My lonely day trip to Yokohama

On the final day of our JR Passes, we decided to have time to ourselves and went to totally different cities for the day. I went south to Yokohama for the Cup Noodle Museum, and Mark went north to Takasaki for the annual Daruma event which happens there. This post covers my portion of the day, but hopefully Mark will write his own as he’s got some great photos to share.

For the past three months we’ve spent a lot of time together. I’d say in the 87 days since we left home we’ve maybe been apart for a few hours once or twice at most, plus maybe half an hour a day when we’re showering or in the bathroom. Spending so much time together you start to find the stupidest little things become major irritations. Usually there are other travellers around to provide new conversation or distract you from anything you might find annoying, but Japan hasn’t provided much in the way of a social atmosphere.

To give ourselves a break and some space for our own thoughts, we agreed to split for the day and didn’t even discuss where we were going. 

In the morning I woke early, having left Mark to go take photos in Akihabara the night before while I crawled into bed for long sleep. I was up and out just after 7am and arrived in Yokohama at roughly 8:30am. As the tourist information desk was closed until 9:30, I just had to rely on the free station WiFi as I formed a vague plan for the day.

The main point of interest for me was the Cup Noodle Museum, which is mostly because I’m a child in the body of a 31 year old woman. Using Google Maps I figured out my route there and on the way I was treated to big, beautiful buildings against a bright blue sky. The walk there took longer than it should have, due to me trying to take photos with three different cameras and stopping to change film along the way.

Yokohama is a dog lover’s paradise, with hundreds of people walking their dogs all day along the waterfront. I was in heaven, but while  the space for my own thoughts and the freedom of choice walking around the city was wonderful, noticing all the dogs was the first thing to make me miss having Mark by my side. Spotting animals is like a hobby for me and it was sad not having him around to share my joy.

When I arrived at the museum it was only 9am and there were still two hours before I could go in. I quickly adjusted my plans and headed towards a local park to see the waterfront and Chinatown in the meantime. On my way I was handed a brochure for a fire safety festival running from 10am, which seemed totally random but I made a mental note to return on the way back.

Again I spotted more dogs—probably more than I’ve ever seen in a single morning—and wished Mark was there to see them all too. I sent him a quick message on WhatsApp, but it turned out he wasn’t even out of bed yet.

The waterfront was lovely and Chinatown was impressive, making me wish I wasn’t there at an awkward time so that I could have tried some food too.

On my way back to the Cup Noodle Museum I stopped by the fire safety festival and wandered around trying to figure out what I was seeing. There were supposedly mini events and demonstrations on all day, though I couldn’t get past the crowds or understand any of the presentations. I stopped by a stall and bought Mark a police car, but it wasn’t long before I decided to move on.

Finally it was time for the museum and even though I knew it was designed for children, I couldn’t wait. My first point of call when I got in was the ticket counter where I could get my time slot for the custom Cup Noodle pot. This was the second thing which made me feel lonely, knowing how much more fun it would be to share the experience with someone. I was also pretty jealous of the kids making fresh noodles in the kitchens, but couldn’t bring myself to buy a ticket for it as there wasn’t a single adult in there without a child.

While waiting for my time slot I looped around some of the exhibition. The packaging room was fascinating and I loved seeing the brand evolve from simple chicken noodles, to hundreds of different flavours and styles. I took a few photos for show and tell later on, then made my way to the customisation area.

There are rules against buying two cups to customise, but I ignored them as I grabbed one for myself and one for Mark. I eagerly waited in line and when I sat down to draw, only one thing seemed suitable for the design. Mark designed a minimal icon version of his face before we left home which I attempted to draw from memory onto his cup. Unfortunately I didn’t realise the pens had more than a chisel tip until I drew my own, so the lines weren’t nearly as neat as Mark would have created. I matched the style for a doodle of myself and made my way over to choose the ingredients.

I’m pretty sure I was being frowned upon for having two cups, but I was loving it so whatever. Mark’s noodles ended up as the classic base flavour plus pork, garlic, cheese and little faces of the Cup Noodle character. Mine was pretty similar but instead I chose a chili tomato base and onion instead of pork. My camera battery died halfway through the packaging process, and because Mark usually carries my spare one like a companion in a video game, I had to switch to phone photos.

Once the noodles were completed I packed them up and carried them awkwardly around the rest of the museum, like a mother who’d been left with all the kids junk. The museum was brilliant and even though I couldn’t read much of the text on the walls, I loved the way it was designed. The main aim of the museum is to encourage children to think creatively and to inspire them to develop new ideas. The story of the Cup Noodle is brilliant and the illustrations around the place we’re great.

After I was done at the museum the fairground over the road was open and I decided I wanted to go on the ferris wheel to get a good look at the city. As the weather was so good I was treated to a view of Mount Fuji on the way round, which I found pretty exciting.

By the time I was done it was early afternoon and I was actually considering jumping on a train and surprising Mark in Takasaki. My attention span didn’t help me though and I got distracted by everything along the way to the train station. From trying to throw a boot in a hole to win something, to joining in a bingo game in an environmental event I found in a shopping mall; Yokohama was full of random distractions on a Sunday afternoon. 

Eventually my plan to surprise Mark was cancelled when he sent me a message telling me he was on his way back to Tokyo. Once I was finished not winning any prizes, I made my way back to the station and let Mark know where and when I’d be getting in. We both decided we wanted to see Harajuku, so when we met up we carried on moving in that direction. 

The afternoon and evening was a mix of trading gifts and stories, browsing cool shops and wandering around in circles for hours because Mark can’t make a decision on where he wants to eat. As they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it. On my own I might have chosen my metaphorical cake in seconds, but I’d much rather put up with wasting away walking in circles than sit alone watching dogs and wishing Mark was there with me.

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