Yokohama ( 横浜 ) is the second largest agglomeration in Japan, just south of Tokyo. The city is host of one of the largest and most lively China towns in the world as well as a nice colonial style Western district. The latter areas are a remainder from when after 200 years of isolation Japan opened its ports and Yokohama became a commercial gateway to Japan.
Although Yokohama has around 4 million inhabitants, the most interesting parts of the city can easily be visited in a nice and interesting one day walking tour.
The tour I have put together here below can be used as a rough guideline to see the city in a day. The red square marks on the map refer to numbers in the text and allow to follow more easily the walking tour. Click on + to enlarge and shift the map as needed.
Depending on the weather and your personal interests feel free to change and adjust the tour accordingly.
On a nice day the best way to see the city centre is really by walking, combined with an inexpensive boat shuttle service. If you are very lucky and the sky offers clear visibility then a visit to the Landmark tower is a must.
Yokohama has a number of museums that are absolutely interesting and a worthy alternative in case you are facing a rainy day. In case of adverse weather then my tip is to use the Akai Kutsu Bus that connects the important touristic places.
Start the tour in Yokohama station (20 min. from Tokyo’s Shinagawa station by JR Tokaido line, 27 minutes from Tokyo station). Upon arrival in the station take the East exit and and follow the signs “Sea Bass Terminal” (300 meters, 5 minute walk).
My tip for a nice day is to use this water shuttle service that brings you in a very enjoyable 20 minutes from the East exit of Yokohama station to the Yamashita Park Pier 3 km further down South East. There are departures every 10 to 30 minutes and the cost is a modest 700 Yen. Check the Sea Bass website for the timetable (English info is available in PDF format).
As you sail along Yokohama’s city center you will have ample time to make nice pictures from the various districts and and get a clear view of the Yokohama harbor and bay bridge. The boat makes two stops (see the map) before arriving at the Yamashita Park Pier.
Yamate and Motomachi
After leaving the Pier cross the Yamashita Park towards the Yokohama doll museum (no.1). Next to the museum you will find a passageway under the metropolitan expressway. Follow this pedestrian road and you will arrive at the entrance of the Harbor View Park (no.2). Walk through the park in the direction of the KKR Porthill hotel.
Just in front of the hotel on the hilltop there is a large viewpoint that offers a good view of the harbour area and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. This impressive suspension bridge is 860 meters long with 176 cables stretching from the pillars supporting the bridge.
From here you will enter the Yamate Bluff district as it is called. This posh area of Yokohama has a long history . When commodore Perry arrived in Japan, Yokohama was a tiny fishing port. Very quickly after it was appointed as one of the treaty ports the town developed into a major harbour and gateway for the export of raw silk. In that period many rich westerners, especially British and American traders, settled on these hill sides. Until today the area is still attracting wealthy expatriates. Some of the houses are on the list of Japan’s National Heritage.
At the hotel cross the street and start your walk in the direction of the cemetery (no. 3). To your left you will pass the small Yamate Museum build in wood and supposedly Yokohama’s oldest construction dating from 1909.
Follow the road along the cemetery where you will see more of the colonial style houses. After commodore Perry buried here one of his sailors this place, overlooking Yokohama, was designated in 1861 the cemetery for foreigners.
Continue your walk towards the Yokohama Christ Church. The original was destroyed by the 1923 earthquake and then rebuild in 1947. If you walk in the street next to the church you will find the Tin Toy Museum that has a massive collection of vintage toys.
A little bit further stands the Ehrismann Residence. He was the branch manager of Siber Hegner one of largest silk trading companies at that time. After passing the Spanish style villa Berrick hall ( no.4) named after his English owner turn right and slowly descend to the Motomachi district.
Should you have enough time then you can extent from here your walking tour to Yamate Park and the Italian garden about 15 minutes in direction of Ishikawachō Station.
Motomachi (no. 5) is like a charming town in the town with many narrow streets , nice boutiques, cosy teahouses, bakeries and art galleries. The main street Naka-dōri has many of the high end shops you will find in Ginza but on a smaller and more cosmopolitan style.
From Motomachi it is easy to enter China town.
Leave Motomachi’s main shopping street to find the Maedobashi bridge from where you can enter China town (chukagai) via the Suzakumon gate (no. 6). This colourful and lively area of Yokohama was founded in the 1860’s.
After having passed under the gate, two hundred meter further to your left is the nicely decorated Ma Zhu Miao temple.
Ma Zhu was the goddess of the sea travelers. Continue your walk in the same street and a bit further to the right is the Yokohama Daiseki. An eight floor high entertainment and restaurant complex. If you have time from this crossroad is good departure point to take a walk in the many small streets and indulge yourself in the Chinese atmosphere.
Don’t forget to make a stop at the Kuan Ti Miao temple.
Yokohama’s China town attracts millions of tourists every year and especially in the evenings and on weekends can get very crowded.
If you want to try some of the best Chinese street food outside China then you are in the right place. It is the largest Chinatown in Japan and houses more than 200 restaurants.
At night time the illumination of the town is breathtaking. After having visited China town come back to this crossroad and leave China town via the Tenchomon gate (no 7.) and walk back to the Yamashita Park.
You will recognize from your arrival with the Sea Bass the marine tower lighthouse and the museum ship NYK Hikawamaru, a Pacific Ocean liner from 1930 that sailed between Yokohama and Seattle.
From here take a walk along the park heading North west in the direction of the Osanbashi Pier with it’s modern ferry and cruise terminal. This 10 minute walk will bring you to Kannai.
Kannai is the administrative centre of the city. Unfortunately few buildings survived the Kanto earthquake and the war.
Three buildings named by the locals Jack, King and Queen have been reconstructed and give you an idea of what the city must have looked like in the beginning of the 20 th century.
If you are interested in the history of Yokohama and it’s flourishing trade then in this area you will find a number of interesting museums
Especially the Silk museum, the Customs museum (no. 10) and the Prefectural museum (no. 12) are interesting.
From the Yokohama Port Opening Hall (no. 11) it is a short walk to to the baseball stadium.
Although it cannot rival the top games in the USA it is still good fun to watch a game of the Yokohama Bays Stars and enjoy the great ambience created by the supporters cheering up their team.
Leave the Kannai district and continue the tour by heading for the Minato Mirrai 21 area.
Minato Mirrai 21
Depending on your time schedule either go straight for the Landmark Tower (no. 15) or take a stroll on Shinko island. Here you will find the famous Redbrick Warehouses that date back from the Meiji period as well as the giant Ferris Wheel that is part of the Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park .
This part of the city took form in the 1980’s and was meant to be a futuristic city built on old dockyards. The name Minato Mirai 21 stands for “Harbour of the 21 st century”.
The area is dominated by the Landmark Tower which was with 296 meter until recently the tallest building in Japan. Part of the fun is the elevator that brings you in 40 seconds to the 273 meter high observation deck from where on a clear day you can see the whole city, Yokohama bay as well as Mount Fuji.
At the foot of the Landmark Tower is the Yokohama Port Museum (no 14.) displaying the magnificent Nippon Maru, a stunningly beautiful sail training ship built in 1930.
Behind the Landmark Tower is the Yokohama museum of art (no. 16) from the hand of Kenzō Tange, one of the most influential architects of the 20 th century The museum exhibits one of Japan’s largest collections of modern and contemporary art.
From here it is a 15 minute walk back to Sakuragicho station.