After our ultimately annoying trip to the SC MAGLEV and Railway Park, we decided to hit up Yokohama's Chinatown on the way back from Nagoya for some pork buns. This is the great thing about the Japan Rail Pass - it does give you options like this (more on the rail pass later!).
Yokohama Chinatown is famous for its giant steamed pork buns. Neither one of us had ever been there to vouch for this, but it was apparently on TV. So the plan was to hop off the shinkansen, jot on down to Chinatown, eat a pork bun on the street, then hop back on the shinkansen the rest of the way to Tokyo Station. After leaving the railway museum in Nagoya at about 2PM, we thought we were going to be way early and would probably even make it to Tokyo in time for a real dinner.
What we didn't realize is that Chinatown is actually kind of a long way from the Shin-Yokohama train station. There are a few ways to get there, but we didn't realize the best one until it was too late - you can take the JR Yokohama Line to Yokohama, transfer to the JR Negishi line and get off at Ishikawacho. That way, if you have a rail pass, it's free. Instead, after some confused backtracking we transferred to the private Minatomirai Line to Motomachi-Chūkagai Station - which puts you closer to Chinatown, but costs money. We ended up getting to Chinatown at about 7PM. Once you're there, finding the food is easy - just follow the signs to the main gate.
These are dumplings they also sell on the street - I'm not sure what they're called, but they're like shumai. I liked these a lot, although I made the dumb mistake of putting a whole one in my mouth and biting down - not advisable unless you have a bucket of ice water handy! You're supposed to crack the top open, then slurp the soup out, then nibble on it once it's basically dry inside.
I'm pretty sure these were the guys making the dumplings. I don't know why they need to be outfitted like surgeons. I don't think we even noticed it at the time.
Here's one of the big pork buns - it doesn't look so big with my freakishly large hand holding and pointing at it, but if I showed you the photo of my wife holding one up to her face, you'd have a different impression. We picked the place we bought them from randomly - there are a million of them selling out onto the street, so there's really no way to know what's a "good" one unless you know somebody who's tried various ones. But I doubt there's much difference anyway; they all look basically the same and with that much competition, I don't think they could all survive if one was much better than another.
Was it worth it? I dunno, my wife thought so. I enjoyed the overall experience, but the pork bun itself was not really anything special. I remember having some buns like this in a really weirdly themed Chinese restaurant in Shinjuku a few years back that were just as good. I don't really think you need to go to Yokohama to get these... unless we just picked a place that was below average. (I really think they're probably pretty much all the same, though; they're like Chinese takeout places in New York, they all have the same stuff and make it the same way.)
Chinatown itself did have a pretty cool atmosphere; it's a more upscale version of the one I'm used to in NYC.
From Chinatown, we realized it was actually going to be faster to hop on the Keihin-Tohoku line to get back to Tokyo. This is a local train (and with no green cars), but you need to go backwards to catch the shinkansen, then wait for it, then take the subway to the hotel anyway. So we hopped on the local train and got back to our hotel at about 10PM. A longer day than we'd planned!