Although Yokohama is Japan’s second-largest city with a population of around 3.7 million, one’s first impression is that it is part of the greater Tokyo metropolis. I travelled there by Shinkansen in under twenty minutes and even the return trip on the regular rail network took only thirty minutes. Yes it does seem ridiculous to take such a short Shinkansen ride, but I had a JR Pass and I enjoy travelling by Shinkansen. Along the route I did not discern any real geographical separation from Tokyo – it was more like riding through the apparently never-ending Tokyo metropolis.
Nevertheless, even a short Saturday afternoon touristy type visit revealed a city with a distinct character. Most of my time was spent strolling through Yokohama’s Chinatown – the biggest Chinatown in Japan, which has grown along with Yokohama’s growth as a key port city. It does not take long in Chinatown to realise that the main attraction is food. Apparently the area has more than 500 eateries of various types and most visitors seemed to be on a mission to enjoy the gastronomical delights on offer. Queues were everywhere, with people patiently waiting their turn for tables to become available and the overall atmosphere was very relaxed.
Probably the most striking building in Chinatown was the Kanteibyo Temple (pics 6 & 7), a brightly coloured Chinese temple built in 1873 and dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.
A short walk from Chinatown is Yamashita Park, which runs along the waterfront and was full of individuals and families enjoying time outdoors. The park was constructed following the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and seems to align perfectly with Yokohama’s history as a major port city. The most striking attraction is the Hikawa Maru, a retired ocean liner now permanently moored on the waterfront and serving a new life as a museum and affording visitors a glimpse of 1930’s style. I understand the ship mainly served the Yokohama to Vancouver/Seattle route and was well patronised by Japan’s imperial family and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, who were attracted by the quality of the ship’s first-class cabins.
On the way back to the station I passed through the Minato Mirai area and came across an interesting juxtaposition of styles (pic 14) where part of an old stepped structure appeared to have been retained within a more contemporary shopping precinct. I don’t know anything about the old structure and perhaps that is a good reason to return and explore Yokohama more extensively.
(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)