What to see and do in Yokohama
Yokohama is one of our favorite cities. It is the second largest city in Japan with 5 million residents and sits adjacent to Tokyo. In fact, without a map or signs you would be hard pressed to see where Tokyo stops and Yokohama begins, at least on the surface. Yet Yokohama is very different and stems mostly from its unique history and exceptional deep-water port.
From Blackships to Thriving International Port City
Yokohama and the surrounding waters in nearby Uraga is where Japan, opened up to the rest of the world for trade and commerce. In 1853 and 1854, US Commodore Matthew Perry’s Blackships arrived into these Japanese waters and in a classic display of “gunboat diplomacy” threatened to unleash their arsenal if Japan did not open to commerce with the US. The episode is part of the history books and the resultant world commerce that has passed through this port has shaped almost every facet of Yokohama, particularly in and around the port area. Yokohama is unique in Japan in its architecture and history, embracing a mix of the west with Japanese traditions. It has since that time been a melting pot of east and west cultures, foods, and architecture which continues today. It is also home to one of the largest Chinatowns outside of China.
That makes Yokohama a very dynamic city, but one with a different feel to Tokyo. Yokohama has a slightly different and less rushed pace than Tokyo, with more open spaces, a very different architecture that befits its history of interaction with the west, and a historic deep water port which in the summers can offer a few precious degrees of relief from the summer heat.
What to see and do?
On a given day in Yokohama you could stroll the classy boutiques, small shops and streets of the Motomachi shopping area before continuing onto explore one of the largest Chinatown’s outside of China. You could also enjoy the port, taking in some of its maritime history and historic ships and then take a comfortable water taxi over to the Minato Mirai or Yokohama Station areas for top notch shopping and eats. Minato Mirai (meaning “harbor of the future”) neighborhood – comes complete with an amusement park, Ferris wheel and great rides for young (and old) kids, great shopping, its own subway stop, and a vibrant restaurant scene. It makes a nice area to take a stroll, with expansive paths along the water. Its center is the Landmark Tower, with the best views in Yokohama (and arguably Tokyo) from its rooftop platform.
Next door is one of our favorite spots, the Cup Noodle Musuem, where you can create your very own unique flavor of the instant noodle classic. And for those wanting to experience Ramen, the Yokohama Ramen Museum at Shin-Yokohama station boasts multiple ramen shops representative of different styles and eras across Japan – a must for any ramen aficionado. For those seeking nightlife and food, exploring Sakuragicho with its honeycomb of small streets filled with eateries, bars, and jazz clubs is a must. And yet another option is the lively Kannai area with multitudes of restaurants, bars and shops near the Yokohama Baseball stadium. For those who enjoy the outdoors there are numerous parks and walking paths to enjoy like Yamashita Koen (park) which runs along the waterfront. And to refresh yourself, make a stop at the Kirin Beer Village (a few stops away) for an only-in-Japan tour and refreshing cold beer. If history, culture and architecture are your thing, the Port and Downtown areas boast numerous museums and buildings that are unique to Japan and strongly reflect the foreign influences of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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