YOKOHAMA feels far more spacious and airy than neighbouring Tokyo, thanks to its open harbour frontage and generally low-rise skyline. Locals are proud of their city's international heritage, and there's definitely a cosmopolitan flavour to the place, with its scattering of Western-style buildings, Chinese temples and world cuisines, and its sizeable foreign community.Though it can't claim any outstanding sights, Japan's second most populous city (home to 3.6 million people) has enough of interest to justify a day's outing from Tokyo.
It might seem strange to come all this way to look at nineteenth-century European-style buildings, but the upmarket suburb of Yamate is one of the city's highlights, an area of handsome residences, church spires and bijou teashops. Yamate's "exotic" attractions still draw Japanese tourists in large numbers, as do the vibrant alleys and speciality restaurants of nearby Chinatown. There's a clutch of assorted museums along the seafront, and north to where Kannai boasts a few grand old Western edifices, in complete contrast to Minato Mirai 21's hi-tech skyscrapers in the distance. A tour of these central sights will easily fill a day, but with a little extra time Sankei-en, just south of Yokohama, makes a good half-day excursion. This extensive Japanese garden provides a perfect backdrop for its collection of picturesque temples and other ancient buildings.
Most travelers begin their visit at Yokohama Station, where the JR Tokaido Line joins with seven other railways running northeast to Tokyo and south and west to Ofuna, Kamakura, Nagoya and beyond. Here you will find helpful travel insights at the JR Travel Service Center and the Yokohama City Air Terminal (YCAT) Information Office. You will also discover the largest commercial zone in the city, a shopper's delight with Takashimaya , Mitsukoshi and Sogo Porta Shopping Plaza , surrounding the mammoth intersection of tracks. Numerous banks, the Yokohama Central Post Office, two busy expressways, the municipal subway, dozens of tall office buildings and an array of fine hotels make the station area the right stop for business travelers as well as tourists.
Take note, however: The JR Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen "bullet train" does not stop at Yokohama Station. That terminal is Shin-Yokohama Station, roughly three miles north of the city center, where department stores, plus Yokohama Arena and a new complex of offices and hotels are to be found.
To most Yokohamans, the real heart of the city is the waterfront district, Kannai, where the port authority, customs house, and municipal and prefectural government offices are located. Adjacent to Kannai Station on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line are Yokohama City Hall and Yokohama Stadium . A stroll towards the bay will bring you past Sankei-en Garden to the Silk Museum and the Yokohama Archives of History . Then, along the water's edge, you will encounter a number of grand hotels, the famous shoreline park Yamashita Koen and such landmarks as Marine Tower (built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the port), Osanbashi Pier with its many huge ships, the blue-lit Yokohama Bay Bridge stretching 860 meters toward Tokyo and the old Red Brick Warehouse area (often used as a historic location by filmmakers). If you head inland from Kannai, you will also have the opportunity to see a mile-long greenbelt known as Odori Park , resplendent with many trees and flowers as well as sculptures by such famous artists as Henry Moore.
A bit further on from Kannai, near Ishikawacho Station, is the Motomachi Shopping Center, with its fashionable shops, trendy restaurants and tea salons. A few minutes' walk downhill is Japan's largest Chinatown district, chukagai, where the main attraction is the more than 160 restaurants serving food that rivals the best of Shanghai, Canton and Beijing. When you take time to rest your taste buds, you are bound to be amazed by the variety of curio shops, herbalists and import boutiques that teem the streets between the four huge gates that mark the boundaries of Chinatown proper. Gaijin Bochi , the "foreigners' cemetery," is also in the Ishikawacho/Chinatown vicinity.
Outside the City
Natural points of interest on any tour of Yokohama are the bluffs and lush parks which surround the city, such as Harbor View Hill Park for the perfect night view, the 170,000-square-meter Sankei-en with its 500-year-old pagoda and Nogeyama Park , which features its own zoo, library, swimming pool and observatory.
Minato Mirai 21
No visit to modern Yokohama would be complete without spending time at the Minato Mirai 21 area. Located on the bay just between Yokohama Station and Kannai, it has, in just a few short years, become one of the city's most popular attractions. This is the site of the stunning Landmark Tower , noted for its avant-garde architecture as well as its colossal size (at 70 stories, it is the nation's tallest building). Serving this futuristic zone are three top-class hotels, the convention facilities of Yokohama Pavilion and the Pacifico Exhibition Complex, a national auditorium, the Yokohama Museum of Arts, and one of the country's most popular amusement parks, Yokohama Cosmo World . Come here to ride the world's largest Ferris wheel, Cosmo Clock and Nippon Maru exploration ship. You will want to allow an entire day for this "Harbor City of the Future."
With all these attractions in mind, it is understandable why Yokohama residents feel little need to travel across the Tama River to Tokyo. Every convenience of a world-class city — the culture, the shopping, the services, the recreation — exists right here in their own back yard.
Yokohama has been open to the outside influences of foreigners for longer than any other Japanese city and this shows in the variety of restaurants you can find here. In addition to all types and grades of Japanese cuisine, you can find Chinese, Thai, French, Italian, German, American, Mexican and many more sumptuous varieties besides.
Minato Mirai 21
As the center of high-class shopping and accommodations in Yokohama, Minato Mirai 21 is the place for visitors to find some of the finest restaurants in town. Kissho offers kaiseki ryori, a traditional Japanese meal consisting of as many as 15 exquisitely prepared small dishes. Or for something less traditional, try Bellini Trattoria , located in Landmark Plaza , where diners can enjoy a unique brand of Japanese-Italian fusion, while taking in the equally fantastic view of the Yokohama skyline.
