Celebrating Chinese New Year in Yokohama

January 28th marked the start of the Chinese New Year. It is the Year of the Rooster, and as a ‘93 baby, I am a rooster! Many different countries in Asia celebrate Chinese New Year, and the influence of the holiday has spread to Japan. There are many different ways to celebrate, such as dinners with family, giving red envelopes with money, firecrackers, new clothes, and decorations. On Saturday, I was able to partake in the some of the New Year festivities by attending a parade in Yokohama China Town. It was lively, colorful, and a ton of fun!

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I’m a Rooster!

Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city, and is located just south of Tokyo. Though it is just a short train ride away from Tokyo, and is considered a part of the same metropolis, Yokohama has a unique history and character of its own. The feel of the city is completely different from Tokyo, and I really liked it. It felt much more Western, with a different layout and style of architecture. There were a lot of brick buildings, which I’ve never seen in Japan before. Some of my friends said it reminded them of Boston. The city is directly on the water, and has a beautiful skyline featuring the iconic Ferris wheel of the Cosmoworld amusement park.

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Yokohama bay and the Ferris wheel at Cosmoworld.

I met up with my friends at the Cup Noodles museum, which tells the history of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, and the evolution of the instant ramen industry. It was actually quite impressive for being a museum about ramen – it was a huge, modern building, with many interactive exhibits, a movie, a restaurant, and a section where you can design your own Cup Noodles and make your own recipe. My favorite exhibit was the room with every flavor and variation of ramen to exist since 1958 on display.

After learning everything there is to know about ramen, we headed to China Town for the parade. It was sunny and quite warm out, making it lovely to walk along the water. The view of the bay was beautiful. Yokohama is definitely a place I would like to return to. Chinatown was really cute. The narrow streets were filled with shops, restaurants, and street-food vendors, and all with bright, colorful signs and decorations. I got an adorable, panda-shaped steamed bun while we waited for the parade to start. We were able to get a front-row spot by lining up near the end of the parade route.

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Beautiful Yokohama
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Panda snacks

The parade was really fun and entertaining. It began with men in full costume walking on stilts. Then it was the Dragon dance, with a huge dragon carried through the street by probably twenty people. Next came the two-person dogs – one person carrying the head, and the other the rear. They were not afraid to interact with the audience.

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Dragon dance

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My favorite moment was one of the dogs dancing its rear-end right up against my friend for a solid minute. There were ladies dancing with bright pink, fuzzy fans, children drumming and playing music, and men in colorful costumes. Finally, there were two smaller, but equally impressive Dragon dances. Between every section of the parade, they set off firecrackers inside a small metal container. It was very lively, colorful, and a ton of fun. After the parade, we grabbed some food at a Chinese restaurant, finishing off a fantastic day.

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Yokohama China Town
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Dragon Dance Round two
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Big ol’ group of gaijin in China Town

I’ve never known too much about the Chinese zodiac, so when I got home, I looked into it a little. The characteristics of a rooster are actually pretty accurate to me. Roosters are said to be hardworking, observant, and active, but with a tendency to overthink things. That sounds like me! However, it turns out that rooster years are actually the unluckiest years for roosters – uh oh! But, it’s been a good year for me so far, so I’m not sure that I do/want to believe that. And apparently I can ward off my bad luck by facing my bed west and wearing red clothing and jade… so we’ll see how that goes. Happy Chinese New Year!

 

 

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