Japan City Guides: Yokohama
Yokohama Overview | Yokohama Map | Yokohama History | Yokohama Chinatown | Minato Mirai 21 | Bashamachi & Kannai Stations | Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery | Yokohama Doll Museum | Gay Yokohama | Getting to Yokohama from Tokyo | Yokohama Tourist Information Centers
Yamashita Park, Yokohama
Yokohama is Japan's second biggest city, the capital of Kanagawa prefecture, close to Tokyo. It has a population of about 3.5 million.
Yokohama is also Japan's second largest port and luxury cruise destination. Historically, the city has been Japan's gateway to the world, giving it something of a cosmopolitan air.
The city's seafront location and pleasant parks also give it a relaxed atmosphere, enhanced by the smattering of historic sites and buildings in the Yamate district.
Yokohama is noted, too, for having Japan's largest and most colorful Chinatown. It is also home to the futuristic Minato Mirai 21 Development on the waterfront.
Yokohama was the first port opened to foreign trade by the Japanese government since 1635. 1635 was when the Dutch were confined to what at the time was Dejima Island in Nagasaki as the only foreign traders allowed to reside in Japan. This move was the final measure of the many for the expulsion of foreigners from Japan that had begun with the expulsion of foreign missionaries in June 1587.
The opening of Yokohama can be traced to the signing in the port of Shimoda of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (the "Harris Treaty") of July 29 1858 which America, with its military might, forced on Japan - along with other Western powers, each with their own treaty. However the Harris Treaty specified nearby Kanagawa, not Yokohama, as the port of extraterritoriality in Tokyo.
The first resident British ambassador to Japan, Rutherford Alcock, arrived in Tokyo on 26 June 1859. Shortly afterwards he discovered that the Japanese government was putting the finishing touches on an elaborate settlement for foreign trade, complete with granite piers and custom house, built at great effort and expense, but on the marshes of what was at that time the tiny fishing village of Yokohama, not the treaty port of Kanagawa.
Kanagawa was on the Tokaido highway, the main thoroughfare between Kyoto and Tokyo (known as Edo at the time), and was therefore ideally suited to quick and easy communications. Yokohama on the other hand was several miles from the Tokaido, and having only a single road for access this meant that all trade between the settlement of Yokohama and the rest of Japan could be easily monitored and restricted, and indeed initially was by requiring the purchase of a licence by Japanese to even access Yokohama.
The Japanese government was adamant in the face of protests by the British ambassador, Alcock, and the American ambassador, Harris. The Japanese government had its hand strengthened by the fact that the foreign merchants, eager to start trading with Japan quickly, moved in to Yokohama with its extensive, ready-made, facilities, oblivious to political wranglings when the long-awaited chance to begin trade with Japan beckoned. The foreign trading community thus lived in Yokohama, while the diplomatic community lived in Kanagawa.
The founding of Yokohama, rather than the treaty port of Kanagawa, as a port of extraterritoriality, was therefore a fait accompli, and this marshy, remote fishing village had thus found its place in Japanese history.
Chinatown in Yokohama is the largest Chinatown in Japan
Yokohama's Chinatown, founded in 1863, is the largest in Japan. Chinatown, as you would expect, has an amazing selection of Chinese restaurants and shops. Look out for the Kantei-byo shrine with its attractive ornamental gateways. The shrine is dedicated to Guan Yu, a former warlord and the spiritual guardian of Yokohama's estimated 2,000 ethnic Chinese inhabitants.
Landmark Tower at 296 m is one of Japan's largest buildings and the centerpiece of the Minato Mirai 21 (MM21) development. Landmark Tower was completed in the early 1990s. There is a viewing gallery on the 69th floor - the Sky Garden, accessed with the world's fastest elevator, with excellent views on a clear day.
Pacifico Yokohama is a huge, curving conference center, somewhat reminiscent of a sail, and contains the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel.
The Yokohama Maritime Museum nearby contains the pristine 1930s sailing ship, the Nippon Maru. A short walk away is the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel - one of the largest in the world and located on a small island - Shinko-cho - along with two restored historic brick warehouses, which form the centerpiece of the Akarenga (red-brick) shopping & entertainment center. The Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel is 112.5m high and can carry 480 people.
The towers of the Queen's Square complex include shops (Uniqlo, L. L. Bean, Timberland), restaurants and the Pan Pacific Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu. The Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall is also part of the complex and houses a pair of concert halls designed for classical music.
World Porters is another popular shopping, cinema and restaurant mall on the island, directly opposite the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel and the Yokohama Cosmoworld amusement park with its roller coaster, water slide and other attractions mainly aimed at children and young couples.
Minato Mirai 21 by night
The area around Kannai is the historic heart of old Yokohama and a few grand Western-style edifices and facades still stand. Of interest in this area are: the Yokohama Archives of History, the historic Customs House and the red-brick Port Opening Memorial Hall which dates from 1918.
