardens are lovely: 175 Ha with a lake and a 3-storey pagoda on a hill. There is an Inner Garden which he kept private for a while, but now it is all open. I think I came here in 1997 too, but it has changed a lot, and I'm glad we came today, because it was a completely new experience. Spring and autumn would be particularly beautiful here; as it is, now in the height of summer, there is just greenery all around: grass, pines (oh, those classical Japanese pine trees), maples, and lotuses (some in flower.)

As we were strolling through the grounds, we stopped for a selfie on a bridge, and as Stephen gathered his stuff up afterwards he wondered, "Where's my hat?" He remembered the last place he had it was at the American-style coffee shop in the afternoon, when he had put it on the next table (!) while I went to the loo. As we continued our walk, we debated the pros and cons of going back for it. It was a good hat. He'd had it for maybe 8 years. It'd had a good run. You can't get hats like that in this part of the world. He needs a good hat. Going back to get the hat would add about half an hour to the trip home (which we were both kind of looking forward to by now.) But it was a good hat. I really didn't mind if we went back for the hat. Right, we'll retrieve the hat. We got back to the entrance of the park, where there were taxis waiting. Taxi to the closest JR station (we could have got that train all the way back to Tokyo Station, then it would be a normal run home. That was our original plan.) Take that train for 2 stops, then hop off, walk or taxi (depending on how we felt when we got there) back to the coffee shop, retrieve hat, walk or continue taxi on to next station along the line, then back to original plan. Done. The walk/taxi choice became the latter option when we looked at the map - it was just too confusing, and also a bit far for that time of day. But the plan went according to plan. They recognised Stephen immediately when he got out of the taxi and handed him the hat, and he trotted back to the taxi, duly behatted, and as happy as a man with a hat.

The rest of the trip home - only two trains instead of three, so involving less effort but about 20 minutes extra - stopped a little short, because we alighted one station early in order to have dinner at one of the restaurants surrounding K-M Station. We looked at a Japanese place, but weren't excited by tempura today (usually I love tempura) and gave in to the temptation of comfort food: fish and chips at a British pub (-like restaurant. One menu item we eschewed tonight was takoyaki pizza - takoyaki being battered balls of octopus.) Then one more station, 10 minutes walk, and ... home at last. A long day, and one and a half blogs to write. Sorry again for the long wait. Let's see if today's photos will let me get this one uploaded tonight.


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