My Glimpse at Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown

My Glimpse at Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown

Fuad Olajuwon

Spending some time in Yokohama, I was finally able to head down to Chinatown to take a look at some of the sights. Around since the early 19th century, Yokohama Chinatown is a cultural icon in the Kanto area. Going during the Chinese New Year is an especially delightful treat.

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The festive mood and vibrancy of the place was something extraordinary. Rows and rows of specialty shops, dim sum shops, and Chinese restaurants were flashing brilliantly to bring in the New Year. With over 250 shops to choose from, you can get a taste of different parts of China all in one area.

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One interesting part about Yokohama's Chinatown is the variation in cuisine. Although authentically Chinese, you can order an assortment of culinary delights that give you a preview of what to expect should you decide to go to the mainland. According to the official website of Yokohama Chinatown, there are several distinct flavors of cooking you can try: Beijing (Peking), Shanghai, Guangzhou (Canton), Szechuan (Shikawa), as well as Taiwanese style. Being that Szechuan is my favorite, my friends and I decided to find a restaurant that caught our eye. However, no decision is a wrong one in Yokohama Chinatown!

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The restaurant we entered had an authentic look and feel, as plates of food whizzed past us. As you can see from the pictures below, our meal was a rather modest one, but the flavor was virtually unmatched. The rich spices and chilis were especially prevalent in the mapo tofu, as the Szechuan cuisine was the perfect remedy for a cold and a superb Sunday dish. The fresh chahan (fried rice) was prepared with a light oil and soy sauce, tossed with egg, and Chinese pickles. These dishes came after the vegetable dumplings, which were filled with an assortment of cabbages and leek, baked until crispy golden brown. Vegetarians have no fear, as you can find many options that don’t carry any meat. Nothing beats authentic Szechuan cuisine!

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In addition to the different types of Chinese cuisine, you can try an array of dim sum. Found all over Chinatown, different dim sum shops showcased special New Year creations, as well as classic eats that keep the traditional flavors alive. From the vast collection of different steamed dumplings, the spectrum of sweet to salty is available at your request. At the particular place we chose, they had the option of ordering steamed dumplings, as well as other dishes, such as shark fin soup, and jian dui (sesame seed balls, with different sweet pastes). Green tea with tapioca was also available upon request, which complemented the dumplings quite nicely.

Afterwards, we took a walk around Chinatown to take in the sights. The hustle and bustle of Chinese New Year had many people out celebrating the start of something new. Walking around, you could see people eating treats on the sidewalks, lighting incense at temples, and watching shows and displays of masked performers doing renditions of traditional dances. The atmosphere of the place was electric, as friends and families were in a mood of joy, remembrance, and hope for things to come. So come visit Yokohama Chinatown during the New Year. It’s an experience that will last a lifetime.