A Rant About Trains and The Day I Finally Got My Meatbun

The school I went to the first time I came to Japan was very close to Yokohama. So one day, when my host sister had a block lunch period (#jelly) we went to Yokohama’s Chinatown. I was enamored and have been waiting for the chance to go back ever since I got here. On Sunday, I finally got my chance.

Before I talk about that, let me explain the beauty and majesty of the Japanese train system. My campus is about 60 kilometers from Yokohama, which is where I ended up on Sunday. This is roughly the distance from Providence to Boston, a trip I make once or twice a semester. This trip from Providence to Boston costs me about 40 bucks. I have to pay twenty dollars for a ticket each way. The entirety of the trip takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. This is considered normal in America.

In Japan, this trip takes me an hour and a half, because I have to take a bus to a train and transfer trains. I don’t have to buy a ticket because I can use my suica, which is the equivalent of Venmo, Charlie Card, MBTA pass, whatever your city calls it. It’s an IC card. This trip costs me 20 bucks ROUNDTRIP. ITS LITERALLY HALF THE COST. And if I walked back from campus it would only cost me 16 dollars! So yes, half of my budget in Japan basically goes towards trains, but that’s because they make it so easy to go everywhere.

For a more drastic example, the fastest train between Boston and DC (a trip I am taking this summer) takes 7 hours. The two cities are about 440 miles apart. This train is called the Acela express, and a ticket costs 331.50 with a 178 dollar student discount. The normal fee for a roundtrip ticket between Hiroshima and Tokyo (roughly the same distance), is 352 dollars no discount required. The trip time? UNDER 4 HOURS. Thats the EXACT SAME PRICE for SO MUCH LESS TIME. Ugh. I hate American trains. I mean I love trains. But can’t we do better? Like can’t we defund the military just a smidge so we can get a high speed rail corridor connecting Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and DC? Can you imagine the way the market would change if you could get from Boston to New York in about 2 hours? Ugh. I’m sure three years of inconvenience in terms of construction would be eased if the government offered commuter passes for people who needed them at a discount before hooking them on a carless commute.

Or maybe I am just a train/transportation geek.

Anyway, I had a fabulous time in Yokohama. I managed to hit up three separate places – Chinatown, Minatomirai, and then Yokohama Station.

Somewhere… beyond the sea…

You may be a bit confused as to why I included the station in the list of places I went. That is because Yokohama Station is HUGE. Not as big as Tokyo, or Shinjuku, but it’s basically a mall on its own.

Entryway to history

I highly recommend anyone who visits the Tokyo area to hit up Yokohama’s Chinatown. Yokohama’s Chinatown is almost 150 years old, and is the largest Chinatown in Japan – possibly one of the largest in the world. There is so much good, cheap food, and a bunch of cool shops with various knick knacks that it just makes sense to go visit.

An unrelated gate

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, because as soon as we exited the train it immediately started raining. Thanks 梅雨. But, and this is very important, I got my meat bun. I have been dreaming about this meat bun since I left Japan for the first time 3 years ago (almost exactly.) This meat bun is probably not more delicious than other delicious mean buns, but between that and the fried donut anko ball thing that’s coated with sesame seeds (you all know what I am talking about) I was in food heaven. I also tried アンミン豆腐 which was really delicious as well. It was a good food day, y’all.

After that, my friend and I hopped over to Minatomirai. It’s Yokohama’s theme park, and feels a little bit like Coney Island, as both are near the ocean and have pay-per-ride rides. I didn’t get on a roller coaster, but I did get a crepe. It was not as delicious as I wanted it to be, but I took a kick-ass picture and isn’t that what’s important?

Home of the giant flipping ferris wheel and a cool pink roller coaster that was out of commission when we went 😦

I didn’t make it to the other cool part of Minatomirai, which is the Cup Noodle Museum. I went there in high school with my host family, and if you have time I also highly recommend that. I mean, a place where you can make your own individualized cup noodle from cup to flavor to “meat”? It’s pretty great. I wish I had more time here so that I could do all of this cool stuff.

However I am slowly getting through the last portions of my “must do in Tokyo” list, and going to Yokohama was the biggest one. As sad as it is that my time is wrapping up, it also means that I have made a lot of awesome memories to look back on.

Study abroad makes you melodramatic, fair warning.

And a photosnob.

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