Yokohama is Japan’s important portal for international trade and communications. Global positioning, new ideas and multiculturalism are what best describe the city that is also known for innovation in science and technology. The port city has always been popular for bringing in new businesses through international trade and conventions. Major universities, and medical and scientific research centres based here contribute to its success too.
Yokohama is about 34km southwest of Tokyo and popular amongst MICE groups today. Here is why. It is just a 20-minute drive from Haneda Airport. Accommodation here is relatively cheaper than that those in central Tokyo. There are specific convention centres and banquet halls catering to MICE groups, and PACIFICO Yokohama is one of the largest in the country, which is located in the newly developed business district of Yokohama — Minato Mirai. This seaside district is populated with shopping centres, hotels, a convention centre, an amusement park, hot spring baths, museums and parks.
The convention centre has five main venues: National Convention Hall, Conference Center, Exhibition Hall, Annexe Hall and InterContinental Yokohama Grand. Hall 1F of National Convention Hall has 3,260 seats, which can be decreased to 1,670 by folding the backrests of the odd-numbered rows. Each chair has an attached writing table. Only a select few of Hall 2F’s 994 seats have the attached table. Hall 3F is a theatre arrangement with 748 seats.
The separate Conference Center has large and small meeting rooms for seminars, conferences, exhibitions and private parties with capacities from 48 to 1,392 delegates.
Exhibition Hall is column-free, spreads across 20,000 sqm and can be split into four sections of two sizes 6,700 sqm and 3,300 sqm. Annexe Hall can be divided into six sections of sizes 1,350 sqm, 900 sqm, 450 sqm and 225 sqm.
InterContinental Yokohama Grand
It is a partner of PACIFICO Yokohama with direct access to its Conference Center on the first and second floors. The 722 sqm ballroom can be divided into three separate spaces. The two large banquet rooms can hold a maximum of 200 and 430 people; the six medium-sized rooms have maximum capacities from 30 to 100 people; and four to 26 is the maximum number of delegates who can fit in the six small meeting rooms. Additionally, it has eight restaurants, and 594 rooms and suites that can accommodate 1,188 guests.
Osanbashi International Passengers Terminal is at “the entrance of the Port of Yokohama”. The Pier’s hall covers an area of 2,000 sqm. It is a convenient choice for large gatherings. The Hall has a beautiful view of Yokohama Bay, which is even prettier after sunset. It can accommodate 800 guests in sitting banquet style, and 1,500 guests in buffet style.
Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall
It was built in 1918 in the neo-renaissance style — and has been awarded the status of a historical heritage building. It currently serves as the Nakaku Ward Hall. There are a total of nine rooms here, sizes ranging from 25 sqm to 966 sqm. The building is affectionately nicknamed “Jack”.
At a walking distance from PACIFICO Yokohama and InterContinental Yokohama Grand is the 296-metre “Landmark Tower” — the second tallest building in Japan. It is a multi-purpose space that is home to offices, hotels, restaurants, a shopping mall and an observatory (yokohama-landmark.jp). From the observatory deck, one can enjoy a view of the city against the backdrop of the setting sun.
About a ten-minute train ride takes you to “Yokohama Chinatown.” It spreads across 25,000 sqm where one can visit authentic Chinese restaurants, temples, live entertainment on certain days, as well as shops selling Chinese-themed items (chinatown.or.jp) — don’t leave without trying the Yokohama Chinatown cocktail: Dragon High Ball made from rice wine and soda.
The pride of Yokohama is the recently built Orbi Yokohama.
It describes itself as an “entertainment type museum” with interactive displays themed around nature and wildlife. Everything here is an artificial recreation of earth’s flora and fauna. These are powered with advance technology by Sega, and the information and visuals are created in partnership with BBC Earth. The only real life exhibit that isn’t behind a screen is the animal studio where one can interact and hold the pets under Orbi’s care (Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm, Friday-Sunday 9am- 10pm; orbiearth.jp).
Yokohama Museum of Art has a permanent collection of 20th century Japanese art (open Friday-Wednesday 10am-6pm; yokohama.art.museum), Yokohama Port Museum displays retired merchant ships (open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm; nippon-maru.or.jp/shop-cafe/shop.html), and Shinyokohama Raumen Museum is where one learns about the noodle’s invention, distribution and varieties (open Monday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday and national holidays 10:30am-10pm; raumen.co.jp/english). Open round the clock is “Yamashita Park” that faces the harbour and is a beautiful place to visit for some sea and greenery.
MICE groups will find a cruise to be refreshing. There are a number of options available at the Yokohama port that run for durations from 40 minutes to 120 minutes. Some even help organise short events that last as long as the sailing trip does (yokohama-cruising.jp). And continuing along the aqua-themed experience is Hamashin — a traditional Japanese restaurant aboard a traditional Japanese houseboat (visit hamashin.co.jp/yokohama/index.html for cruise timings). About 20 minutes away by taxi is Sankei-en Garden that is a showcase of Japanese landscaping and architecture of homes from different eras (open 9am-5pm; sankeien.or.jp/en-about/).
Though it takes nearly 30 minutes to reach Tokyo’s business districts by road and rail respectively, taxis for intercity travel are easily available, and the train frequency to Tokyo Station is every five minutes. It is, however, more convenient and economical to take the train.