Being the country’s first gateway to the world post-Sakoku (Japan’s period of national isolation) and one of the first districts to have a significant number of foreigner settlers, the port city of Yokohama is unsurprisingly influenced by a diverse set of cultures. It is home to one of the world’s largest Chinatowns; one of the few places in Japan to have a Western residential district; the site of the country’s first commercial beer brewery, and is also the rumored birthplace of ramen.
It is perhaps fitting to say that Yokohama is somehow unique from all the other places in Japan because although the city remains decidedly Japanese, its sensibilities have undoubtedly been shaped by foreigners. From cuisine to architecture, Yokohama’s top attractions and activities exude international flair. Nowhere in Japan can you experience such diversity than in this historic port city.
Chill at Yamashita Park and Osanbashi Pier
The harbor area is probably the best place to start your explorations around Yokohama. Not only is it historically significant, but it is also ground zero to the daily hustle and bustle of the city. There are many attractions that line its harborfront. However, if you prefer a breezy introduction to this harbor city, head to its most popular waterfront promenade – the Yamashita Park.
The Yamashita Park features a 750-meter long boardwalk, European-style gardens, historical monuments, and picturesque views of the nearby Osanbashi Pier and the Minato Mirai – a seaside urban area, which is home to Yokohama’s most iconic landmarks. This public park is a popular hangout among locals as it is with tourists, making it the quintessential spot for people watching.
While strolling around its grounds, it would be impossible for you to miss the Hikawa Maru. This ship was once a luxury ocean liner that used to transport passengers and cargo between Japan and Seattle. Now retired, it is permanently anchored in front of the Yamashita Park promenade functioning as a museum.
Just walking distance from Yamashita Park, Osanbashi Pier is another spot to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Currently the docking site of international cruise ships, this passenger terminal also serves as a hub of shops, restaurants, and small exhibition halls. Meanwhile, its rooftop’s unique architecture offer a wooden deck, patches of green spaces and unobstructed views of the Minato Mirai skyline. Thus, regardless of whether you’re boarding a ship or not, Osanbashi Pier is a must-visit sightseeing attraction. Come visit at night if you’re feeling romantic. A postcard-worthy scene awaits.
Address: 279 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: Free admission
Website: http://www.city.yokohama.lg.jp/kankyo/park/yokohama/kouen008.html (Japanese only)
Price: ¥300 (Adults), ¥100 (Children), ¥200 (Senior)
Address: 1 Chome-1-4 Kaigan-dori, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: Free admission
Spend a day playing at Cosmoworld amusement park
Yokohama’s Cosmoworld is for the kids and the kids at heart. Located in the Minato Mirai area, it helped shaped the city’s iconic skyline with the Cosmoworld Ferris Wheel as its most distinguishable landmark. The park requires no entrance fees. Rather, fees are collected for each ride. Though most of the park’s attractions are geared towards family-oriented entertainment, it does have some fun and thrilling experiences for couples and groups of friends too. And as to be expected of such places, you will also find this place brimming with numerous shop stalls, restaurants, cafés, parks, and game centers.
Address: 2-8-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: Rides from ¥300 and up
Website: http://cosmoworld.jp/ (Japanese only)
Shop for unique finds and attend events at Yokohama Redbrick Warehouse
Also known as the Yokohama Akarenga, the Yokohama Redbrick Warehouse is a two-building cultural and commercial facility situated along the city harbor. This used to be the Customs Inspections House until it closed in 1989, and after several years of renovation, it was reopened to the public as a space for cultural events and a unique shopping destination featuring mostly artisanal shops. Some notable shops to check out include Akarenga Depot for brick goods, S. Shobey & Masuda Gama for silk products, and Yokohama Glass for glassware and accessories. As for events, the recurring ones to look forward to include Oktoberfest, Christmas Market, and the “Art Rink” – an artsy outdoor skating rink put up during winter months.
Address: 1-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Explore Yokohama’s Chinatown
Prepare to be overwhelmed as this Chinatown is one of the largest in the world. It has more than 600 shops squeezed in just a 2500 square meter area – a heady mix of restaurants, eateries, tiny shopping stalls, and fortune-teller stands run by energetic entrepreneurs. A taste of China in Yokohama, this town offers the best dining experience for authentic Chinese food. Some of China’s major culinary traditions are accounted for here: Beijing’s ancient court cuisine, Shanghai’s seafood offerings, Sichuan’s spicy dishes, and Guangdong’s world famous dishes like dim sum, congee, and stir-fried noodles.
