During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Japan closed its ports and went through a long age of isolationism. When Commodore Perry arrived to seek trade relations, Yokohama was the first to open its ports. It quickly grew from a fishing village to Japan’s second-largest city with a population of three million people.
It takes about thirty minutes to get from Tokyo to Yokohama Station by train. However, even though it’s so close to the big city, Yokohama often gets overlooked by tourists for scenic areas. But if you love the city life and trying new food, this is the place for you! Here are our favorite destinations in Yokohama.
The Cup Noodles Museum is one of Japan’s most whimsical attractions. In 1958, the founder of Nissin Food, Momofuku Ando, took the country by storm with instant ramen. You can learn about its history and impact on Japanese culture through interactive exhibits.
Before you leave, stop by the My Cupnoodles Factory to customize your very own instant noodles. Here, you can mix and match your choices of soup and toppings, then take home your finished product as a souvenir. You can also learn how to make ramen noodles in the My Chicken Ramen workshop, and dine in the Noodles Bazaar, which resembles an Asian night market.
In the early 19th-century, Chinese immigrants in Yokohama began serving a version of laiman. The dish would later evolve into the food staple that we know today. At the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, you can learn how ramen noodles are made, types of soup, and toppings. The real attraction, though, is in the basement.
Different parts of Japan boast regional ramen recipes. Here, you can try nine varieties of dishes originating from Hokkaido, Okinawa, and a few international inventions. In addition to regular-sized portions, each shop offers “mini ramen” so you can save room for several servings.
After Yokohama's port opened in 1859, Chinatown quickly developed. Many Chinese immigrants and descendants still live and run businesses on the colorful streets today. Several traditional Chinese cultural events and festivals take place here throughout the year, including Lunar New Year in February.
Four extraordinary gates mark the entrance to the neighborhood, and there are five more inside. At the center, you’ll find the intricately decorated Kanteibyo Temple. However, the real attraction is the delectable cuisine. Popular favorites include steamed buns, ramen, and a wide array of Japanized Chinese dishes.
The “Harbor of the Future” was a shipyard until the 1980s. Now, it’s the urban center of Yokohama City. As you stroll through the area, you’ll find an amusement park, museums, shopping centers, hot springs, and more. It’s the number one place for families to spend their Sunday afternoons, and young couples to go on dates.
The waterfront Ferris wheel and highrises form Minato Mirai’s distinctive skyline. The most recognizable among them is the Landmark Tower, which was the tallest building in Japan until 2014. The Sky Garden observatory offers a 360° view of the city, and on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji.
Sankeien is a traditional Japanese garden in southern Yokohama. Walking through the trees and seasonal flowers, you’ll also pass seventeen historic buildings. Among these include a 600-year-old three-storied pagoda that once was part of a temple in Kyoto. There are also streams, small waterfalls, and bamboo groves.
The cherry blossom trees here bloom from late March to early April. In summer, thousands of lotus flowers burst open on the pond by the entrance. Colored leaves begin to appear in late autumn, and in February, the plum blossoms open to signal the end of winter.
South of the downtown area, you’ll find one of the most impressive amusement parks in Japan. More than thrill rides and prize games, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise gives visitors a chance to learn about the local marine life. If you’ve ever wanted to interact with animals like walruses and otters, this is where your dreams will come true.
The Aqua Resorts area of the park houses a conventional aquarium where you can see giant turtles, polar bears, and whale sharks. Dolphin Fantasy's tunnel goes through a tank with stingrays, fish, and dolphins inside. In the Fureai Lagoon complex, you can touch and feed sea creatures.
Zoorasia is one of Japan’s most expansive and best-maintained zoos. Using the themes “Symbiosis of Life” and “Harmony with Nature,” the animals live in spacious areas that meticulously mimic their natural habitats. The designers use as few fences as possible to create a sense that you’re on safari and not walking through a zoo.
There are eight areas divided by different parts of Japan and regions in the world. They include species from tropical, subarctic, and desert climates. You can get near and sometimes interact with small animals like pygmy goats, guinea pigs, and mice. Visitors love seeing the elephants, okapi, monkeys, and learning about new creatures they’ve never seen before.
In addition to Asahi and Sapporo, Kirin is one of Japan’s leading beer companies. Yokohama was one of the early leaders of adopting Western-style brews, and the Kirin label got its start here. At the Kirin Beer Village, you can get a glimpse of the facilities and participate in a tasting.
Brewery tours last a little over an hour. It’s possible to request an English-speaking guide, but whether one will be available isn’t guaranteed. Here, you'll learn about Kirin’s long history and view the fermentation and bottling areas. For the last twenty minutes, you can sample a few different beers with snacks.
When Japan ended its isolationism in the 1850s, Yokohama Chinatown wasn’t the only immigrant-dominated neighborhood to develop. Western merchants took over the hills of the Yamate area, where you can still see several residential quarters. Few of them predate 1923, however, because the older houses fell during the Great Kanto Earthquake.
After exploring the historic homes and parks, head downhill to the Motomachi shopping street. The Western residents of the past would conduct their business here. Today, most shops don’t look markedly different from the rest of Japan, but you can still see touches of European-inspired architecture. On weekends and national holidays, the street closes off to car traffic.
If you need a small break from the city, head to Yamashita Park, which stretches along the harbor. You can watch the passing ships from the 750-meter long promenade. There are also several fountains and statues, including a giant head that commemorates the introduction of Western-style haircuts.
One of the main attractions is the Hikawa Maru ship. During her time as a transatlantic carrier, celebrities such as the imperial family and Charlie Chaplin stayed in her first-class cabin. Now retired, Hikawa Maru is a museum with informative displays and interiors typical of the 1930s.