10 Memorable Things to Do in Yokohama
Uncover some history, enjoy the excellent food, and take in some gorgeous views of the sea. Here in Yokohama City, East meets West and the past collides with the present.
Yokohama City, the capital city of the Kanegawa Prefecture, is the second-most populous city in Japan. This port city is one of the first cities in Japan to ever open its doors to foreigners, and is quite possibly the birthplace of any Western influence that is found in Japan today.
Marvelous ancient gardens, historic shopping districts, beautifully-preserved houses, great eats, roaming, and free beer! Check these spots out to get the most out of your trip to Yokohama, and learn about its history and culture.
1. Sankeien Garden
Japanese History in the Sankeien Garden
This expansive Japanese-style garden features historical buildings imported from Kamakura, Kyoto and all across Japan. Silk trader, Tomitaro Hara, also known under the pseudonym "Sankei Hara," opened it to the public in 1906. The vast grounds measure over 175,000-square-meters of gorgeous natural beauty which changes from season to season. In the spring, the Sakura blossoms burst into bloom and turn the park into an otherworldly pink; in the summer, the green shade makes a refreshing reprieve from the heat and humidity of the season, with beautiful pink lotus blossoms in full bloom by the pond; autumn turns the foliage a wonderful red and gold, with falling golden leaves making your visit a magical experience; in winter, the park turns into a hauntingly-beautiful winter wonderland, with snow dusting the dormant trees and white pristine snow covering the ground.
As you can imagine, the garden would be a great place to have special events such as weddings and parties, and visitors can rent out the Kakushōkaku (the former residence of the Hara family) for these occasions.
Note: The Kakushōkaku is only open to the public during summer months.
The garden is divided into two sections: the outer garden and the inner garden. The outer garden, which was the first part of the park opened to the public, is where you will find the famous three-storied pagoda of Kyoto's old Tomyoji temple. Among the other beautifully-preserved buildings here are the residence of the wealthy Yanohara family and even an exhibit of Japanese folk relics, and several traditional tea houses.
On the other hand, the inner garden was only opened to the public in 1958. Here is where you'll find the Rinshunkaku, which is the former residence of a daimyo, or feudal lord. The building is of immense beauty and value, with intricate architecture that you will not find in present times. If you like traditional Japanese paintings, drop by the Gekkaden, which showcases exquisite period art. There are also several tea rooms, pavilions, and temples found in this area, all with historical and cultural significance. A serene place to relax and contemplate is the Tenzui-ji's former Jutō Ōi-dō, which was built as the final resting place for the mother of a great samurai/daimyo in 1591.
All the buildings found within the park are declared as Tangible Cultural Property and Important National Cultural Property by the Japanese government.
On top of all this, ponds, streams, and a huge variety of flowers make strolling around the park a relaxing, delightful experience. It'll make you feel like you're somewhere in Kyoto—known as one of the most beautiful cities in Japan—rather than in Yokohama. And if you’re tired, you can always pop into one of the tea houses to experience an authentic, elaborate Japanese tea ceremony, or sit down by a pond and feed the koi.
58-1 Honmoku Sannotani, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Entrance Fee: ¥500.
Open Hours: 9:00am to 5:00pm (entrance allowed until 4:30pm). Closed on December 29-31.
2. The CupNoodles Museum
Love instant noodles? Then the interactive CupNoodles Museum is a must-visit!
Who doesn't like instant noodles—especially during this day and age where life happens at the speed of light. Who isn't grateful for these little packets of yummy, artificial goodness that only take a minute to prepare?
There are a wide array of exhibits on the history and everything else instant ramen on display, telling the story of the instant ramen to cup noodles to space ramen. It is an informative experience, but the best part of visiting this museum would definitely be the workshops.
The My CupNoodles Factory workshop allows visitors to create their original cup noodle by mixing together different soup flavors and toppings for ¥300. In the My Chicken Ramen workshop, visitors can experience making their instant ramen noodles from scratch for ¥500. After packaging the ramen, guests can take their creations home, cook, and eat them! It's every instant noodle fan's wildest dream come true!
