On Saturday we decided to go off on our first road trip, not including our prior “suburban” (by Tokyo standards) trips to Costco and IKEA. Actually, it wasn’t supposed to be a road trip so much as a rail trip because our original plan was to go to Yokohama for the day by train.
We invited our new friend, Jason, to tag along but on Saturday morning he said that he was going to have access to a car for the day so that opened up our options to places that aren’t necessarily accessible by train. WOO HOO! Alternatives!
After some discussion we decided to drive toward Mount Fuji to a town called Gotemba. Train access is limited but it’s essentially a straight shot to get to via the Tomei Expressway. Jason picked us up, then we picked up another friend of his, Dan, and hopped on the highway. It’s a very good thing Dan came along because within a few miles we ended up in a massive traffic jam and he can read Japanese so was able to figure out our options on the GPS. For a metropolitan area the size of Tokyo, it’s amazing to realize that all of the highways into and out of the city are only two lanes wide. Honestly, if there really is an impending natural disaster that requires evacuation, this city is screwed. Godzilla picked the right city to attack.
Anyway, the 1.5 hour drive was going to take an additional two hours just to get out of the 14 mile traffic jam. It was horrible. We decided to try the non-expressway roads but ended up in equally horrific traffic. After much debate amongst ourselves and Google Maps, we opted to explore Yokohama instead…which was our initial plan. It’s funny how things can go full circle.
Of course, there was still traffic getting to Yokohama, but at least it’s only 18 miles from Tokyo versus 55 miles to Gotemba.
And although we only explored one tiny area of Yokohama, the modern seaport area called Minato Mirai, we had a great time. Besides having Japan’s tallest occupied building (as opposed to radio/observation towers, like Tokyo Sky Tree), there is shopping galore, street entertainers, a tall ship, cool sculptures, one of the world’s tallest ferris wheels (at least 30 stories high), and even a roller coaster that roams through the ferris wheel along the waterfront.
I want to go back…and next time check out the waterfront parks and a famous garden located just outside the downtown area. The city also has Japan’s largest Chinatown which could be fun to explore.
Luckily, the traffic heading back into Tokyo wasn’t bad (until we got into the city). Next time, though, I think we’re better off taking the train. In fact, the next time somebody offers a road trip (by car), I think I’ll pass. In an area with such great public transit, it’s really not worth it.
Oh, and to incorporate an adventure in gastronomy into the blog, the photo above is of some Malaysian food I had at our local Malaysian restaurant. It was pretty good.
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