If you happen to plan your visit around the time of the Lunar New Year celebrations, consider yourself extremely lucky. As it is the most important festival for the Chinese community, you’re in for a grand celebration – one with dancing dragons, exploding firecrackers, dancing troupes, and colorful characters parading down this town’s narrow streets.
Address: Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Website: http://www.chinatown.or.jp/ (Japanese only)
Be amazed by the beautiful view of Minato Mirai
Minato Mirai is that place in Yokohama harbor where the city’s role of being Japan’s gateway to the world is most apparent. It has a truly cosmopolitan vibe owing to its numerous museums, hotels, office towers, and shopping centers. Its skyline is the city’s trademark image known to the rest of the world, and at night, it shines brightly with dazzling city lights that get reflected by Yokohama Bay’s waters. There are many vantage points from which you can appreciate its beauty. Take your pick from Yamashita Park, Osanbashi Pier, and Yokohama Redbrick Warehouse if a panoramic view is what you’re after.
Discover the diverse world of ramen at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
The rumored birthplace of ramen, Yokohama is definitely a city to go on a ramen-spree. You can go on a pilgrimage by hunting down the best ramen joints around the city, or if you want to do it more conveniently, just head straight to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.
This three-floor facility is an homage to Japan’s beloved noodle dish. Here, you can learn about its roots, its evolution through the years, and the different ramen varieties from all over Japan. Aside from the educational exhibits, guests can actually indulge in delicious bowls from the nine ramen stalls at the museum’s old school styled food hall. Each of these establishments specializes in a different type of ramen. So for those who want to sample noodles from all nine restaurants, ordering the small-sized portions is most recommended. Do take note, however, that these ramen orders are not inclusive of the museum entrance fee. Thus, you will have to purchase each bowl separately.
Address: 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama
Price: ¥310 (Adults), ¥100 (Children ages 6-12), ¥100 (Senior), Free (Children below 6)
Hang out at English pubs and jazz clubs
Night outs in Yokohama can be a lot of things. However, if there was a representative nightlife activity in the city, it’s either of these two things: drinking beer at an English pub like The Tavern or checking out the local jazz scene at clubs like Motion Blue Yokohama. This shows just how deeply ingrained Western influences are as far as the locals’ tastes are concerned. You will definitely find yourself in somewhat familiar territory, especially since beer and music are known to be good ice-breakers.
Address: B1 Nishiguchi Meiwa Building, 2 Chome-14-9 Minamisaiwai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa
Price: ¥3,000 ~ ¥3,999
Motion Blue Yokohama
Address: 1-1-2 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: ¥10,000 ~ ¥14,999
Website: http://www.motionblue.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
Appreciate city views atop Yokohama Landmark Tower
True to its name, the Yokohama Landmark Tower is one of the city’s most iconic structures. A landmark dubbed as the second tallest building in Japan, it towers above Yokohama at 269 meters tall. A mixed-use building, it houses several offices, a shopping mall, a five-star hotel, and an observation deck called the Sky Garden.
Perched on the 69th floor, the Sky Garden observatory boasts 360° sweeping views of the city, and on clear days, even Mt. Fuji joins in on the scene. To get this high up, tourists will have to ride Japan’s fastest elevator. Prepare to be amazed as this express trip takes you to the top in less than 40 seconds!
Address: 2-1-1 Minatomirai 2-Chome, Nishi-ku, Yokohama
Price: ¥1,000 (Adults), ¥800 (High School Students), ¥500 (Elementary & Junior High School Students), ¥400 (Children over 4), ¥800 (Senior)
Get around Yokohama Bay onboard Sea Bass boats
Riding the Sea Bass is the most scenic way to commute around the Yokohama Bay area. Intended for sightseeing, these ferries are designed with large clear windows to maximize the harbor views. It has four embarkation sites conveniently located nearby popular tourist areas like the Bay Quarter, Minato Mirai, Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, and Yamashita Park. The service runs every 15 minutes if boarding from the Yamashita Park Terminal.
Address: Yamashita Park, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: Route-dependent, longest route priced at ¥700 (Adults) and ¥350 (Children)
Make your own instant ramen at Cup Noodle Museum
The Japanese obviously love their noodles, so much that in Yokohama you will find not one, but two museums dedicated to this comfort food. The first was already mentioned earlier on the list – the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, while the second one is another must-visit attraction, the Cup Noodle Museum.
