Tuesday, June 13, 2006
A Quiet Morning
Up at 6 AM.
Mr. Nakaoka was still on his 18 hour cab shift, so I remained the barbarian foreigner,
unsupervised in an alien environment. I am still not sure I like the idea of cab
drivers having 18 hour shifts, after the first eight hours behind the wheel, I would think
that accidents caused by falling asleep would be a problem. Sort of makes a person
think twice before getting into a Japanese cab...
I spent a couple hours catching up on my notes from the previous days, and took a walk
around the neighborhood for a look at local life.
This is sort of suburban Japan. Mostly residential, one and two story tall buildings,
with some taller apartment buildings, and some little retail ships like small groceries
and restaurant fronts.
There was a little construction, or renovation going on. A crew had just finished redoing
the exterior of this building and they were taking down the scaffolding, though they were
doing a very good illustration of "Men watching man working". They even had a couple
traffic wardens assigned to waive flags at the passing cars (the guy in the yellow vest
and light blue shirt).
Mr. Nakaoka telephoned on the Japanese cel phone he had lent me, he had gotten off work
early and was heading home for breakfast, followed by another day of sight seeing.
Mr. Nakaoka's cab.
We are off again on Mr. Nakaoka's scooter.
First stop is "Black Cat", actually Koro Neko, the Japanese version of UPS, they move
packages around and are very handy for tourists, because they will deliver suitcases
to your next hotel while you are out site seeing.
Our first stop was China Town. Yokohama apparently has the largest China Town outside
China, and this is a very big tourist attraction for the Japanese people. It seems a little
strange, being someone from the other side of the world, to think of something as being
a tourist attraction to anyone other than foreigners.
Mr. Nakaoka was looking for a specific restaurant called "The Viking" that had a reputation
of having inexpensive and good Chinese food. In the US, Chinese food is really inexpensive,
and you can feed three people a big meal for ten or twelve dollars from the typical
take out cardboard carton type Chinese food. Unlike in America, Chinese food in Japan
tends to be something of a luxury item. All the restaurants had the atypical plastic
food dishes in the window to show what the food looked like, and the prices were in
the $75-100 range.
If you look carefully, the two young ladies in the middle of the intersection (on the left
in the dark blue apron and jeans and on the right in the white polo shirt and jeans) are
passing out fliers for the Chim Mein restaurant, which they work at, to stir up some
business. They handed a flier to me a
few moments after I took this picture, and I handed the flier to Mr. Nakaoka, and asked "Is
this the restaurant you are looking for?". Mr. Nakaoka looked at it and said "No, but it
looks good and inexpensive, let's go".
This started a pretty good adventure, because we were to follow the two young ladies to
the restaurant, about four blocks away, a block south of the southern edge of China Town.
We had about eight courses, and the total bill was $12.50 per person. Very good and
very inexpensive indeed.
We headed back into China Town and did a little sight seeing and souvenir shopping on the
way back to Mr. Nakaoka's scooter.
This was one of those strange realizations of Japanese tourists within Japan. Halfway
around the world and people are just the same. These three Japanese people have paid to
dress up in Chinese costume and have their pictures taken. The young lady on the left is
either annoyed at the foreigner who is taking her picture, or is proud to have caught the
eye of the foreigner with the camera.
We stopped for a desert treat, a strange one that turned out to be pretty good. Green
tea flavored ice cream. Spiraled in with vanilla in an ice cream cone, it's pretty darn good.
We were back to the Minato Mirai area and the
Mitsubishi Industrial Museum,
which was open
today. This is a technology museum, actually, it is more of a corporate promotion tool to
present all of the technological innovations that the Mitsubishi corporation has made,
and show how Mitsubishi is far ahead of everyone else in technological developments.
We got on the waiting list for the 3D theater first, and saw a 3D cartoon about
a group of ecological minded heros with a space ship.
After that, we got on the waiting list for the helicopter simulator ride. You sit in a
mock up of a helicopter cock pit and the screen takes you through all of the controls, then
instructs and assists in an imaginary helicopter ride around the Minato Mirai and
Yokohama harbor area. It ends by turning over the controls to the occupants to land
the helicopter. I am pretty sure we crashed at least three times on the way to the
landing pad, and neither one of us is in line for a pilot's license any time soon.
How about Mitsubishi aeronautical technology? A display of airplanes built by
Mitsubishi, complete with WWII military models.
Displays showing how a turbocharger works.
OK, there are some prerequisites that no self respecting Japanese museum is without:
Every Japanese museum must have a submarine.
And a rocket engine.
And if you have two rocket engines, you're in the big time.
A transportation technology display, featuring trains, planes, ships, and the all important
Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system.
Mr. Nakaoka drives a rail transit simulator.
We missed the obligatory robot on the way in, so we took a look at it on the way out.
The robot is programmed to respond to greetings and simple questions, but wasn't
doing too well that day. He just sort of buzzed around in circles.
Nothing like having a rocket in the lobby.
An Evening of Auto Parts Shopping
Back to Mr. Nakaoka's apartment, dropping off his scooter so we can take the Gemini.
A deceptively stock looking engine compartment. Upgraded ignition and electronics push the
power up quite a bit from stock, with a racing suspension to handle the added power.
Next to our first stop was a used car lot with some pretty serious vehicles. Skyline,
Up Garage's Yokohama flagship store.
For those not familiar with Japanese car culture, Up Garage is a second hand performance
parts store. For the Japanese car enthusiast replacing or upgrading from one performance
part to another, Up Garage provides a place to turn that replaced part into money, by
bringing it into their large store system and selling it though one of their many stores
throughout Japan. Most items are listed on their computer system, so they can be transferred
from store to store, and if they have it anywhere, they can get it to your local store
quick, and at a very affordable price. This was more of the performance parts supermarket
that I was expecting at Super Autobacs, but everything is used. Aisles and aisles of
exhaust systems, turbochargers boxed turbo systems. ECUs stacked like cord wood. Racks
upon racks of struts, springs, and coilovers. They even had used DVD Option videos and
Unfortunately, they did not have the racing wheels I was looking for in their system.
Mr. Nakaoka looks over the Up Garage drift car, famous on the D1 drift racing circuit in
Japan. The sign says something like "No, this car isn't for sale, but feel free to drool".
How about some wheels and tires?
Or some aero pieces? No Isuzu Gemini panels to be found.
This is Autowave or "Aut-Wabu". It is another big store, but they seem to be a lot more
maintenance and repair parts, and a lot less performance oriented. They had a huge "JC
Whitney crap" section, lots of tires, and a pretty good ChoroQ toy section.
We ended up back at Autobacs just before closing and I ordered a set of racing wheels
and arranged for pickup and postage after they were expected to arrive. The price was
right, a little over $300 per wheel, and they sell for $550 per wheel in the US.
It was closing time, so the evening's shopping was over. Mr. Nakaoka took a windy
little road home and showed off some more of his touge driving skill.
We picked up take-out at Gusto on the way home, and I was treated to another strange
Japanese adaptation of European/American cuisine, Japanese Pizza. My understanding is
that what we know as Pizza in the US is an adaptation of the original Sicilian/Italian
dish. Well, the Japanese started there, and things got really strange. The toppings this
evening were "seafood and corn". It should be against the law to put little sea
creatures and corn on a pizza. If the French are regulating what is called French Cuisine
around the world, and the Japanese are now moving to regulate what is allowed to be called
sushi, then the Italian American community should band together to make sure that Pepperoni
Pizza is the standard, around the world.
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