The rather quirky Yokohama Curry Museum was a recreation of 19th century Yokohama with several curry restaurants built in. Curry was first introduced into Japan by Indian sailors in the 1870s and quickly became popular. The Yokohama Curry Museum was a short walk from Kannai Station, on the 7th/8th floors of Isezaki Mall. The museum closed in 2007.
Another example of museum-cum-restaurant is the Ramen museum in Shin-Yokohama, within easy walking distance of Shin-Yokohama Station (closed Tuesday). Local varieties of ramen noodles are available in a 1950s-esque setting in the museum's basement.
The Kanagawa Prefectural Museum is housed in the former head office of the Yokohama Specie Bank, which dates from 1904. The museum charts the history of the area which makes up present-day Kanagawa Prefecture, including nearby Kamakura and the history of Yokohama as a Western treaty port.
Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery, on the hill south west of Harbor View Park, contains the graves of over 4,900 Westerners from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Graves of historic interest include those of Charles Richardson - who was hacked to death in 1862 by samurai from Satsuma, in nearby Namamugi, on a visit to Japan from Shanghai and Edward Morel, the chief engineer on Japan's first railway, from Tokyo to Yokohama.
The Yokohama Doll Museum (Tel: 045 671 9361) at the south eastern end of Yamashita-koen, across from Harbor View Park, exhibits 1000s of dolls from around the world including an excellent collection of Japanese hina dolls. Admission to the Yokohama Doll Museum is 300 yen for adults.
Close to the Yokohama Doll Museum is the 106m-tall Yokohama Marine Tower. The tower's twin observation decks afford great views out over Yamashita park, the ocean and the city. The Yokohama Marine Tower opened in 1961 and was renovated in 2009. Visitors can enjoy a bar, cafe and the Tower Restaurant Yokohama.
Moku-moku waku-waku yo yo by Hisayuki Mogami
Yokohama's skyline shows some of Japan's tallest skyscrapers
As well as the museums mentioned above, Yokohama has a large number of other interesting museums and galleries, many connected with the history of the city as a port and a gateway between Japan and the world.
Yokohama's museums include the striking Yokohama Museum of Art, designed by Kenzo Tange near Landmark Tower. The Yokohama Museum of Art focuses on art produced after 1859, the year of Yokohama's founding and is well known for its exhibitions of Surrealist and modern art and its collection of photography, a medium that was largely introduced to Japan through Yokohama by foreign photographers. Behind the Yokohama Museum of Art is the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum, which displays a rocket engine, a deep-sea submarine and visitors can try their luck on a helicopter simulator.
The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum is located on the Shinko Island and traces the history of Japanese migration mainly to North and South America. Close by is the Japan Coast Guard Museum, which details the work of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and displays a North Korean spy vessel sunk by the Coast Guard in 2001 and later salvaged and brought here. Both the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum and Japan Coast Guard Museum are free to enter.
The Yokohama Cup Noodles Museum opened in 2011 and like the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda, Osaka is dedicated to the work of Ando, the inventor of instant ramen back in 1958. Visitors can make their own ramen from 5,460 flavor combinations, see the Instant Noodles History Cube with over 3,000 product packages on display, see a recreation of Ando's wooden, garden shed where he worked on his inventions and a CG animation movie on the story of instant noodles.
Yokohama Cupnoodles Museum
The first newspapers in Japan originated in Yokohama and the history of Japan's press is outlined at Newspark Japan Newspaper Museum in the Yamashita Park area of the city. Yokohama is also associated with silk, which was exported to the west from the port, the Silk Museum explains the process of silk production and displays clothes made from silk. The home of the former British Consulate General in Yokohama is now the Yokohama Archives of History tracing the history of the port from the end of the Edo Era to the early Showa Period. The Museum of Yokohama Urban History focuses on the Showa period when the modern city of Yokohama was built.
The Yokohama Museum of EurAsian Cultures exhibits arts and crafts, clothing and sculpture from this vast area. The Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History introduces the history and culture of Kanagawa prefecture of which Yokohama is part.
The Yokohama Station area includes the Sogo Museum of Art in the Sogo department store and the Yokohama Barakura English garden, with four themed English-style gardens, a natural garden and a shop. A short walk from the East Exit of Yokohama Station is the Canon Cats Theater, which has been performing the musical Cats since 1983! Close by is the Yokohama Anpanman Children's Museum dedicated to the cartoon character with lots of shops and cafes to try food associated with Anpanman.
The Yokohama Tram Museum, south of Kannai, exhibits some of the street cars that ran in Yokohama for seventy years as well as models, photographs and posters.