Kids visiting the museum can play in the CupNoodles Park. This playground is made to look like a factory, and the kids play in a make-believe world where they're the ones manufacturing and shipping the noodles (talk about sticking to the theme!).
Hungry visitors can make their way to the Noodles Bazaar. The food court is reminiscent of an Asian night market, and you can sample eight different noodle dishes and canned drinks from around the globe. The portions are small and easy on the wallet, so you can try everything.
Whether or not you're a fan of instant noodles, I highly suggest a visit to this museum. Not only is it informative, but it also sheds light on the way modern life has evolved—from an instant noodle point of view!
2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Entrance Fee: ¥500.
Open Hours: 10:00am to 6:00pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
3. Take a Ride on the Seabass
A Scenic Way to See Yokohama
Get around or go on a brief sightseeing excursion around the Yokohama waterfront by hopping on the boat “pun”-nily named as Seabass (a pun on “sea bus”). It will take you around different sightseeing destinations such as the new city center, Minato Mirai, the Yamashita Park, Chinatown, and the luxury shopping district of Motomachi.
While it might not be the fastest or most convenient way to travel, you do get gorgeous views of the city from the water, and the ocean breeze is a great way to cool down and get away from the heat and humidity of Yokohama during warmer months.
The Seabass is a five-minute walk from the Yokohama Station East Exit, right next to Sogo Department Store.
Operating hours: Every 15 minutes between 10:10am and 7:35pm
Fancier boat tours are also available, usually including a meal and drinks. They have the lunch cruise, the tea cruise, and the dinner cruise, which would set you back between 2,000 and 2,500 yen. If you want a more traditional experience, you may opt to board a traditional wooden houseboat as opposed to the sleek modern liners. For more information, check out this site:
4. Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
A Museum Where Everything's Ramen!
This museum is designed to resemble a Tokyo town in the 1950s. It showcases the entire history of ramen—we're talking about the real thing here, not the instant kind as in the previous entry—in a variety of exhibits. Learn about everything ramen, from how to make the dough for the noodles, the different kinds of broth, and how this noodle dish has evolved throughout the centuries. You would be surprised how much history and culture is behind this simple dish!
The best part of the museum is an area where visitors can create their own ramen. Yes, you get to experience pulling your very own noodles and broth. Noodle heads rejoice!
Now for the best part: after finding out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about ramen, and after making some for yourself, you can head onto the street portion of the museum where different kinds of ramen are served. One serving is about three-fifths of the regular size, so visitors can go from bowl to bowl, sampling the different ramen noodles cooked in different styles with different ingredients. If your previous experiment with making your own was a success, then you get to experience more yumminess with this activity. If it was a failure, well now you get to indulge! It doesn't matter how you look at it, it's definitely a win-win situation.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is a must-visit when in Yokohama. It's fun, entertaining, educational, and most of all, delicious!
2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Entrance Fee: ¥300.
Open Hours: 10:30am to 10:30pm. Open 365 days a year.
5. Kirin Yokohama Beer Village
Free Beer! Need Another Reason?
The Kirin brand has a long history in Japan. After the country opened to foreign trade in the mid-1800s, the beer industry began to boom, especially in the port of Yokohama.
At the Kirin Yokohama Beer Village, the visitors are treated to a brewery tour that lasts 60 to 70 minutes. A gallery displays the history of beer and the Kirin Company, showcasing exhibits on how the company began and how it has evolved to keep up with the times.
Next, the tour will take you to the factory where the beer is fermented in tanks, then canned and bottled. This is a very interesting part of the tour, as you literally get to see how the world's favorite drink is made from scratch. The malting and fermentation process at that large of a scale is quite amazing. And you'd be surprised at how many beers per minute are filled and packed (hint: It's 34 cans of beer per second. Do the math!).
