Yokohama is considered fondly as the ‘the birthplace of Japanese modernity’. It was the first port of Japan, forging a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world and providing a platform for the city to be the source of many firsts for Japan. Yokohama encapsulates the true essence of a Japanese city with its bustle, sophistication, and convenience, juxtaposed with a lazy seaside charm owed to wide streets and sweeping views across Tokyo Bay. People often joke that Yokohama is where you go to get a break from Tokyo, Yokohama to Tokyo only being 30 minutes by train, and there’s no mystery as to why it is a busy tourist hub. Do plan your trip with the weather in mind though – in my part of the world each season provides a new canvas. Rich in history and culture, packed bars and amazing food spilling out from every crevice, with so many things to see and do, what to do in Yokohama is a rhetorical question. Here is a list of the top things to do in Yokohama, my beautiful city.
Soak in the View from the Sky Garden, Yokohama Landmark Tower
Start your Yokohama sightseeing adventure with a birds-eye panoramic view of the cusp where Yokohama’s cityscape meets the ocean, cosmos and beyond. Use the main entrance to the Landmark Tower Plaza to find the lift that will zoom you up to the Tower Sky Garden. The Yokohama Landmark Tower stands at a height of 273m high, with the fastest elevator in Japan, prepare for an ear-popping experience as you bolt up 69 floors in 40 seconds! Regardless of time of day it is guaranteed to provide you with the best view of Yokohama and makes an easy climb to the top of any must-do list, an experience that should be included in even the shortest itineraries! Grab a comfortable seat, kick back and enjoy a drink or two, coupled with a bite to eat and a killer view at the Sky Lounge Café. You might even be greeted by Mt. Fuji in the background. Note that these seats are reserved for customers of the Sky Lounge Café, so be sure to secure a top spot! With Yokohama mapped out in front of you, it’s hard to do anything but unwind.
Ride the Ferris Wheel at Cosmo World
For those seeking a dose of adrenalin, and only a stone-throw away from Yokohama Tower, lies a Yokohama attraction fit for the fam, a group of friends, even worth a trip if you a solo-traveler. Yokohama’s Cosmo World – marked by its gigantic ferris-wheel, dubbed locally as Cosmo Clock 21 – reminds us of the time during the bustle of the day-to-day and illuminates the sky in a plethora of color at night. It also boasts a really cool roller-coaster and many other exhilarating rides; but what is even more cool is that entry is free! You only have to pay for the attraction you want to try. Girls in Yokohama joke that you know a guy is a hopeless romantic if he treats you to a nighttime view of Yokohama, all lit up in techni-color wonder from the ferris wheel; it is spectacular, a perfect date stop.
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Make Your Own Ramen at the Cupnoodles Museum
What is Yokohama famous for? Instant ramen noodles of course! Some one-time playing with your food is in order. Turn an international staple into an individual taste explosion, with this fun-filled visit for the family, where food meets creativity and education. I am very proud to say that Yokohama is the birthplace of an international and local culinary favorite. I’m sure mothers and students especially bless the day instant ramen was created. The Cupnoodles Museum is entirely dedicated to invention of instant ramen noodles and the tenacious inventor, Momofuka Ando. Momofuka Ando’s principals, creative thinking and never quit attitude resonates throughout the museum with its interesting installations, sculptures and fun interactive displays. Learn the entire process and create your own completely original Cupnoodles instant noodles package and flavor. Choose from a selection of your favorite soup from among four varieties as well as four toppings from among 12 varieties.
Photo Credit: Cupnoodles Museum
Visit the Red Brick Warehouse (Akarenga)
Less than 10 minutes away from the Cupnoodles Museum, the beautiful Red Brick Warehouse stands out like a sore thumb, entirely different from the backdrop it rests against. Take a scenic stroll, absorb the views of the pier and beyond and enter what was once the first customs building of Japan. The warehouse now occupies a variety of restaurants, bars and boutique-type stores. A definite stop if you want to buy something more unique to take back home from Japan. It is usually quiet during the weekdays, but often hosts a festivals over weekends, which is always well-worth checking out.
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Picnic in Yamashita Park (Naka)
Yokohama with kids is a breeze, with many greenbelts to let go of some steam or catch your breath. Our parks are always notably clean, something my expat friends always remark on. Yamashita Park is a local favorite, day or night, a low cost, must see Yokohama attraction to add to your itinerary. A less than 10-minute walk from Chinatown. The park is an ever changing canvas throughout the year – cherry-blossoms sweeten the air in spring and all shades of brown and earthy scents fill the air during Autumn. The park is a well-known date spot, with amazing views of the bay during the day with a more romantic air, all lit up at night. It has many picnic areas, but do take a stroll to Osanbashi, a uniquely designed greenbelt built on top of a pier overlooking the harbor. The park has all sorts of interesting apparatus for children to play and interact with. There is a ship docked permanently to entice and educate little ones about life on the open sea, and you can even buy tickets to take a cruise around the harbor.
