Seeing the Real Yokohama While Sketching

Day 16, Grand Asia 2018

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, Yokohama, Japan:

I had debated about whether to take a tour to Tokyo today. My strongest memories of last year’s visit there are of rain. I felt like somehow I had missed seeing the Tokyo I expected to see. But the ship’s all-day tour was $200, and it seemed scheduled to spend a lot of time just driving by places and then shopping.

So instead, I explored a small part of Yokohama on my own, and it turned out to be a wonderful day.

The passenger ship terminal is conveniently located near parks, shopping and the world’s biggest Chinatown outside of China. After getting a map and directions from the friendly visitor’s information booth in the terminal, I walked a little more than half a mile to a park alongside the bay.

I found a bench and sat down to sketch a memorial to the Indians lost in an earthquake, with the Diamond Princess cruise ship behind it. The Princess ship was doing a turnaround, disembarking nearly 3,000 passengers and taking on that many more. It dwarfed out ship, the MS Amsterdam. It also made a pretty scene for my sketch, which will look better when I have time to add watercolor.

I wandered around the park and then headed a few blocks to Chinatown. The narrow street I chose to enter along was lined with restaurants. A couple of blocks later I came upon dozens of shops. It reminded me of Chinatowns in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, just much bigger and without seemingly anyone who spoke English. I finally sat down for a snack – not Chinese, but a pumpkin gateau for the season with a hot chocolate. Yes, the Japanese celebrate Halloween.

After seeing manhole covers in Kushiro decorated with cranes, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the Yokohama covers – with maps of that area of the city. I guess if you are lost, they come in handy.

Beyond Chinatown is Yokohama Stadium. They love their baseball here. It is being renovated and is encircled with blue tarp. But along one side is a wonderful park. Pedestrians cut through on their way to the metro, but I found a quiet corner with a Peace Lantern in a pond. I sat to sketch it. Despite being in the middle of a city with more than 3 million people, I only heard the occasion sweep of the gardener tending the park.


When I decided to repeat this Grand Asia voyage, I told myself I would leave behind the professional camera equipment and concentrate on my sketching. Today showed me how right that decision was. Travel is so much more than checking off tourist sites. While sketching, I noticed the squirrels, the fat black cat living in the park, and the many Japanese with their dogs in strollers.

I also ran into two people I know! Connie, a friend who also is repeating this Grand Voyage, found me sketching in the first park. And I ran into Joyce on the city street while a few blocks from the ship. Not too coincidental, I know, but serendipitous nonetheless.

Before my adventure in Yokohama, I spent a couple of hours in the terminal taking advantage of the fast free WiFi. After having virtually no connection for the past few days, I had a lot to catch up on – email, Facebook and my blog.

The day ended with a gal’s dinner, with Joyce, Rosemary and Melissa at the table. The rest of the dining room was quiet. I was exhausted and in bed before 9 p.m. It was one of the best days.