Frugal Traveler: Picking Fast and Low-cost More than Higher-End Stylish in Yokohama, Japan


Diners at Kisoba Suzuichi, which serves soba and udon noodles at Yokohama Station’s west exit. Credit score Ko Sasaki for The New York Moments

Frugal Traveler


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It was breakfast time in Yokohama Station, a fifty percent-hour by practice from Tokyo, and I was having some of the very best soba noodles of my lifestyle. The chewy buckwheat strands were elegant, the broth deeply savory and piping scorching. A new-cracked egg floated on best, its yolk a lovely sunrise orange.

Kisoba Suzuichi, at the station’s west exit, experienced signage only in Japanese and makes just two issues: soba and udon. I’d been wandering around, hazy from jet lag the first time I handed by, I could scent the aromatic dashi broth from down the block, but it wasn’t nevertheless open. A 50 percent-hour later, there was presently a line, composed nearly entirely of suit-clad salarymen on their way to operate. Soon I was happily slurping. My food value 340 yen, $ three, at one hundred ten yen to the greenback.

However Japan is identified for currently being a nation of meticulously crafted sushi and a sky-high number of Michelin-starred dining places (Yokohama included), “B-grade gourmet” — code for foodstuff that’s fast, cheap and very good — is presently all the rage listed here, with a ton of passionate blogs devoted to the subject. There are even B-grade gourmet food festivals that celebrate distinct normally takes on tasty, down-house cooking. Yokohama, the next-largest metropolis in Japan and its historic centre of international trade, has a cross-cultural background that makes it a specifically wealthy entry stage to sample the selection of what B-quality gourmand can be. Not too long ago, I spent a couple of days combing the city’s waterfront and neighborhood buying streets, tailing locals on a mission to keep track of down inexpensive, comforting foods for every hour of the day.


At the CupNoodles Museum, you can make your possess personalized model of instant ramen. Credit history Ko Sasaki for The New York Occasions

At Kisoba Suzuichi, the black-aproned women guiding the curtained counter smiled and pointed out the noodle options, and asked if I needed a vegetable tempura cake on leading I noticed eggs on the shelf behind them and asked for a single, also. There had been no tables or chairs, so I ate my noodles while seated on the control, businessmen on possibly side of me. All of us bent above our bowls, heads down, as if penitent prior to the street-meals stand. It was just the proper variety of tummy-warming food to reset my body’s clock.

Just southeast of the teach station, Yokohama has an expansive waterfront with a central company district, Minato Mirai, which implies “Port of the Long term.” It’s a wonderful spot to get some going for walks in, particularly during special occasions like the Yokohama Triennale artwork truthful (the 2014 edition just wrapped up previously this thirty day period). In recent years, Minato Mirai has been developed with large-end lodges, office towers, buying malls and a fascinating array of museums. A single of these is the CupNoodles Museum, a astonishingly sophisticated tribute to one particular of the world’s simplest dishes — immediate ramen — and a whirlwind survey of noodle cuisines from around the entire world (admission, five hundred yen kids cost-free).

Five floors of interactive displays inform the tale of Momofuku Ando, who, in 1958, soon after a yr of yard-lose tinkering, invented a just-add-scorching-h2o rooster ramen that became a sensation in postwar Japan. In 1971, following a analysis excursion to the United States to observe how People in america ate, he went on to excellent the principle even more, with Cup Noodles: an immediate ramen that could be cooked and eaten in its container. Some exhibits at the museum glorify Ando to a ludicrous extent — one tableau locations him alongside Einstein and Beethoven. Then once more, my mother nonetheless talks about surviving on the low-cost noodle packs as a teenager in Hong Kong in the course of the early 1960s. (As penny-pinching college students, my roommates and I frequently smuggled Cup Noodles into ski vacation resort cafeterias all over Vermont and Maine, but that’s a significantly less spectacular tale.)

The very best component of the museum? For three hundred yen, you can make your personal customized Cup Noodles to take with you. 1st, you embellish the distinct crimson and white Styrofoam containers at artwork stations outfitted with particular markers subsequent, you choose your broth (seafood, curry, original taste) and toppings (oddball choices consist of dried cheese chunks and very small Tweety Bird wafers). Finally, you can notice the complete shrink-wrapping method via a sequence of large factory windows and insert your produced-to-purchase generation in an inflatable bag to dress in all around your neck (don’t inquire).