The last 20 minutes of the tour—and I'm sure many will agree is the best part of the tour—is dedicated to snacks and free tasting, where visitors get to sample different beers. Each visitor is given three glasses of beer, plus new soft serve head beers! Frozen beers are good, but the rare black beer is exquisite. This would definitely put a smile on every beer lover's face.
Tours are conducted in Japanese, but pamphlets in English are handed out as a guide for non-Japanese-speaking visitors.
If you get hungry after the tour (and/or want more beer), there is a restaurant on-site named Spring Valley which serves delicious meals that are cooked to complement different kinds of beer! I highly suggest calling ahead to make reservations as this place is always packed!
All in all, Kirin Yokohama Beer Village is a fun tour to get a deeper understanding of the Japanese beer industry. It's very easy to get there and get back to the city, too, in case you get inebriated after the tour. The beer factory is a pretty straightforward seven-minute walk from the Nama-mugi Station on the Keihin-Kyuko line.
Kirin Brewery Co. Yokohama Factory, 1-17-1, Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, 230-8628.
Free admission. (Yes! You're reading it right! Free beer!)
Open Hours: Brewery tours are conducted every hour between 10:30am-3:30pm, except Mondays.
6. Yamate Bluff
A Historic Neighborhood
When Japan opened its doors to the world in the 1850s, Yokohama was one of the few port towns where foreign traders were allowed to reside. Initially, the foreign settlement was limited to an area called Kannai on the lowlands, but as the settlement rapidly expanded, the construction on the elevated area—to be latter known as Yamate Bluff—began.
Yamate is also known in English as The Bluff. There are many beautiful Western-style houses, dating back to when Yamate was still a designated area for foreign residents, still being carefully maintained here. The City of Yokohama owns seven of these houses, including the Gaikōkan no Ie (Diplomat House) and Berrick Hall. Most of these houses were designed by notable architects, and are currently open to the public. Many of these houses boast of beautifully-manicured gardens which are now huge tourist attractions.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful houses here is the Bluff No. 18 house, which was originally built for the foreign residents after the Great Kanto Earthquake. After the Second World War, it was handed over to Yokohoma's Roman Catholic Diocese and used as the Yamate Catholic Church until 1991. The red-tiled roof is kept in perfect condition, and the charming windows with green wooden shutters adds a lot of appeal to the place.
Surrounding the No. 18 House is the Yamate Italian Garden. It is a 13,000 square-meter picturesque park with colorful flowerbeds, stone pavements, and a fountain. It is called the Italian Garden due to the fact that this was the location of the Italian consulate during the Meiji period.
At the far most southern area of the park are the British House Yokohama and the Yamate 111 Ban-kan. The British House was originally built to be the residence of the British consulate in 1937. Nearby is a beautiful rose garden park, which must not be missed when visiting between the months of April and June, and October and November.
A few steps away is the Bluff Residence No 111 or "Yamate 111 Bankan". The Spanish-style house was built for an American gentleman, and has stunning views as it looks down the beautiful rose garden. The house's tea room has been converted into a quaint little cafe named “Rose Garden Enoki-tei”, whose specialties are rose chiffon cakes and its signature pink-colored rose ice cream, both made from real rose petals. Some swear by these sweets, while for others, it's an acquired taste.
Two literary museums can be found here as well: the Jiro Osaraigi Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the popular local novelist, Jiro Osaraigi, and also the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature.
If you like tennis, then you might want to visit the Museum of Tennis. The museum explains the early history of the sport in Japan, and displays different equipment. The tennis club right next to the museum is referred to as the birthplace of tennis in Japan.
Another notable spot in the area is the Foreigners’ Cemetery. About 4,200 graves of 40 different nationalities can be visited, some with inscriptions that give the visitor an insight of the life of the entombed. Donations are encouraged for the upkeep of the cemetery. This is a wonderful, quiet spot, with majestic views overlooking Motomachi and Kannai.
Just across the road from the south end of the cemetery is the small and rustic Yamate Museum. This is Yokohama's oldest constructed building dating back from 1909, and is the only wooden building in the city that is built in the Western architectural style. The Yamate Museum holds an interesting display of pictures and artifacts telling the story of how Yamate came to be.
