GEA Journeys to Yokohama!

by Natasha Cirisano and Stephanie Liang

Compared to Tokyo, our visit to Yokohama this Wednesday brought us into what seemed like a sleepier, smaller town that we could more easily navigate because it was not so dense and crowded. Instead, towering structures like several skyscrapers and a Ferris wheel served as landmarks that we could see from the street, while the highly condensed buildings and small alleyways of Tokyo seemed to close in on us. This new, quiet city contained lots of interesting sights, from the Emigration Museum to Chinatown to the famous Cup Noodles Museum, that we explored throughout our stay.

Yokohama skyline.

Yokohama skyline

Our first Yokohama destination was the Emigration Museum, where we learned about the many stages of Japanese migration from the 1800s onward. We were surprised to see that passports existed even before there were photographs. Instead, the passport documents contained physical written descriptions of the people that held them! We were also interested in the fact that many Japanese settled in Brazil, of all countries, because the cultures seemed so vastly different. One observation our class made after our visit was that the tour guide felt the need to emphasize that these Japanese migrants were searching for ways to expand their experience and economic opportunity, not as deserters of their homeland. Later, we learned that the Japanese government gave false hope to migrants leaving the country in search of wealth, because it felt it could not support them, and that there have been efforts to rectify the way these immigrants were treated. This probably played into certain statements praising the migrants that were made in the tour. Since visiting the Japanese war museum near Yasukuni Shrine, we have been more sensitized to the variety of narratives and biases museums can have, and how they re-write history as much as they explain it.

One of the first Japanese passports from the late 1800s.

One of the first Japanese passports from the late 1800s

Next, Chinatown in Yokohama fused Japanese and Chinese culture together. Having been to many Chinatowns in America, we noticed many differences between Chinatown in Japan and US Chinatowns. One of the biggest differences was the fact that many signs were predominantly written in Japanese Hiragana or Katakana. Many of the workers in the Chinatown restaurant we visited spoke Chinese, but were ethnically Japanese. The Chinatowns in America mostly consist of Chinese workers who sometimes speak only Cantonese or Mandarin. This led us to the conclusion that the Chinese population in Japan is not as dense as the Chinese population in America.

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Entrance to Chinatown

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Yokohama Day Trip (Wednesday, June 19, 2013)

By Sophia Mostowy and Leila Wang

To learn more about Japan’s international relationships, we stepped outside of our normal classroom in Liberty Tower at Meiji University for a field trip to Yokohama! Just before 10am, we met up with a few of the Meiji students and left for about a 40-minute train ride. It was a little overwhelming how confusing the train stations were with the multiple floors and countless number of corridors, but we were all able to make it through with some guidance. Although the train ride was long, it allowed for some enlightening conversations with some of the Meiji students about things like roller coasters, the prohibition of biking to elementary school, and the difference between combini (コンビニ) in Japan and convenience stores in the United States.

USC students talking with Meiji students on the train.

USC students talking with Meiji students on the train.

Our first stop in Yokohama was the JICA Japanese Overseas Migration Museum. This museum documented multiple aspects of Japanese emigration and the lives of Japanese natives in other countries. Probably the most intriguing and memorable fact we learned was that the Japanese government promoted overseas emigration. It was also interesting to see how the Japanese were able to preserve their heritage while also incorporating aspects of the new dominant culture, most easily displayed in their food. However, acculturation was very difficult and unfortunately left many Japanese with identity crises; in their new countries, the emigrated Japanese yearned for the Japanese culture, but upon returning to Japan, they missed many of the aspects of their foreign country’s traditions. It was also heart-wrenching to listen to the personal stories and learn of the many hardships the Japanese endured while abroad, especially in America during WWII. Overall, the museum was an incredible hands-on experience that allowed for a personal connection and the type of educational experience that goes beyond the classroom.

Japanese emigration routes

Japanese emigration routes

Japanese food incorporating international cultures

Japanese food incorporating international cultures

We also learned that the new Cupnoodles Museum was close by, so we swung over there with the little time we had before our lunch reservation in Chinatown.

Cupnoodles Museum

Cupnoodles Museum

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Yokohama Chinatown

By Lily Tiao

It was a Wednesday morning and our first official rainy day in Tokyo. We stepped in puddles of rain and tightly held onto our umbrellas in the wind as we rushed to Jimbocho station to catch the subway to Yokohama. We were running a few minutes behind schedule and as I powerwalked down the stairs, I thought about the possibility of the train being just a few minutes late. Right then, Chad goes on to tell us that, “Subways in Japan will either be early or right on time, but rarely late.” I thought to myself: yet another element emphasizing Japan’s detail-oriented culture. Luckily, after a number of train stops and transfers, we made it just in time and met up with Professor Katada to head off to the Japanese Overseas Emigration Museum.

As lunchtime approached, the group couldn’t help but feel hungry and restless from the gloomy weather. After gathering up once more, we were all excited and ready for the delicious lunch waiting for us in Chinatown. Before nearing Chinatown, an architecture student in our group jumped in excitement after seeing the Yokohama International Port Terminal, a famous architectural construction she studied in class. The amazing terminal reminded me of my Yamanaka presentation on the harmony between old and new. Although I didn’t visit the interior of the terminal, it was quite a view. The unique structure of the terminal looked almost like an origami design appearing as a new kind of contemporary and iconic architecture in Japan.