Put together by the inventors of instant noodles themselves – the Nissin Food Company, Yokohama’s Cup Noodle Museum is an interesting and interactive space to learn everything there is to know about instant ramen. The educational displays are a given, but the activity to look forward to when visiting this museum is the opportunity to make your own cup noodle.
By signing up for their My Cup Noodles Factory workshop, you get to design your own ramen’s packaging as well as customize its taste by selecting your toppings and choice of soup flavor. Alternatively, the Chicken Ramen Factory workshop offers a more intense hands-on experience. It is a 90-minute session where participants make chicken ramen from scratch – starting from kneading the wheat flour to packing the noodles for a truly one of a kind souvenir. Eight classes of 48 students are opened to the public daily. To join one, you have to reserve a slot in advance via their official website.
Address: 2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: ¥500* (Adults), Free (High school students and younger)
*Workshop fees not included
Join the free brewery tour of the Kirin Beer Village
Brewery tours are nothing new in Japan, but when it comes to beer, joining one while in Yokohama is a tad bit nostalgic. Why so, you ask? It’s simply because it was here that the first commercial beer brewery was established, which then started the rise of this Western drink as the most popular alcoholic beverage in all of Japan.
Kirin, a leading Japanese beer brand originating from Yokohama, manages a factory in the area. Their facility is open to the public for free guided tours – an hour walk-through of its site operations and display galleries showcasing Kirin’s history. The tours are only conducted in Japanese, but nevertheless, it is easy enough to follow since you’ll be mostly observing factory processes. At the end of each tour, you will be treated to a free beer-tasting activity, where you can sample up to three different types of beer. If in case you want more, there’s an in-house restaurant called Beer Port. Seven types of Kirin Beer are served here, which of course includes the ones produced by their Yokohama brewery.
Address: 1-17-1 Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama
Website: http://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/yokohama/ (Japanese only), http://www.kirin.co.jp/entertainment/factory/yokohama/restaurant/beerport.html (Japanese only)
Check out Yamate Hill’s Western houses
Strolling around Yokohama’s Yamate district can be a bit disorienting; it doesn’t feel like you’re in Japan at all. Along with Chinatown, this historic neighborhood on the hill served as the settlements of European foreigners. Hence, it is famous for its colonial-style buildings and mansions, for its parks and gardens, and for its Western cemetery. A lot of its original structures were destroyed during Great Kanto Earthquake, but those that survived were preserved, designated as Important Cultural Properties, and are now gathered in Yamate Seiyokan. There are about nine of these structures, all open for public viewing.
Address: 111 Yamatecho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa
Website: http://www.hama-midorinokyokai.or.jp/yamate-seiyoukan/ (Japanese only)
Catch a baseball game at the Yokohama Stadium
If you’re a sports fan, you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to watch a baseball game while you’re in Japan. The country is crazy about baseball, and when it comes to supporting favorite teams, you won’t find a more passionate bunch than the Japanese fans. If you get to watch a game live, you might mistake it for a soccer match because the crowd’s energy is just so relentless. From start to finish, cheering and chanting do not stop; and since the away team almost always come with a throng of its own supporters, the rivalry between fandoms make the match more exciting.
In Yokohama, Nippon Professional Baseball games are played at the Yokohama Stadium. The regular season starts in late March (or early April) and ends in October. For more details on schedules and ticketing, visit the websites provided below.
Address: Yokohamakouen, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Stroll in the serene garden landscapes of Sankeien Garden
Yokohama may have a cosmopolitan appeal, but places like Sankeien Garden serves as a reminder that the city remains entrenched in its Japanese roots. This Japanese garden with a total land area of 175,000 square meters is an impressive exhibition of traditional aesthetics in terms of landscape and architecture. Apart from nature, Sankeien features 17 historical buildings brought in from across Japan. One of which is a pagoda originally constructed in 15th century Kyoto.
Address: 58-1 Honmoku Sannotani, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Price: ¥500 (Adult), ¥200 (Children – elementary students and younger)
Indulge in an Onsen bath without having to leave the city
At Manyo Club, you can enjoy an authentic Onsen bath without having to leave the city. This hot spring spa complex is the perfect destination after an intensive tour around Yokohama. Aside from bathing facilities, various reflexology services are likewise offered to guarantee a totally relaxing experience. Admission prices already include yukata and towel rental.
Address: 2 Chome-7-1 Shinko Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture
Price: ¥2,500 (Adults), ¥1,400 (Children – Elementary school age), ¥940 (Children – Ages 3 to 7), Free (Children under 3)
All price information in this article is as of February 2017.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.