The city of Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture has the second largest population in Japan after Tokyo. It takes just over 45 minutes to get there from Tokyo Station and boasts a whole host of unique attractions that make it well worth exploring for a day or two.
Throughout the Edo Period, during Japan’s self-imposed isolation (1603 – 1868), Yokohama was a small fishing village. After the country opened up to the rest of world following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the area underwent a rapid expansion. An international port was built in the village, leading to a boom in its population, as well as its establishment as Japan’s major hub of foreign trade. Large communities of migrants from China and the West began to settle in the city, transforming Yokohama into a fashionable centre of foreign influence during the early 20th century.
Much of the city was levelled in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and it was once again destroyed during the firebombing of Japan in the Second World War. In the post-war period, as the city was in the process of being rebuilt, it became an important base for the American occupying forces.
Yokohama is now most famous for having Japan’s largest China town and for being a popular date night destination for visiting Tokyoites. It is also home to the Nissan Stadium, which hosts high profile sporting events and concerts. In autumn 2019, the stadium will be act as one of the main venues for the Rugby World Cup.
If you’re a bit of a foodie, make a beeline for Yokohama Chinatown, which is located in the city centre. Four large and ornate gates mark the entrances to Chinatown’s maze of restaurant-lined streets. Once you’ve finished gorging yourself, head over to the buzzing Minato Mirai district. This glisteningly modern, water-front neighbourhood is a playground of skyscrapers and shopping malls. It’s also home to the Cosmo World amusement park, which you won’t be able to miss due to the giant Ferris wheel that is its main attraction.
If you’re after something a bit more cultured, take a stroll around the historic Yamate area, where Westerners settled in the Meiji Period. It’s an attractive, leafy area of quaint, Western-style buildings.
If you’re into Chinese food – Yokohama China Town has a ton of amazing options to choose from. Have a break from sushi and try hearty xiao long bao dumplings, delicate dim sum, Szechuan-style Mapo tofu or crispy Peking duck.
If ramen is your thing, definitely check out the Ramen Museum, where you can choose from nine ramen restaurants, each specialising in a different regional variation of the noodle dish.
For something cute and Instagrammable, visit the Zou no Hana Cafe. Zou no hana means ‘elephant’s nose’ and the café specialises in ice cream cones with soft serve trunks and waffle cone ears.
Yokohama experiences a similar climate to Tokyo, so hot, humid summers and cold winters. As with most of Japan, the most pleasant times to visit Yokohama are during the Spring and Autumn months.