Yokohama lies on Tokyo Bay in the Kanto region and is the second most populated city in Japan after Tokyo. It’s the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and serves as a commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area. Yokohama is also known as the ‘Gateway to Japan’, which is mainly because it’s one of Japan’s principal ports. It’s a fast growing city and the dominance of trade and industry is evident by the factories, piers, and warehouses that line the waterfront.
The history of Yokohama shows that it was after the end of Japan’s relative isolation during the 19th century when the city started to develop rapidly and emerged as Japan’s major port city. Until the end of the Edo period, Yokohama was still a small village with fishing being the main source of income for the people.
Everything changed in 1853-54 when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived near Yokohama, asking Japan to open ports for commerce. This resulted in a treaty (the Treaty of Peace and Amity) signed by the Tokygawa shogunate. Today, Yokohama is one of Japan’s most iconic holiday destinations where you can find an amazingly large array of activities, sights, and events. Its geographical location makes it a lot more popular with holidaymakers. The topography of this region is hilly in nature, as the city is located along the hills of Miura and Tama. Moreover, The Sakai River and the Tsurumi River also pass through this region and help keep the weather mild and pleasant.
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Best time to go
Yokohama has a seasonal temperate climate, similar to Tokyo. The year-round temperature is usually close to 16 degrees Celsius, making spring the best time to plan your visit as in April and May, the weather is quite pleasant. If you choose the summer (June to August) to visit you’ll find yourself battling with heat and humidity – you may also witness some rainfall in June. The main typhoon season is September to early November and the weather is extremely wet. Alternatively, you can plan your holidays during wintertime – Yokohama is pretty in the snow. Getting Around Yokohama is not a very automobile-friendly city, but getting around is quite easy due to the availability of trains, buses, boats and taxis. The Minato Mirai 21 subway line will take you to some of the very best tourist haunts. Alternatively, you can try the Akai Kutsu Bus, which is a sightseeing bus giving you a chance to explore Chinatown, Minatomirai, and Motomachi. Moreover, Velo taxis are also available to help you travel within the harbor area.
Major Attractions and Sights
There are a number of family-friendly attractions in Yokohama, as well as a variety of recreational parks for cyclists and walkers. Here are few attractions for you to enjoy in this part of the world. Yokohama Marine Tower has been standing in the city for a very long time. It was originally a lighthouse, but later converted into the Tower – coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port. It serves as a popular attraction mainly due to the LED illumination, which lights up the tower at night. For a panoramic view, you can go to the Observatory Hall, some 94m up from the ground.
There, you have a 360-degree view of the Minatomirai 21 area along with the Yamashita, Yamate, and Motomachi Area. Facilities of a café, bar, and restaurant make it a perfect tourist attraction. Nippon Maru Memorial Park is one of the many parks in Yokohama with 55,000 square meters of entertainment. You can pay a visit to the sail ship Nipponmaru and the Yokohama Minato Museum, along with a relaxation area where they have a fan-shaped grass slope facing the Yokohama Harbor. You will also find a beautifully decorated lawn area on the rooftop of this museum, which serves as one of the finest night time viewing spots in the city. In case you’ve not seen the city from every angle, there is the Skywalk. This pedestrian walkway along the Yokohama Bay Bridge leads to the Sky Lounge, a circular observatory.
Walk across from Daikoku Pier, stopping at the telescopes along the way to enjoy real close up views of the city’s major views and landmarks. From any of the viewing points mentioned, the one landmark that will really stand out is Minatomirai 21. It’s a mini-city on the bay featuring 21st century monolith buildings, among which is the tallest tower in Japan. It’s also the location for Cosmo World, two museums and some of the best shopping areas in the city including Landmark Plaza, Red Brick Warehouse and Queen’s Square. Yokohama Cosmo World is always a good choice for anyone with a love of theme parks. You will find one of the biggest Ferris wheels in the world – it’s 112.5 meters high with a capacity of 480 passengers. With plenty of typical theme park rides, it is also right in the heart of the city. Everyone loves a visit to the zoo. Nogeyama Zoo is a free attraction which has more of a feel of a city park with more than 1,500 animals of 100 different species. They have animals – big and small – from all over the world. You can find everything from chimpanzees, red pandas, and mandarin ducks to guinea pigs, snakes, and fantail pigeons.
A visit to Chinatown is also an attractive option for those who like to shop and eat while exploring the area. Located in the central Yokohama, you can find a number of Chinese restaurants and stores in the narrow yet extremely colorful streets. Some of the most popular dishes include ramen noodles, steamed buns and variety of other Chinese dishes, which have been Japanized in a subtle way. In this area, you will also find a flamboyantly colored temple, the Kanteibyo, which was originally built by Chinese residents in 1873. Yokohama International Golf Club has everything that a golf lover wants. This golf club contains two 18-hole courses, with a variety of practice facilities, such as a driving range, green area and a bunker. With great landscaping and natural scenery to enjoy, you’ll definitely have a great time swinging your club in this beautiful golf course.
