This bustling port city was one of the first places in Japan to welcome foreign trade; a pivotal moment in Japan’s history. The city is proud of its international past and makes a pleasant day trip from Tokyo.
A Brief History of Yokohama
Yokohama began life as a small fishing village in a sleepy part of Tokyo bay. In 1859, a fleet of American warships lead by Commodore Matthew Perry sailed in to the bay and demanded Japan open to international trade. The Shogun relented, and picked Yokohama as one of the approved ports for foreign trade.
Yokohama grew rapidly as wealthy traders filled the port, and a Western enclave was set up in the area known as Kannai. Initially cut off from the rest of the town by a moat, Western and Chinese settlers soon moved in to other areas of the town and Yokohama became a centre for foreign innovations. The first ice cream shop, bakery, photography and railways in Japan all started in Yokohama.
Yokohama was now Japan’s biggest and most important port. The Great Earthquake in 1923 destroyed the city, and Yokohama was heavily targeted in WWII. Yokohama never regained the status it enjoyed at the turn of the century, but it remains a major port and one of the few places in Japan where the historical influence of foreign cultures can be seen.
Yokohama is well served by trains, and several lines from central Tokyo stop at Yokohama station. The airport expresses from both Narita and Haneda also pass through Yokohama, although not every train stops here so check before you get on board.
It is also possible to travel to Yokohama by ferry, lines run from Tokyo and Oshima.
Where to Stay
Yokohama is just 30 mins from Tokyo Shibuya so it is easy to visit on a day trip from Tokyo. If you do wish to stay in the city, the luxury hotels in the Minato Mirai 21 district often offer lower rates during the week. There are several cheaper options scattered throughout the city centre and backpacker hostels for those on the tightest budget.
Must See Yokohama
Yokohama’s Chinatown is the largest in Japan. Its crowded alleys contain over 300 shops and 200 restaurants. It’s well worth stopping by this area for a snack as many of the restaurants have street stalls selling small portions of dumplings or sweets. Eating in this style means you can sample several regional Chinese cuisines in a short period.
The tallest building in Japan, the view from the 69th floor observation is well worth the ¥1000 entry fee on a clear day. It’s possible to see all of Tokyo and west towards Mt Fuji. Alternatively the bar of the Royal Park Hotel is on the 70th floor – you can enjoy a cocktail and live music with the view in the evenings.
Yamate Foreign Houses
Once foreigners were allowed to live outside the Kannai area of Yokohama, this hilly area was the favoured spot for rich merchants. There are several European style houses round here, and quaint shopping streets filled with chic boutiques. Wandering round this area is a great way to get a feel for Yokohama in its heyday.
Yokohoma Cosmo World
This small theme park near Minato Mirai is a fun place to spend an afternoon or evening. The main feature of the park is a giant ferris wheel that doubles as a clock. Standing at 112.5m, the views over Tokyo Bay are a highlight.
Cup Noodle Museum
Discover the story behind the invention of the Cup Noodle – one of Japan’s favourite snacks. See our Cup Noodle Museum page for more details.
Find out more about Yokohama at the official tourism website.