Yokohama Port Terminal

As we neared the restaurant I was ready to expect the familiar Chinatown setting back in Los Angeles. However, the sea of brightly colored Chinese posters and ornaments and adorable panda goodies immediately caught my attention.

Many of the Chinese traditional arts and crafts can be found alongside the streets and I noticed a number of fortune-telling and palm-reading shops.

Side Streets of Yokohama Chinatown

We were all ready to head straight to the restaurant, but at the same time distracted by all the fascinating attractions such as gift/food shops. For example, the first thing I noticed was a store entrance shaped like a giant panda’s head. You can see the Japanese-styled creativity of  cute and imaginative designs within the clothing and products of the souvenir shops in Chinatown such as panda shaped Chinese buns!

Souvenir Shops Filled with Panda Goodies!

The next thing I saw was the Mazu temple. It was beautifully ornamented; the decorations on the gate, walls, and pillars truly showed how much effort and attention to detail were used when it was created. Aside from the fascinating sights, of course, is the delicious food.

Lunch in Yokohama Chinatown

Yokohama Chinatown offers hundreds of different restaurants with countless varieties of Chinese dumplings, dim sum, pastries and much more. Chad recommended one of the most popular menu items called buta-man (Chinese buns filled with tender pork; or Baozi in Chinese). The variety of food displayed all looked so delicious that even I, someone who sees these Chinese foods regularly, was intrigued. If I was not so full from the lunch, I would’ve walked along the street and bought anything that looked yummy.

Next time, I am definitely coming back to explore more of Yokohama Chinatown’s souvenir shops, along with an appetite for more tasty food!

Emigration from Japan, Yokohama

A Student’s Version of Yokohama: Museum Tears
By Joseph Mastron

So here’s how the day started. We woke up an hour earlier than usual to catch the early train to Yokohama, some of us just tired, others really tired. So we rush, run, and scramble to Jimbouchou station, hurry to get our tickets, jump on the Hanzomon line, and head off the wrong way. Luckily, the entire day didn’t follow this course.

The Misty Morning in Yokohama

After correcting our mistake, we arrive in Yokohama, to a dreary, rainy day. Yet, even in the wet misty dampness, Yokohama was BEAUTIFUL. There were towers rising above the rainclouds, a Ferris wheel in glorious and huge splendor, and our morning’s destination: the Japanese Emigration Museum. Here, the lives and lifestyles of those who have left Japan to establish a home overseas are recorded.

Oregonian Japanese-American Farmer’s Float from the Pre-War Period

Here, at the very entrance, is a replica of a Japanese-American Oregonian Farmers’ float from the early 20th century. After a brief video introducing the museum, luckily in English, as so many things seem to be here in Japan, we were sent off through the museum.

Two-Foot Square Model of a Colony in Brazil – Intricate Detail

As with every Japanese museum so far, I was struck with the intricate detail that went into preparing models and displays and graphs and charts.

Replica of San Fransisco Work-Study Student’s Desk

And then I walked, well, rather read, my way through the museum. I read tales of the Japanese workers who were brought to Hawaii to work in sugarcane fields for little money, tales of students who came to California to work during the day in order to study English at night, and even tales of the Japanese people who went to live in South America, especially Brazil.

Sign Post for Japanese Colony in Aliança, Brazil

I was impressed, thoroughly informed. But none of these exhibits struck me as hard as one: the Japanese people, Issei and Nisei (First and second generation), who came to Southern California, people who labored their entire lives to establish families and businesses.

Nikkei (Japanese) Grandfather and Japanese-American Grandchildren in California Being Taken to an Internment Camp

These were people who during the war were treated like criminals, like enemy aliens, in their chosen land and sometimes the land of their birth. I read letters between families in broken elementary English, expressing their love with difficulty, since Japanese language was forbidden, and dangerous to use.

Love Letters in English Between a Japanese Husband and Wife, Interned at Different Camps

And I thought to myself, “Why?” This is the evil that comes when people draw lines and borders and fictional races, and then hate each other because of it. And I felt guilt, not for California, not for the United States, but for the Human Race. That feature which should bring us together, we all too often forget. After I, yes, I’ll admit it, wiped the tears from my eyes, I continued. As I walked, taking pictures, I caught up to another of our USC students, Amanda. And behold, she was being led around the museum by a darling older gentleman, who was stopping to explain the exhibits as we went. I couldn’t help but tag along to catch a bit of his aged wisdom.

Amanda and Our Aged Angel, the Tour Guide

And it made me think. This is forgiveness, an older man, who might have been born during or maybe just after the war, who knew the history, who knew what happened at the internment camps, and was still willing to lead a group of Americans through the museum, smiling, sharing tidbits of his knowledge, and skipping over the guilt-causing parts.

After thanking our elderly angel, I went to wait with the rest of the group, in our customary “relaxation-and-rest-while-the-unnamed-catches-up” time. After a few minutes, we were able to head out again, off to visit Yokohama Chinatown.