Motomachi Yamate Area Museums & Historical Buildings
The Motomachi Yamate area of Yokohama is the historical heart of the old foreign settlement and includes the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery and the adjacent Resource Center. Yamate Park was the first western-style park laid out in Japan in 1870 and it was here that the first cedars in Japan were planted (not to be confused with Japanese Cryptomeria or sugi). The Yokohama Yamate Museum of Tennis in Yamate Park marks the place where tennis was first played in Japan and exhibits early racquets made of bamboo. Other parks and gardens in the Yamate area are harbor View Park (Minato-no-mieru-oka-koen) and the Yamate Italian Garden.
The Tin Toy Museum has a quirky collection of 13,000 tin toys from the designs of Teruhisa Kitahara. Other museums in the Yamate area are the Osaragi Jiro Memorial Museum, the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature and the Yamate Museum - the last remaining wooden, western-style house built in Yokohama in 1909.
The majority of the western-style buildings in Yokohama were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the few remaining structures date from after that time. They include Bluff No. 111, the home of an American financier, the huge British House, the British consular residence built in 1937 with a lovely rose garden, the Diplomat's House, the home of the Meiji Era Japanese diplomat Uchida Sadatsuchi, Bluff No. 18, close to Ishikawacho Station with a lovely garden, Berrick Hall, the Spanish-style home of English businessman B.R. Berrick, designed by the American architect J. H. Morgan, Bluff No. 234, former apartments for foreigners built in 1927 and Ehrismann Residence, designed by Antonin Raymond and now housing a coffee shop.
The gay scene in Yokohama is to some extent overshadowed by that of Shinjuku Ni-Chome which is just 45 minutes or so by train from Yokohama. Nevertheless, Yokohama does have quite an extensive gay scene of its own with numerous bars, and even a gay and lesbian community center.
Read more about gay and lesbian Yokohama.
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouses - Aka Renga - contain shops, restaurants and a concert hall
Yokohama's main attractions - the Motomachi shopping area, Chinatown, and Yamashita Park - are easily accessible from Tokyo's Shibuya Station on the Minatomirai Line, which connects directly with the Tokyu Toyoko Line. Motomachi-Chukagai Station in Chinatown is the final stop and takes 35 minutes on the Toyoko Railway Limited Express. Toyoko line attractions are as follows:
Around Minatomirai Station
Yokohama Museum of Art, Pan Pacific Hotel, Hard Rock Café, Landmark Tower, and Tourist Information Center.
Around Nihon-Odori Station
Port Opening Memorial Hall, Yokohama Stadium (for Yokohama Bay Stars baseball games), Silk Museum, Tourist Information Center, Yokohama Customs Museum, and Chinatown.
Chinatown, Yamashita Park, Yokohama Doll Museum, Yokohama Foreigners' Cemetery, and Harbor View Park.
International Stadium Yokohama (aka Nissan Stadium) hosted the final of the 2002 World Cup and is the home ground of J-League team Yokohama F. Marinos. International Stadium Yokohama is located north of Yokohama Station and has a seating capacity of over 77,000 making it the largest in the country. The station is close to Shin-Yokohama Station (where the Tokaido shinkansen stops) and Kozukue Station on the JR Yokohama Line.
Sankeien Garden contains a number of historic buildings brought from other parts of Japan and is located to the south of Yokohama Station. The garden was built by silk merchant Sankei Hara in the late 19th century. The inner garden contains the Rinshunkaku, a mansion built for Yorinobu, the son of Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1649, the Choshukaku, an elegant teahouse that once stood in Nijo Castle in Kyoto and the Kaiganmon Gate from Saihoji Temple in Kyoto. Tenju-in is a 17th century Zen temple dedicated to Jizo and was brought from Kamakura. The outer garden contains a large farmhouse, Old Yanohara House, built in the gassho style of architecture and a three-story Muromachi period pagoda and the main hall of Old Tomyoji Temple.
From the East Exit of the station take bus #8 or #148 to Honmoku Sankeien Mae (35 minutes) from where it is a 5-minute walk. Alternatively there are buses #58, #99, #101 or #126 from JR Negishi Station.
Yokohama Tourist Information Centers
Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau
Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau
Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau
Yokohama Station West Exit with taxis
Getting to Yokohama
There are a number of different lines running to Yokohama from Tokyo including the Tokyu-Tohoku Line from Shibuya Station to Yokohama Station and Motomachi-Chukagai Station; the JR Tokaido and Yokusuka lines from Tokyo Station take 40 minutes to Yokohama Station or the Keihin-Tohoku Line to Sakuragicho, Kannai or Ishikawacho Stations.
From Shinjuku Station take the Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Yokohama Station. From Narita Airport take either the Narita Express Yokohama service or the slower Rapid service. From Haneda, take a Keihin-Kyuko Line train or a bus to YCAT. From the shinkansen stop at Shin-Yokohama take the Yokohama subway to Yokohama Station, Kannai or Sakuragicho.
Yokohama Museum of Modern Art
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