Chinese New Year in Tokyo!


So this post is a little late, but it’s full of amazing, yummy and pretty things so… Happy Chinese New Year!

Having been woefully unaware it was approaching, I couldn’t help notice the buzz and murmurings around me at Japanese school as there are many Chinese and Taiwanese students. I decided I would celebrate in style, because I am unashamedly a wannabe Asian. This started from an early age, when I refused to eat potatoes or white bread so my mother had to feed me fried rice and noodles. I grew up on stir fries! My best friend is Taiwanese and complains about the number of food photos I take. “Why are you more Asian than me?” she moans, whilst longing to live in Europe. I, on the other hand, have spent nearly two years of my life living in or travelling Asia, and I dream of where I’ll get to visit next.

Even though I live in Japan, not China, I had an awesome Chinese New Year… by eating a wonderfully spicy dish called mapo doufu!

And I had to eat this not once…

Mapo doufu at Zenshutoku
Mapo doufu at Zenshutoku, Ginza

…not twice…

Mapo doufu at Chen Mapo, Queen's Square, Yokohama
Mapo doufu at Chen Mapo, Queen’s Square, Yokohama

…but three times in one week! I may have developed an addiction to the stuff.

Mapo doufu at Kouyo, Shindaita
Mapo doufu at Kouyo, Shindaita

But let’s rewind! How did I celebrate aside from shoving spice into my face?

And, I went to Chinatown in Yokohama to check out the Cǎi Qīng Lion Dance. Yokohama is considered Japan’s second largest city by population and basically an overspill from Tokyo, just further south along Tokyo Bay. Its impressively large Chinatown began to develop in 1859 when the newly opened seaport in Yokohama attracted many Chinese immigrants. Immigration was further encouraged following the commencement of ferry services to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Lion Dance
Lion Dance

The Cǎi Qīng Lion Dance involves a lot of firecrackers and drums and, of course, a lion! Envelopes containing monetary offerings are hung in the entrance to stores that the lion then chomps down on and enters the store to perform a dance, bringing good fortune.

In reality, the Lion Dance is actually a giant fight against a swarm of people and cameras. But we still managed to look around Chinatown and admire the colours. I’ve yet to travel China and I absolutely can’t wait!

Despite devouring mapo doufu for lunch, I couldn’t resist getting some bubble tea, which was an anaemic effort that contained different coloured bubbles at the bottom, probably a mix of tapioca and popping jelly.  I did, however, get some sesame dumplings (jin deui) made of rice flour and filled with red bean paste – little pieces of paradise in my mouth. SO GOOD.

On the blog tomorrow: review of Zenshutoku, Ginza. That means Peking duck, like this:

You are allowed to salivate...
You are allowed to salivate…

Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

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