Shopping is a fascinating experience anywhere in Japan. As far as the shopping in Yokohama is concerned, you will find a mix of boutiques, malls and street stalls to shop for everything you want. You just need to go to the right area to get the best bargains. Some areas are more popular with tourists for shopping than others. For instance, you will find many shopping outlets outside Shin-Takashima Station, near Bashamichi Station and Kanazawahakkei bay area. If you want to buy some electronics, you may pay a visit to Yodobashi Yokohama, a gigantic store loaded with electronics and other duty free items. Similarly, you can get to Yokohama Vivre to buy something according to the latest Japanese fashion.
Minato Mirai 21 is the destination for high-end shopping, but if you don’t want to break the bank, head straight to Isezaki Mall Shopping Street, which is easily accessible via Kannai Station. For budget shopping, Don Quijote Yokohama west exit store is another great choice. This discount chain store offers a wide range of products including alcohol, groceries, daily commodities, cosmetics, leisure goods, clothing, home electronic products, interior goods and jewelry. Some other nice shopping options include Diamond Underground Shopping Arcade, Porta, Sotetsu Joinus and MyCal Honmoku, which is a huge, California-style shopping mall with over 300 eateries, cinemas, boutiques, shops.
In Yokohama, the food scene is cosmopolitan and you’ll find American, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, and Indian restaurants. ALOHA Café, Hard Rock Café, Jackie’s Kitchen Restaurant, Sario By The Sea, Caravelle Restaurant, La Rochelle Restaurant, and Gara Restaurant are some popular choices. In the Japanese restaurants, you will find a variety of dishes prepared using globefish (also known as the puffer fish and fugu in its native land). Famed as being extremely poisonous, globefish must be prepared by a trained expert. It is certainly a story to share if you can say you have tried Fugu sashimi – raw globefish.
If you check the list of popular dishes, you will always find a fantastic range of sushi including pickled fish and rice Sushi, Chirashi-Zushi, Nigiri-Zushi and Miki-Zushi. Along with Sushi, Shumai and Gyunabe are the other popular local dishes. You’ll also find many noodle based dishes. Japanes noodles are thicker than Chinese noodles – ‘Soba’ buckwheat noodles and ‘Udon’ wheat noodles) but are served in deliciously light and very tasty broths. And, naturally, it is all washed down with sake, which if served correctly will be at body temperature. You’ll find some tasty food in Yokohama, but you’ll have more fun if you also follow dining etiquettes in this part of the world. For instance, you may have to remove your shoes on entering a restaurant and use chopsticks for Japanese food – a knife and fork is usually available for western food. And finally, tipping is not encouraged in Yokohama, just like everywhere else in Japan. Nightlife If you’re looking for some real fun at night, Yokohama will not disappoint you at all.
The area around Ishikawacho is probably the best for those on the lookout for a party atmosphere. It combines old world charm with a modern brashness to give that certain vibe which will keep you entertained all night long. Besides the Ishikawacho area, the entire city has a number of pubs, discos, karaoke lounges, massage salons, hostess bars, jazz spots and much more. Oriental Café provides you with a chance to taste nice food while enjoying house music. If you’re looking for an easy night out and don’t want to shell out a lot of money, you should check this place out. Palm Bar and Café is a small yet trendy bar where you can find a full array of daily drink specials and top shelf liquors. They have a large screen TV with free internet access and a wide selection of English music to enjoy. The place is quite popular with the locals, as they come to relax after work. The Tavern is one of those places where you will get to meet several expats and foreign business travelers.
This British restaurant/pub also has Japanese clientele, but as you enter, you will feel like you’re visiting a pub in England. With a variety of dishes and imported draught beers available, this pub is one of the most popular nightspots in central Yokohama. In addition to these, you may also consider checking out Dr Jikyll & Mr Hyde (known for its American style décor), Flash Back Café (a musical bar that plays old tracks) and Nabanya Café (a cozy coffee bar).
Anything of local interest
So many things go in favor of this beautiful city, but the availability of a bewildering array of events and festivals is something that makes Yokohama a paradise for holidaymakers. No matter when you visit the city, there will always be something interesting happening there. Attending these festivals is a great way to get in touch with the local and Japanese culture and traditions. Yokohama Dance Collection is one of the most popular local events and an eye candy for tourists. Starting from 12 December, it stretches to 19 February, and during these two months, you can enjoy group and solo performances by Korean, Japanese and Pilipino dancers. Dance Exchange is another dance festival held in Yokohama to celebrate the anniversary of the Basic Treaty between Australia and Japan. MOT Annual Festival takes place in January and invites young writers from every corner of Japan.
Yokohama International Costume Parade is another interesting event with a perfect display of Asian traditions such as the amazing Chinese dragon dance and marvelous floats. Yokohama Honmoku Jazz Festival is something a jazz lover wouldn’t want to miss. If you’ve ever wondered how Japanese jazz differs from the rest this is the chance to see how they have made it their own. It also provides you with a chance to meet some of the best musicians of the world. You’ll have to visit Yokohama in August to be a part of this particular event. Yokohama Oktoberfest is not as large as you see in Munich, Germany, but it’s is impressive in its own way. Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse is the venue, which is also the birthplace of beer in Japan. Kanagawa International Arts Festival, OBon, Yokohama International Fireworks Festival, Bashamichi Festival, and Joya no Kiteki are some other interesting events you may enjoy and participate in during visits to Yokohama