Features

Yokohama - Traditional and Trendy

6 Feb 2019 by Riaan Jacob George

Soon after my arrival at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, and a quick 90-minute coach ride away, I found myself in downtown Yokohama. The city is so close to Tokyo that it can almost pass off for a distant suburb. But here’s the thing — it’s not. Yokohama, as I discovered, is a cool city, which just happens to be close to Tokyo, with a unique identity and vibe. In fact, many tourists are now adding it to their Japan itinerary because it offers so much.

My first impression of Yokohama is just how picturesque its waterfront is, overlooking the Yokohama Bay. This promenade is best enjoyed at night, when the skyline is breathtakingly illuminated, with the giant ferris wheel adding a nice touch. It’s Friday evening and there’s a palpable buzz in the air, and all the locals are out enjoying the sea breeze. I walk along the promenade, make a quick pitstop at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse before heading towards the popular seaside Yamashita Park. While enjoying the waterfront promenade is all good, I also decide to get a different perspective of the city — on a two-hour Yokohama Bay cruise on a gorgeous ship called the Royal Wing, serving up some great Chinese food on board.

While Yokohama’s ultra-modern urban sprawl is a must-see, I decided to also explore a slice of Old Japan. An afternoon at the stunning Sankeien Garden is ideal. This gorgeous botanic garden is spread over 175,000 sq m and has many old Japanese houses and buildings. This is also a great spot to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the end of March, I am told. The traditional Japanese structures have been so beautifully preserved here and offers a glimpse into the lives of people in that era. Interesting to note that it was here that Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore spent a large part of his Japanese sojourn, writing his famous poems.

Given Yokohama’s historic significance as one of Japan’s most important trading ports, there has always been a significant Chinese community. No surprise, then, that Yokohama’s Chinatown is Japan’s biggest. Established in 1859, this Chinatown has over 250 Chinese-owned/themed stores and eateries, along a network of streets. This is also a great place to discover great Chinese food at the restaurants or even street food (baos and dim sum are being steamed and served up at every corner). My local guide even recommended that I try the local Kirin Beer, produced by Japan’s first brewery, in this city. Craft beer enthusiasts will also find many cool establishments.

Given its supremely dynamic nature, it is no surprise that Yokohama has established itself as one of Asia’s most coveted MICE destinations, thanks to its massive MICE centre PACIFICO, which draws events and conventions from around the world. Yokohama is also preparing itself to host several matches, including the finals of the Rugby World Cup 2019, at the International Stadium Yokohama, which can hold up to 72,000 spectators.

In conclusion, Yokohama is a destination just waiting to be discovered and is best discovered as an off-shoot of your Tokyo itinerary.

A bustling port – Yokohama

Osanbashi Pier

Situated between Minato Mirai and Yamashita Park, this international dock is one of the most sought after sunset points in Japan. With easy accessibility and the captivating view of the Minato Mirai skyline, this spot has become a favourite among tourists. The spectacle of the Bay water reflecting the setting sun is a treat. The pier also offers a stunning panorama of the historic Three Towers of Yokohama. The waterfront promenade adjacent to the pier is a popular walking site in the city. Additionally, the pier is within a short distance of the trendy Kannai district and Chinatown.

Yokohama Bay Nightscape

From shimmering skyscrapers to the illuminated Ferris wheel of the Yokohama Cosmo World, the city has much to offer by way of nightscapes. As impressive as the Yokohama Bay is during the day, it is at night that the whole seascape comes to life. The colourfully lit Yokohama Landmark Sky Garden and the bustling waterfront promenade epitomise the vibrancy that the city is known for.

Noge

Noge is a picturesque little neighbourhood in the city famous for its eateries and pubs. Surrounded by high-rise buildings, this little hub has managed to preserve its old-world charm. Once a popular site among sailors, Noge is now known for its wide range of reasonably priced casual dining spots such as Daiichitei and Kawamuraya. From conventional Izayakas to contemporary sake bars this neighbourhood is a treat for gourmands and alcohol aficionados. Additionally, the labyrinth-like streets of Noge are also known for their karaoke joints and jazz clubs.

Sankeien Garden

Recognised for its seasonal beauty, this Japanese-style garden is home to several historically significant buildings. A must visit is a three-storied pagoda located deep inside the garden. Bequeathed by Sankei Hara’s family to the City of Yokohama, the garden was opened to the public in 1906. The garden is packed with tourists during March and April, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Late February plum blossoms are also much sought after by tourists.

