Remember that time Lauren and I met some guys from the Navy and they plied us with liquor and convinced us to meet them in a different city?
I don’t know if it was an excessive amount of Strong or just a strong desire to have a conversation in English with someone other than each other, but Lauren and I quickly set about trying to get a hotel in Yokohama pretty much as soon as we got back from the bar in Nagano. As you might imagine, it was more challenging than it probably should have been. I wasn’t 100% sure we were making the right decision given that we hadn’t even been to Kyoto yet at that point, but by the time we left the train station on Tuesday afternoon after our bike tour, I was really glad we were heading to Yokohama.
I didn’t know much about the city other than it was sort of near Tokyo, so it was bound to be pretty big. When Lauren and I arrived, we once again got in a cab with little to no confidence that we were actually going to our hotel, as usual. We were immediately in awe of the landscape. Everywhere we looked were gigantic buildings, and they were clean. One thing we had both noticed about many buildings in a lot of cities in Japan (with the exception of some parts of Tokyo) is that a lot of them are kind of…dingy, for lack of a better word. Nothing horrible, just noticeably less clean than Yokohama. Yokohama is like a glistening pearl in the oyster that is Japan.
We made plans to meet up with Colin, who had a few hours to kill before he had to go back into work. We decided to grab dinner before waiting for the other guys to get off, since they were working the opposite shift. We were all staying at the Intercontinental Yokohama Bay, and Colin promised to take us somewhere tasty but cheap, which is actually pretty easy to do in Japan.
So we started walking and noticed we were connecting directly from our hotel to a very upscale mall. Finally, all this amazing Japanese fashion we had heard about was appearing before our very eyes! Honestly, thank God we didn’t go to Yokohama sooner or I would have bankrupted myself in the first four hours. We kept walking and talking to Colin, not really noticing at first that we were walking…and walking…and walking. What we thought was a 10 minute walk turned out to be more like half an hour as the mall seemed to stretch on forever and go from one building to the next, and Colin somehow knew the names of all of them. Inside turned into outside, we passed train stations, went up escalators, down escalators, and through several more buildings only to arrive at…a Japanese diner?
It smelled like a giant vat of oil, but it tasted like delicious dumplings and udon. It wasn’t long before Colin had to leave to get to work, but we had a few hours to kill before the other guys would be off of work. Colin was like “You’ll find your way! Don’t worry, if you get lost you can just grab a cab and tell them to take you to the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay!” and left us to die in Yokohama in the Japanese equivalent of Burger King.
For some reason, we were feeling adventurous, so we (mostly me) were determined to find our way back to the hotel without any form of assistance. I was also 100% sure that telling our cab driver to take us to the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay would result in another $120 cab ride, since that’s the hotel we were staying at in Tokyo, which is not the same city as Yokohama. Colin’s efforts to get us lost be damned – we not only found our way back unassisted, we found a Sanrio store too! Any other children of the 90s remember Sanrio? We died.
Once the other guys got off work, we met up and headed out to the World Beer Museum. Or the World Museum of Beer? All that’s important is they had beers from all over the world there. We blindly followed the guys, chatting along the way, all of a sudden realizing we were walking through a rather large, dark, and empty parking garage. Lauren goes “Oh, so now is the part when you murder us and chop us into little pieces.” And we all laughed, but no, seriously, thank God they turned out to be upstanding members of the military and not psychopaths because we seriously made it so easy for them to kill us and I really need to up my vigilance in the future. I actually blame Lauren because she lives in a big city and should clearly know better.
The bar was awesome for the purposes of testing out Japanese craft beer, although there were also beers from about a hundred other countries, and I was the only one drinking Japanese beer. The menu was entirely in Japanese, which was unfortunate, but they had thoughtfully written “IPA” after a couple of them, so I just went with that and prayed for the best. We ended up shutting the bar down and I grabbed a couple of bottles to bring home for AJ since I am nice like that. I think we cemented our lifelong friendships with Matt, Gunther, and Mike at the bar. Good people. Not murderers.
The guys had to be up for work early the next morning, but we had made tentative plans to meet up with Colin for lunch despite the fact that he had worked the night shift and would be operating on only a couple of hours of sleep. It was so nice of him to meet up with us, but I think he just wanted to see if we had actually survived the walk back. We had lunch at a great restaurant and took a leisurely walk back until Lauren and I checked the time and realized we had about 20 minutes to get back to our hotel and pack or we would miss our train to the airport!
Fortunately, we had packed most of our stuff and bought tickets for the train in advance, but we knew we would be cutting it close. We ran down to the lobby, jumped in a cab, and prayed that we would make it on time. Ok, so you know how cab drivers in places like NYC or Chicago kind of drive like crazy people and you basically fear for your life every second because they are running red lights and speeding?
That is not what cab drivers in Japan do. They stop at red lights – hell, they stop at yellow lights. They let other cars go in front of them. They are cautious. This is a good thing unless you are down to the second when trying to catch your train. We ran as fast as we could with our luggage, which wasn’t very fast and was probably more like a brisk walk, but holy hell, we worked up a sweat. And we made it onto the train with about 30 seconds to spare, which was a pretty fitting way to end our rather frenzied, random, and wonderful trip to Japan.
Sayonara, Japan. Arigato gozaimasu!