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att. Travel - Yokohama
att. Travel - Yokohama
You are here: att.JAPAN > Travel Guide > Yokohama
att.JAPAN Issue 34, May 2007

Yokohama

Map Just 35 minutes from Shibuya lies Yokohama and China Town so for those sick and tired of Tokyo's hustle and bustle, simply hop on a train, head south to Yokohama and recharge your batteries before returning to the big smoke.

A resident of Yokohama once told me; "People in Tokyo are fond of visiting Yokohama, while those of us resident in Yokohama don't really bother hanging out in Tokyo." This is, of course just the opinion of one individual but it does suggest the comfort in which residents of Yokohama see themselves living day in, day out. They really have it all - sightseeing spots, amusement areas, shopping and dining facilities for locals and tourists alike and then some.

In the mid-19th century, when Japan was in the death throes of centuries of national isolation, Yokohama Harbor opened its gates to the world - in 1859 - an impact that was to last for decades on the locals. Immigrants initially settled in the Yamashita-cho area with Motomachi developed as a shopping area for those foreigners.

In among the immigrants, the arriving Chinese worked at first as translators for the Western visitors or in order to establish new business locations. In doing so, they congregated, worked to support each other and today's China Town was born.

Motomachi Street Motomachi - town of fashion
Motomachi shopping street today is a well established source of contemporary fashion with original goods sold at many of the clothes, shoes, and zakka (artistically designed items intended for daily use) outlets. Back in the 1970s, a then contemporary fashion named Hamatora (Hama-tra), which is short for 'Yokohama Traditional' - a neat and traditional fashion style, first saw daylight here, in the process taking the world by storm. Even today, visitor numbers are huge with many folk targeting Motomachi to pick up Kitamura bags, Mihama shoes, Fukuzo clothes and so much more.

When operating under its initial purpose of shopping district for non-Japanese, Motomachi was home to cafes and bakeries which, until the Europeans and Americans arrived were sights ordinary Japanese had likely never before seen. Much has since changed of course but Motomachi as its stands in 2007 is a location built on the past - the latest example of the area's continued ability to bring in the crowds being the popular twice yearly "Motomachi Charming Sale."

Minato-no-Mieru Oka KoenMinato-no-Mieru Oka Koen (Harbor View Park) is an acknowledged sightseeing place in the Motomachi area with a fantastic view of Yokohama Bay Bridge by day or by night but is particularly worthy of a visit in spring or autumn when the Rose Garden sees its resident 1800 blooms erupting into flower.

After walking around the park the feeling of being somewhere in Europe may envelop given the numbers of Western-style buildings in the area with seven of the buildings having survived the Second World War (1939-1945) and the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923).

For the slightly tired, take a break and feel the nostalgia come flooding back at Tin Toy Museum - a facility exhibiting around 3000 tin toys made between the 1890s and 1960s collected by Teruhisa Kitahara, museum curator.

 Chukagai (China Town) - a town of Chinese food and culture
Yokohama Chukagai, with its 140-year-history is one of the largest such Chinese outposts anywhere in the world drawing in tourists from all over Japan and from around the world: the Yokohama, Kobe Nankin-machi and Nagasaki Shinchi versions Japan's largest trio of like-minded locales.

KanteibyoAt the end of the Chinese year, usually in February, Chukagai is the location Chinese in Japan look to for their own countdown parties, New Year parade, and Shishimai (Chinese Lion Dance) performances. In addition, the famous Guan Di Dan festival held to celebrate the birth of the Emperor Guan; god of commerce, has its own parade and traditional performances to entertain visiting audiences around the Kanteibyo (Guan di Miao), a spot in which the Emperor Guan is said enshrined - millions usually in attendance on Guan Di Dan day - this year scheduled for August 6th.

One aspect of Chinatown you just can't escape from is food and the every day action of walking down the streets here is enough to make you feel hungry. The majority of streets are lined with restaurants ranging from the renowned Heichinrou and Jukei Hanten to stands on street corners and in alleyways selling tidbits to peckish passers by; a snack-cum-light meal known around Japan now, the 'nikuman' steamed bun, filled with pork or 'Anman' bean paste is especially popular with some, Amaguri roasted chestnuts with others. Indoors, when opting for a seated meal, Chinese food can be a little oily but zhou rice porridge (okayu in Japanese) is a famous yet healthy snack to order if not looking for anything too heavy. The zhou options in Chukagai are all different in form and taste and should not be missed.

Around noon each day most restaurants in Chukagai sell an inexpensive lunch starting from 500 yen and highly recommended are the 'tabehodai' (all-you-can-eat) options that go for between 1000 and 1500 yen.

Yokohama DaisekaiAfter lunch why not drop by one of the entertainment facilities in the area such as Yokohama Daisekai - a leisure complex housing an art museum, theater, a food court and gift shops. The Yoshimoto Omoshiro Aquarium, another key entertainment option in the Chukagai area is home to 5,000 fish representing 300 species.

Each road in Chukagai has its name related to city names in China. Walking down lively, bustling streets is an easy way to enjoy your visit but once you enter narrow alleys, an all together different world awaits - one filled with traditional Chinese decorations and friendly locals. As with everywhere you visit though - keep in mind the need to get to know your surrounds and you'll enjoy them all the more.

Red Brick Warehouse The local area
Yamashita Park is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Yokohama and is a mere 5 minutes from Motomachi-Chukagai Station. It is often the site of families enjoying picnics, couples spending a few minutes together and elderly folk enjoying the view. A further 10 minute walk along the esplanade will bring the Red Brick Warehouse (Akarenga Soko) into view. This historical building was once used as a customs facility at Yokohama Harbor but has since been transformed into a shopping complex with restaurants and event space. Even weddings are not uncommon in one of the brightly illuminated warehouses.

Another few minutes up the esplanade on the shoreline of Yokohama Harbor cruising options can come into play for those looking to view the area from the water - one popular water bound option includes sampling Japanese fish dishes and tempura on a 'yakatabune' Japanese-style roofed boat with bombori lanterns.

Back on shore, Osanbashi (Yokohama's International Passenger Terminal) is another area also considered a prime spot from which to enjoy the spectacular view of deluxe passenger ships with the dusk at their backs from the tranquility of a roof garden.

Motomachi and Chukagai have long been cosmopolitan areas with the blend of Japanese and foreign creating an atmosphere all can enjoy. In 2012 though, with a further direct train service linking the area to Saitama, north of Tokyo via Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, the Fukutoshin Line will again, yet again, focus attention on the Motomachi and Chukagai areas - more attention from 'outside' for as modern as we have become, nothing much has changed.

 Maps
Japan Railway Map PDF 414 KB
Yokohama Kannai PDF 273 KB
Yokohama MM21 PDF 207 KB
Yokohama Station PDF 135 KB
Yokohama Subway Map PDF 205 KB

 Links
Kanagawa Prefecture Tourist Information
Yokohama City
Yokohama City Tourist Information

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