The mystery of the Little Girl with Red Shoes solved, day 2 was to be a busy one. We first set out on foot to Chinatown, which is the largest Chinatown in Japan. I know, Chinatown in Japan?? In 1859, Yokohama was one of the first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade. Many Chinese chefs, tailors, barbers restauranteurs and other merchants settled in Yokohama. The narrow streets are lined with various kinds of shops – food, antiques, tea, vegetables, fortune tellers, kitchen utensils and ornaments of all kinds. Chinatown has ten ornate gates, four at entrances to Chinatown and the remaining are inside of Chinatown itself.
Our first stop was popular shop, where you can immerse your feet in a fish-filled pool of water and let the fish nibble the dry skin off your feet! My husband was a little reluctant, but eventually, a good sport. I had imagined some scenic outdoor venue with a rock-sided pool, so I was a little disappointed when we arrived at the second floor location with benches along the edge of a 4’ x 6’ concrete pool. The tiny little tiny fish, Garra Ruffa (scientific name), have no teeth, no stomach and love to eat old skin cells. Legend has it that Cleopatra liked these tiny little skin eaters. Dipping my feet in the water, fish immediately swarmed my feet, and wow did it tickle. I had to remove my feet a couple of times before I got used to the tickling sensation. Our 20-minute session expired, we dried off our feet. Honestly, I didn’t feel much of a difference…at least not what I expected. I was glad that I had the experience, but probably won’t do it a second time.
Off we went to further explore Chinatown. The streets were beginning to get crowded as the noon hour drew near. The smell of noodles, spices, broths and other lunchtime fare was permeating the air. Lines formed outside of some shops. Buns stuffed with meat, vegetables or sweet bean paste (some in the shape of pandas, pigs and other animals) were on display outside some shops as was the traditional plastic replicas of various food and drink items.
We continued to explore, winding through the maze of Chinatown streets, and found ourselves in front of an intricately decorated shrine, with colorful dragons above the gate and positioned on each corner of the shrine itself. Constructed in 1873 by Chinese residents, it is dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity. Kantei-byo shrine, has served as the center of life for Chinese people who immigrated to Japan, and is located in the very center of Chinatown. After taking a few minutes to explore the shrine, we were off to find a good ramen shop.