Friday 17 May 2013

Sights, sounds and smells of Yokohama

For a few weeks now I have been meaning to go down to Yokohama and have a look around there, but for the last few weeks I have only had one day a week off.  Finally this week I had two days off and decided to make the trip.  It is only about a 30 minute train ride from the centre of Tokyo and being a nice sunny spring day, I donned my shorts and a t-shirt, allowing my arms and legs to see the sun for the first time in a few months, and met up with Dan to make the trip to Yokohama.

Yokohama is Japan's second largest city and has a large port that has played an important part in Japan's recent history.  In 1853-54, an American, Commodore Matthew Perry, arrived at Yokohama demanding that Japan open up it's ports for trade and commerce.  A treaty was signed and the Port of Yokohama was officially opened in 1859.  An increasing number of foreigners moved to Yokohama, especially from China, and these people added to the fabric of Yokohama.  The Chinese, especially, contributed a lot to the city of Yokohama (more on this soon).  In 1983 a major urban development began, Minato Mirai 21.  As with Odaiba (visited in one of my previous posts), this area was built on reclaimed land.  In 1993, Yokohama Landmark Tower was opened and at 296m was the tallest building in Japan (and still is I think, although it is dwarfed by the massive tower to the north, Tokyo Skytree which stands a staggering 634m tall!).  Getting off the train at Motomachi-Chuukagai Station, I walked off in search of my first destination of the day.

Yokohama is home to Asia's largest Chinatown (outside of China of course).  It is one of the famous landmarks in Yokohama and draws tens of thousands of tourists weekly.  Huge gates mark the borders of Chinatown.

There are four (I think) of these massive gateways.  The designs are incredibly intricate and detailed.  An awesome sight.

Stepping through the gateway, you are transported to another world.  Walking along the streets of Chinatown is an assault on the senses, in an entirely good way.  The sights, sounds and smells are intense.  From the smell of smoke from the chestnut roasting, to the bright and colourful shops and restaurant signs, to the sounds of shop and restaurant staff trying to convince you to enter their establishments, there is almost too much to take in.  Almost, but I did!

Chinatown is characterised by those amazing small shopping streets (shotengai in Japanese) that I love so much.

A sample of the shops and restaurants around the area.

This was interesting to see!  A little patch of Canada encroaching on Chinatown.

A lot of the restaurants in the area had all you can eat lunch deals with an incredible array of food available!

Yes, it is safe for children as young as three to start their ninja training.

After walking around looking at food signs, my stomach had started talking to me, so I picked out a restaurant and walked in.  The food was great and all of this cost just $8 (except for Dan's dish in the background).

Feeling satisfied and content I moved on and stumbled upon this!

A Buddhist temple looking stunning with it's meticulously detailed decorations.  Some people get sick of seeing these temples and shrines..............I don't.

I stepped out of the temple grounds and found this on a building above me.  Pretty impressive!

Having wandered around Chinatown for a good two hours, I started heading towards the port area.  The smell of the ocean told me that I was close to it, and sure enough, the city soon opened out in to the port area, home to a large garden area that runs along the length of the harbour area.

Not sure who was taking a photo of who!

Here is the reason Japanese gardens are so meticulously maintained and beautiful.  Battalions of gardeners who take great pride in their work.

The view out over the port was sensational.

A view of the 860m long Yokohama Bay bridge.

These next few photos are taken from the top of Osanbashi Pier.  Osanbashi is the oldest pier in Yokohama, originally opened in 1896.  It was rebuilt between 1987 and 2002 and it's current design is much better able to cope with the demands placed on it by cruise ships.  The top, where these photos are taken from, is an observation deck which gives a great 360 degree view of the bay area.

After wandering around on top of Osanbashi pier, I headed off in the direction of the Red Brick Warehouses.  There were some nice spacious garden areas along the walk.

The Red Brick Warehouse buildings were initially used as customs buildings.

These buildings are now filled with shops and restaurants.

This is a lineup outside of one of the restaurants in the building.  It looks very popular.

Upon closer inspection, I found that it's name is Bill.  It is one of Bill Granger's restaurants (Bill Granger is a famous chef in Australia).  Good to see it is popular here.

I decided to call it a day and started heading back to the train station.  Along the way I passed this ferris wheel named Cosmo Clock 21 (the reference clock is to the massive digital clock on one side of it).  At the time it was built (1989), it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world.  The top stands 112m above the ground, and one circuit takes 15 minutes.

This is the previously mentioned Yokohama Landmark Tower.  On the 69th floor there is an observation deck.  The elevator makes takes around 30 or so seconds to make the 290m trip, making the ears pop as you are thrusted toward the top.

Back inside the station, I made my way back to Tokyo.

I stopped off in Shimokitazawa for a couple of beers with some friends (Straun, Charlie and Leigh)

Satisfied after another great day out exploring, and tired after walking around Yokohama for 4 hours, I slept very well last night.

Well, that's it for another week.  I'm actually starting to compile quite a list of places to visit.  Many of my students are recommending places for me to go and see, so I don't think I will run out of places to explore any time soon!  Thanks again for reading.  I hope you are enjoying it!

See you next week.


  1. Hi Jason,
    What an amazing day! The Yokohama waterfront doesn't look anything like I expected, not industrial like some ports seem to be...and it amazes me that there are so few people in some areas for such a huge city. That's how the photos look anyway! The red brick warehouses look like something you would see in Hobart. Any cool ramen places? :-)

    1. Hi Nat,

      I think the industrial area of the port was over the other side of the bay, so it is good that they were able to maintain the public areas as they are.
      You ask about ramen. Nearby there is a ramen museum (I didn't go there this trip, however as it kind of requires a full half a day itself!). It showcases top ramen restaurants from all over the country. I have been there a couple of times when I lived here previously and do plan on going back for another visit which will definitely be the topic of a post!