Yokohama Chinatown

Established in the mid 19th-century, between the end of the Edo period and start of the Meiji period, this district became home to several Chinese immigrants who migrated for business purposes. Centrally positioned, the area is a highly condensed stretch of Chinese themed shops and restaurants. Popular purchases made here include Chinese dishes, tea, lanterns, clothing and furniture. Also renowned for its cuisine, this area is as beloved by the locals as much by tourists. Additionally, the Chinese New Year celebrations held here attract tourists by the numbers.

Kirin Beer Factory

Founded in Yokohama, Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan’s leading beer breweries. The popular tourist stop offers free tours that last for about 80 minutes.  The three tours offered include a family-friendly tour, a nature-themed tour and a factory tour. These tours offer a glimpse into the complex procedures involved in brewing. At the conclusion of each tour is a beer tasting session. This place is a must visit for alcohol aficionados. Established in 1907, the Kirin Brewery Company is known for its role in popularising beer in Yokohama.

NISSAN GLOBAL HEADQUARTERS

The headquarters of the Japanese automobile manufacturing company, Nissan Motor Company, is a haven for car enthusiasts. The headquarter has multi-functional workplaces, and a gallery dedicated to its current products, classic models and cars from its racing heritage. The building features a multitude of modern architectural technologies, including rain and wastewater recycling system among others.

Furthermore, it is situated close to Japan’s Kanagawa perfecture, where the Nissan’s design studio and global R&D center is located.

Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum

Established in 1994 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the museum offers a peek in the future of science and technology. The museum is demarcated into different zones each of which characterises a specific theme; aerospace, ocean, transportation and environment. In addition to themed zones, the museum has various exhibition and experience corners such as the Science Plaza and the Kid’s Ground. The museum also conducts certain programs involving science experiments and workshops.

Motomachi Shopping Street

With a history dating back to the mid 19th-century, the Motomachi Shopping Street has a line-up of premium shopping brands, and is as popular with the locals as with the tourists. The street had begun to establish itself as a shopping hub shortly after the village of Yokohama was split into two districts. The 600-metre long shopping street has a variety of boutiques, salons, jewellery stores and among others.

Find Hama-Tra, a brand renowned for its traditional Japanese merchandise, which is said to be a favourite among tourists. Additionally, the street has a wide range of chic cafes and top grade restaurants such as Café LA MILLE and Wang’s Dining, making it a popular destination for food fanatics. The biannual ‘Charming Sale’ held in February and September attracts over 400,000 shoppers. With brands like Mon Reve, Fujiyama, Ozawa and many more being active participants in the sale, the street becomes every shopaholic’s dream.

Uchiki Pan

Indulge in freshy baked loaves and pastries at one of Japan’s oldest bakeries, situated in the Motomachi region.  Started in 1988, Uchiki Pan boasts being the creator of the famous white sandwich bread — Shokupan. A must try here is the “England” fluffy loaf, that highlights the bakery’s European origin. The crunchy kinoko pie consisting of a quiche base and mushroom filling is quite popular amongst locals and is highly recommended if you plan to visit the outlet. Uchiki Pan also spoils you for choice with its wide variety of viennoiseries to choose from.

What’s on in Yokohama

Yokohama Chinese Spring Festival 2019 

Usher in Chinese New Year with a two-week long celebration at Yokohama Chinatown. Witness the Lion dance (performed by dancers in a lion costume) or a traditional performance Yamashitacho Park. Adding to this, is a celebration parade and lantern festival that lightens up the entire surrounding. chinatown.or.jp

When: February 5- February 19, 2019

Interstyle 2019

One of the largest trade shows in Japan, Interstyle will be held at PACIFICO Yokohama. This three-day event will see leading companies and experts from action sports and fashion industry showcasing their creations ranging from surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding to fashion, outdoor and bicycle. interstyle.jp/en/

When: February 13 – February 15, 2019

Japan International Boat Show 2019

Organised across two venues- PACIFICO Yokohama and Yokohama Bayside Marina, this four-day exhibition involves over 200 participants from Marine and boat industry displaying boats, yachts, new versions of personal watercraft, marine instruments and marineware. marine-jbia.or.jp/boatshow2019/

When: March 7-March 10, 2019 

Cherry Blossom Sankeien Garden Night Viewing 2019

Visit Sankeien Garden and enjoy a stunning sight of cherry blossoms illuminated by lanterns. A lit up three-storey Pagoda of Former Tomyoji Temple (historical landmark) nestled on top of the hill is one of the highlights of the Sankeien Garden Cherry Blossom Night Viewing experience.  sankeien.or.jp

When: March 22 – March 31, 2019 

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