Yokkaichi is a mid-size city located on the Pacific coast of Japan's Tokai region. It's what I like to call a little, big city. It plays an important role in regional economics, industry, and agriculture. Yokkaichi has a lot of variety, so each part of the city is really different from the others. Let's get started!
1. The local food is Tonteki
Tonteki? Never heard of it? That's ok, you won't forget it! Tonteki is a magical combination of a giant piece of pork, loads of garlic, and sauce handed down to humans by the benevolent culinary gods. I don't mean to make it sound too crazy, but seriously, it's good! It's usually served with cabbage.
The quality and quantity of tonteki vary by restaurant; not all tonteki are created equal. The hands down king of tonteki in Yokkaichi, dare I say Japan, is Matsumoto-no Rai Rai Ken (まつもとの来来憲). People come here from all over Japan to sample Yokkaichi's gift to the world. Just walking by the restaurant and taking in the "second-hand pork" aroma makes you feel like you've had a bite!
(Above: Matsumoto-no Rai Rai Ken)
Don't let the facade fool you, the walls are filled with signatures from celebrities and it's been featured on numerous TV programs over the years. I happened to be there one day when my family was visiting from the States. There was a crew shooting a TV show. I was interviewed about the restaurant and I was on national TV! The five minute interview ended up with me saying "Thank you very macho!" and shaking hands with the comedy duo Sandwich Man, but it was a good experience.
(Above: Screen caps from my 3 seconds of fame!)
If you're gonna check out this spot, go with the daitonteki teishoku (大とんてき定食). That will get you a small snack, the giant tonteki, along with all the rice, cabbage, and pork soup called tonjiru (トン汁) you can eat! Tea is also included, but it's best enjoyed with draft beer or a Japanese shochu made especially for tonteki. It's called tonteki ni au sake (とんてきに合う酒).
(Below: Daitonteki teishoku)
2. It’s urban, suburban, and rural
Yokkaichi covers a lot of ground, 128 square miles to be exact (206 square kilometers). The city stretches from it's coast along the Bay of Ise to the foothills of the Suzuka Mountains. The main downtown area may seem like the boonies to people from Tokyo and Osaka, but it's got it's own charm and offers some fun options for nights out.
The eastern coastline is home to Yokkaichi's port, refineries, factories, and many other industrial businesses. The area surrounding downtown gives way to residential areas. Travel further outside of these, and you'll find yourself in the suburbs. For those brave enough to go beyond these 'burbs, you will find rice fields, tea fields, and Yokkaichi's wildlife.
3. The city's mascot is Konyudou-kun
Meet Konyudou-kun. He's a shrunk-down version of Yokkaichi's first
representative, Onyudou. Described as a "mountain of a man," Onyudo is a mysterious type of Japanese monster (aka yokai /ようかい / 妖怪) said to possess strange and marvelous powers including the ability to make people sick with just a glance and stretch his neck to supernaturally freakish lengths! Japan did give us anime, remember? You can spot him by trademark bulging eyes and hanging tongue.
(Below: Onyudou in the downtown shopping area, no hanging tongue in this pic)
Konyudo-kun is his nicer and much cuter alter ego. You can find Konyudo-kun all over the place in Yokkaichi. There is even a shop in Apita, our local mall, that sells souvenirs with Konyudo-kun on it along with other local goods. Konyudo-kun his own facebook page if you want to see what he's up to. He's usually bouncing around Yokkaichi taking pictures at events. Every once in a while, he travels around Japan to compete against other characters and promote Yokkaichi. Please, someone needs to make a Japanese mascot fighting game someday!
(Below: Konyudou-kun on a trip to Tokyo)
4. It has international connections
Yokkaichi's importance as a port town means it does a lot of business with other countries. It has has built sister city and port relationships with other cities around the world. It's longest sister city relationship started with Long Beach, CA in 1963. It then became the sister port of Sydney, Australia. Later,it added another sister city relationship with Tianjin, China.
These sister city and port relationships allow for international exchange and people to people diplomacy as envisioned by former president Eisenhower, the creator of the sister city projects after World War II.
Yokkaichi's port and other industries draw a lot of workers from overseas. I've met people from Brazil, Peru, Nepal, Vietnam, Taiwan,the Philippines, China, America, the UK, and France. There are also people from Australia and other countries in Europe and Africa.
5. But wait, there's more!
There are so many more things I want to include here, but I don't have the time right now. Take a look at the map below for some useful places I've found. You can also check the map out here.
What did you think? Was there anything that surprised you? Anything else you want to know? Feel free to comment below. Be on the lookout for another update about more cool things you should know about Yokkaichi!