Packed full of a great variety of restaurants, just a quick walk around the streets of Kannai is sure to yield an impressive number of delightful possibilities. During the hot summer months, try a traditional Japanese meal of unagi, broiled eel with barbecue sauce served over rice, at Wakana . Looking for Indian? Not a problem. Try Mr. India or Kandy Street , both of which will surely have a curry to satisfy your craving. For something more upscale, Tenkichi is the perfect option for the intricacy of kaiseki ryori but in a more casual izakaya atmosphere. Even authentic Greek food is available at Mikonos . Need more variety? Chinatown is right nearby.
Once you have eaten your way through the whole spectrum of Japanese cuisine, you may be ready to try something different. Chinatown , with about 160 restaurants ( Peking Hanten , Heichinro and Kaseiro are some examples), is almost synonymous with Yokohama. In fact the Chinese have been here since the settlement was first open to foreigners and their influence is evident almost everywhere in Japan, as can be seen by the number of restaurants serving ramen, nikuman (pork buns) or gyoza (pan-fried meat-filled dumplings). Just about every regional Chinese cuisine is represented in Chinatown, including Beijing, Cantonese, Shanghai, Sichuan, Hunan and Taiwanese.
Sometimes hunger waits for no one, and when that happens the Nishi-ku area around Yokohama Station is more than able to help as soon as you step off the train. Khazana has over 16 kinds of authentic Indian curry that are sure to sate even the hungriest. For the comfort of hearty pub food and a cold beer, try The Tavern . Want something distinctly American? Look no farther than the iconic Hard Rock Cafe . And for the truly upscale, sit down to fine dining at La Rochelle , owned by famous French head chef Hiroyuki Sakai.
Yokohama is one of Japan's most important international ports, and with a population of 3.4 million, the nation's second largest city. It is a vibrant city, with an incredible diversity of attractions, including first-class hotels, fine dining restaurants and incredible shopping opportunities. That combination draws an average 2.5 million people from Tokyo alone every weekend, and for good reason. This is a city with an abundance of places to see, things to do, and delicacies to taste, all pleasing to the senses, and all easily accessible.
A hallmark of any trip to Yokohama involves shopping, and there's no better time to start than right when you get off the train at the JR Yokohama Station, the area around which you can shop in huge department stores, chic malls and underground arcades. Stroll through the elegant Yokohama Takashimaya Shopping Center, wander through Lumine , or lose yourself in Porta Plaza . Nearby attractions include the Yokohama Bay Bridge , a centerpiece of the city's futuristic landscape, and Minato Mirai 21 , home of countless attractions, and the next stop on any tour of Yokohama.
Minato Mirai 21
When you have had enough of the downtown shopping district, move on to Minato Mirai 21—Yokohama's futuristic waterfront wonderland, where you can get a bird's eye view of Yokohama and its surroundings from the Sky Garden Observatory that sits atop the 69th floor of Landmark Tower , the tallest skyscraper in Japan and architectural centerpiece of Minato Mirai. Minato Mirai 21 is known as Yokohama's "Harbor City of the Future," and visiting can take much longer than a full day, but for those in a rush, let the world's fastest elevators whisk you 900 vertical feet in just 40 seconds to Landmark Plaza , where 190 shops and boutiques await. Walk next door and you will find hundreds more shops, boutiques and restaurants in the immense Queen's Square shopping complex. Then, when you are ready to sit down in style, take a seat on the world's tallest Ferris wheel, at Yokohama Cosmo World .
Motomachi Shopping District
Perhaps the best Yokohama Sightseeing Tour starts at Ishikawacho Station on the JR Negishi Line, which will take you through two of Yokohama's finest neighborhoods and end with a stroll in Yokohama's spiritual heart, the seaside Yamashita Park , which was built on debris dumped into the bay following the 1923 earthquake. Just outside the station lies the Motomachi shopping district, which is comprised of five blocks of fashionable boutiques and restaurants, including Uchiki Pan , the oldest working bakery in Yokohama. Located nearby is the Gaijin Bochi , the historic foreigners' cemetery, next to which are Motomachi Park and the historic Ellisman Mansion . This mansion is perhaps the best place to see how the wealthy foreign community in Yamate lived during the golden years, before the catastrophic 1923 earthquake destroyed that world forever. The Ellisman Mansion is also the perfect place for a rest before you climb the Bluff to Harbor View Park . This park has an elevated viewing platform that offers the best panoramic view of Yokohama after dark.
If you walk down French Hill, cross the overhead walkway, you will enter nearby Chinatown . Enjoy strolling through the streets and savor the varied aromas. Here you can choose from more than 160 restaurants offering cuisines from every region of China. If you prefer Cantonese, try the classic Heichinro . For Beijing style, try Kaseiro . There is something here to suit every taste.
Yokohama is certainly an impressive city, and with so much to see, there are plenty of tours available to help show you around. Whether by land, sea, or air, there's an option for every visitor that will get them to all the major attractions.
Kanagawa Systematized Goodwill Guide Club (http://www.ksgg.org/english-top/index.html)
Yokohama Bayside Line (+81 45 465 2077/ http://www.yokohama-bus.jp/baysideline/en/1day.html)
Yokohama Cruising (+81 45 671 7729/ http://www.yokohama-cruising.jp/)
Keihin Feryy Boat Co. (+81 45 201 0821/ http://www.keihinferry.co.jp/)
Excel Air Service, Inc. (+81 45 2231155/ http://www.excel-air.com/english/cruising/index.html)
Akai Kutsu Tour (http://www.welcome.city.yokohama.jp/eng/tourism/favorite/01.html)
Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau Recommended Tours (http://www.welcome.city.yokohama.jp/eng/tourism/courses/index.html)