JSPS Quarterly
No.48 2015 Summer

Introducing Japan: Yokohama City

By Dr. Akos Kopper

Yoshida Castle

View from university cafeteria

It takes 15 minutes to walk from Kanagawa University to the nearby train station of Hakuraku on the Toyoko (Tokyo-Yokohama) Line. Though not what you’d call picturesque, the way to the station from the university has a sort of simple mystique to it. Running between small houses, the street is dotted with old shops selling everything from vegetables to used clothes. Although hardly a touristy place, there are small hidden things that one discovers when living in the neighborhood.

Tezutsu hanabi

Hakuraku shopping street

There is a small restaurant serving curry, the same dish every day. It has no menu. You enter and are served the meal always made from the same Pakistani recipe. Though it is delicious, I have no clue how they stay in business. Unfortunately, my favorite small restaurant on the way to the university closed recently. It had a few chairs on the street where I could sit and drink my coffee—a bit like I would do at home or in Paris—proofing one of my new articles and watching students pass by on their way to the university. These days, my favorite place is a little restaurant selling crepe—thin pancakes with savory fillings. It has just three tables, but is a great place to relax after work.

Hakuraku has, of course, everything typical of a Japanese town: numerous hair dressers, cleaners, small restaurants of all sorts, and a mishmash of convenience stores, called combini, just a few minutes walk from my university’s dormitory. The dorm has nice apartments for researchers on its top floor overlooking the neighborhood. Adding a little excitement to Hakuraku, there are such things as a small jazz bar near the train station, which I visited once. The station itself provides a perfect link to both the centers of Yokohama and Tokyo.

Tokyo on the map of Japan

Yokohama, with its skyscrapers, vast array of stores, and the bustling Minato- Mirai shopping complex, lies just a few stations way. It offers a stark change of pace from Hakuraku, being an immaculate 21st-century metropolis. My favorite place is a restaurant in Minato-Mirai overlooking the bay. Like many things in Japan, it remains basically the same, while undergoing subtle changes: There’s been a change of face in its owner during the two years since I started my research at Kanagawa University. In the other direction, the train from Hakuraku goes to Shibuya and Shinjuku at the center of Tokyo. The ride takes only about 40 minutes.

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JSPS Quarterly No.43 2013