You can also make ramen by hand in the adjacent Rooster Ramen Manufacturing facility, but it charges another 500 yen and requires reservations for at least two individuals. As an alternative, I paid a pay a visit to to the noodle bazaar on the factory’s top flooring, which approximates a pan-Asian evening market place: many booths dish out snack-size helpings of Kazakh lagman, Lanzhou beef ramen, Thai tom yum goong noodles and Malaysian laksa (as properly as Italian spaghetti), every single for three hundred yen. My favourite was the Vietnamese pho, the rice noodles served in a bowl of basic, obvious broth and brightened with lemon grass and chiles.

This global style tour is fitting for Yokohama, whose districts with substantial foreign influences and background — like the hills previously mentioned the Motomachi community, south of the harbor, in which the British and French set up their diplomatic missions and ornamental gardens — even now host expatriate populations these days. Motomachi shares a subway quit with Japan’s biggest Chinatown, Chukagai, a wildly well-known vacationer attraction among the Japanese, with inflated prices to match.


Looking at Yokohama’s Minato Mirai, which means “Port of the Potential.” Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Occasions

As with other Chinatowns, even though, if you wend your way from the principal avenues, you’ll uncover excellent little alleys to explore right here, they are lined with road stalls selling coconut-dusted mochi balls for one hundred yen, 300-yen Kirin beer and multidish food discounts catering to corporate types heading home. (“Follow the salarymen” was getting to be a useful rule of thumb, I discovered.) I even noticed one stand marketing bowls of shark fin soup for two hundred yen, though the rock-base value was purpose sufficient to be deeply skeptical of the provenance of its generally dear (and controversial) principal component.

Get there close to lunchtime or at 5 p.m., and Chukagai is specially alive with pedestrians and amusement. For 1,000 yen, there are stands where aged females will go through your palm and explain to your fortune. I opted to commit my yen allotment on a couple of tiny and charming gifts, of which there are many inexpensive alternatives: a panda-face steamed bun, a quite sweet tin printed with a photo of Mount Fuji, a fish-patterned pair of socks — each for 500 yen or considerably less.

From Chinatown, you can catch a five-minute taxi ride to Honmoku Dori, an inexpensive searching road on the other aspect of Motomachi that’s frequented by regional citizens. A B-quality gourmand enthusiast could go wild with Honmoku’s density of restaurants, which include house-design tempura and yakitori joints and Chinese and Italian cuisine. I ate delightful sashimi from Inase, a very small sushi bar with bento lunch box specials for as minor as four hundred yen.

The spot is also chockablock with small retailers selling senbei (rice crackers), tea and purple bean mochi sweets I purchased a gift bag of Shizuoka inexperienced tea for five hundred yen. And there are lots of bakeries, a unique pride of the Japanese. Shirasu, little one sardines, are a regional specialty of close by Kamakura, a seaside town a half-hour southwest of Yokohama I experimented with the delicacy on a modest pizza pastry, with wasabi, scallions and cheese (280 yen). It had a pleasing maritime brininess and a somewhat crunchy texture.

About a 10-minute walk west of the Motomachi-Chukagai practice station, I identified a single of my favourite B-grade connoisseur spots: the atmospheric pub Hazuki, a good illustration of an anaba, or gap in the wall. The wood-paneled décor and vintage beer posters are reminiscent of nineteen fifties ingesting institutions on army-occupied Okinawa. Late one Thursday evening, my pals and I acquired a back booth, removed our footwear per local custom made and proceeded to sample the comprehensive menu of conventional Okinawan bar foods.

There was umi budou, or sea grapes, a sort of pearly seaweed jimami tofu, a prosperous, creamy tofu manufactured with peanuts and rafute, a marinated, slow-cooked pork stomach (600 to seven hundred yen a plate our food came to about one,800 yen for every person). The emerald clusters of sea grapes popped like bubbles in my mouth — Okinawans phone it “green caviar” — and I was amazed by the generous cuts of tender pork stomach. The huge glass mugs of beer ended up cheap, as have been the cocktails created with awamori, a distilled spirit indigenous to Okinawa (beverages start off at five hundred yen).

The cheapest location to consume in Yokohama is almost certainly on the Kirin Brewery manufacturing facility tour — equally the booze and the tour are free. But I’d argue that the cultural price and exclusive environment that appear with checking out a nearby B-quality anaba are properly value the extra couple of yen.

Bonnie Tsui is a writer in San Francisco. She is amid the writers who will add to this column even though Seth Kugel turns his interest to a movie sequence and a ebook.

A variation of this post seems in print on November 23, 2014, on webpage TR8 of the New York edition with the headline: Choosing Quickly and Low cost In excess of Large-Finish Chic.

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