Photo Credit: www.ambassadors-japan.com
Adventure at Yokohama Hakkeijima Paradise
For a dive into the underwater world I highly recommend a day or even a few days at Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise. It is a whole island, divided into four unique ocean life experiences: Dolphin Fantasy, Fureai Lagoon, Umi Farm and Aqua Museum. Packed with sea creatures of all shapes, sizes and color, often swimming around you , as you tread through one of the aquarium’s tunnels. There’s ample chance to learn about and even interact with sea life. Dolphin Fantasy puts on an explosive show, with dolphins and other sea creatures the real stars of the performance. Umi farm puts your fishing skills to test and provides you with an opportunity to eat your your catch - bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘catch of the day’. Pleasure island occupies the amusement park, with rides fit for all ages. The Surf Coaster is the only rollercoaster in Japan that spreads out into the sea, it is an exhilarating experience as you loop across the ocean at a frightening speed. The Blue Fall is also quite popular, a free fall ride with the highest drop of 107m, definitely not one for the faint hearted! Children and adults alike will be satisfied with an adventure to Hakkeijima, parents can always allow their kids to try the Giant Cubic Maze with its interactive playground, if they need a chance to catch their breath.
Visit a Jazz Club in Noge
Saved from urban renewal, Noge’s architecture, intoxicating old-school Japanese charm and the jazz resonating through the streets, makes me feel like I’m in an older, simpler Japan. Navigating the criss-cross of back streets and alleyways clustered with small bars, restaurants, and jazz clubs in Noge is one of the best things to do in Yokohama at night. Situated a mere few minutes away from the Southern exit of Sakuragicho Station lies Noge, an eclectic fusion of east meets west. Prepare for a late night, with so many more new dishes to try, sake to drink and a wealth of entertainment choices to explore. Try rice stuffed omelette at Kinpira Kitchen or if you feel for something meaty, Hanasaki Butcher Store serves a mean aged steak with a Japanese twist.
Photo Credit: svcstrg2.navitime.jp
Eat, Shop and Visit a Temple in Yokohama Chinatown
Yokohama Chinatown is another dimension to this already juxtaposed city; it’s a symbol of a successful migration and relationship between the people of China and Japan. Only two minutes walk from Motomachi-Chukagai Station, enter one of the four outer gates into a tiny, or rather, large piece of China. Welcome to Yokohama Chinatown, Japan’s largest Chinatown and one of the largest in the world. You can’t miss the lavishly ornate entrance, each gate colored differently based on the ancient Chinese Feng Shui, standing guard since 1859. The sweet and savory aromas of nikumaan, okonomiyaki and ramen entice you, with the sound of fireworks, drums and colorful displays of gastronomic greatness to blow you away. If you need a little Zen, escape the bustle, quiet down and give thanks at the Kanteibyo Temple or Ma Zhu Miao Temple situated in Yokohama Chinatown. Each temple is worth the visit, besides the intrinsic, well-sculpted designed temples that the Chinese are known for, both temples provide insight into Yokohama's rich history. I recommend a visit weekdays for less bustle, as it is a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike. No Yokohama site-seeing will be complete without a trip to Chinatown as it encapsulates over 150 years of history and resonates the “never give up” attitude of the Japanese and Chinese alike.
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Have some of the best Sushi at Amimoto Izu
One of the best Yokohama restaurants and a local gem is Amimoto Izu, situated less than 5 minutes away from Chinatown. Prepare for perfection, this local gem has been serving the community for over 20 years, using only the freshest seafood delivered in the early hours, every morning. It is not your typical Kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi restaurant), so do not be alarmed if you see the conveyor belt filled with empty bowls, instead of the usual display of colorful sushi goodness passing your eye constantly. Everything is ordered directly from the chef, made and served in front of you with intrinsic Japanese style and poise. No worries if your Japanese needs work, there is an English menu with pictures, so you can choose perfection with patience. One of many local food recommendations is the aburi salmon (seared fatty salmon). Await a taste sensation that will doubtless be etched in your memory for years to come.
Photo Credit: japanican.com
Meditate in the Sacred Sankeien Gardens
Yokohama site-seeing will not be complete without a visit to the sacred Sankeien Gardens. Each time I visit I appreciate the much-needed dose of ancient Japanese heritage and serenity the visit provides. It is my number one place to visit in Yokohama, and it wouldn’t be fair to return home without getting a taste of raw, unfiltered Japan. Beautiful pagoda’s, temples, and buildings of varying historic and national importance sit in harmony with lush vegetation, song complimentary of the birds and bees, aromas of sweet and earthy tones wafting in the air, beautiful bridges crossing glistening ponds occupied by flocks of birds and scores of turtles. Sankeien Gardens is a sensory overload, enough to heighten your spirits to the next realm. Prepare to walk through an earth-filled network of pathways and to do a fair amount of stair climbing, participate in a traditional tea ceremony or just grab a bench to soak in the true essence of the region. Sankeien Gardens is one of the few authentic pre-World War II Japanese gardens that survive. It encompasses an inner and outer garden and if lucky, you may catch a free English guided tour. Opening times are 09:00- 17:00. Don’t be surprised to see many locals taking their wedding pictures there - it’s a Yokohama rite of passage, guaranteed stunning pictures regardless of the season.
Photo Credit: www.la-viephotography.com
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