The Yokohama Christ Church is located further south on the same road. The church was originally built in 1862, destroyed by the great earthquake in 1923, and then rebuilt in 1947 after World War Two.
Behind the Yokohama Christ Church is the Tin Toy Museum that features about 3,000 toys dating back from the 1890s to the 1960s. Most of these toys were manufactured in Japan and are part of the personal collection of Mr. Teruhisa Kitahara, the museum director.
Of course, don't miss the Harbour View Park, which is located just across the expressway at the most eastern area of Yamashita Park. Almost a century ago, this was where the British and the French population built barracks to protect their citizens from some hostile Japanese clans. Nowadays, the park offers sweeping views of Motomachi and Kannai.
The Western Bluff Houses can be viewed at these hours: 9:30am-5:00pm, until 6:00pm from July to August. Closed: Varies by house.
Admission is free.
The Museum of Tennis is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm (entry until 4:30pm). Free admission. Closed every third Monday of the month.
The Tin Toy Museum is located at 239-2 Yamatecho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 231-0862, Japan. Entrance Fee: ¥200. Open Hours: 9:30am-6:00pm, 7:00pm on weekends. Open everyday.
The Foreigners’ Cemetery is only open on weekends from 12:00pm to 4:00pm, March to December.
Where Western Influence Meets Japan
After visiting the Yamate area, you might want to head over to nearby Motomachi for some shopping. Motomachi, formerly known as Motomura, is known for its five-block-long stretch of luxury boutiques and unique finds. Western influence is very evident here, the area exudes a European feel, and you can say that Motomachi is the birthplace of Western influence in Japan.
This shopping street is centered around the streets of Chome 1 to 5. The landmark here is two symbolic arches with a sculpture resembling a phoenix that is found on both entrances of the street. There are many shops of well-known brands, known as "Hama Tra" or Yokohama Traditional Fashion here. Other shops offer clothing, antiques, furniture, jewelry, kitchen accessories and cutlery, and other various goods. Popular foreign brands, ranging from luxury to the more commonplace, can also be found here.
Delicious restaurants and charming little cafes are found everywhere in this shopping district as well. You can find both Japanese and international cuisines everywhere. Head over to Pompadour for coffee and the best puff pastry imaginable. Or buy a chocolate ice cream cone from one of the many ice cream shops in the area.
The shopping district is thoughtfully designed. Benches are placed here and there for the weary shopper to take a load off, and there are water fountains for both humans and pets. It is a friendly environment for both humans and their fur babies to wander around and enjoy themselves. A perfect place for a casual afternoon of relaxing and people-watching.
At the end of February and September of each year, a large-scale, week-long sale, appropriately nicknamed "Charming Sale" is held at Motomachi. These two weeks are possibly the busiest moments for the Motomachi Shopping District, people from all over Japan and abroad flock here to shop.
Many stores are closed on Mondays.
8. Yokohama Chukagai
Satisfy Your Hunger in Chinatown
Worked up an appetite after a day of shopping? Near Motomachi is the Chinatown in Yokohama, said to be the largest Chinatown in Asia, and one of the largest in the world. There are approximately 250 Chinese shops and restaurants in the area.
The Yokohama Chukagai has an interesting history, and it is quite interesting how—amidst historical conflict between Japan and China—this particular Chinatown grew to become the largest in Asia.
Its very beginnings took root in 1859, when Yokohama opened its seaport and its doors to the world. Many Chinese traders decided to settle down in Japan, resulting in ferry services between Yokohama, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. A settlement was founded, complete with a community center and school. Initially, foreign immigrants were not allowed to live outside their designated areas, but this rule was changed towards the 20th century, and Chinatown further flourished.
The Great Kanto Earthquake happened in 1923, and over 100,000 Chinese immigrants were killed, and almost 2 million were left homeless. Many immigrants decided to return to China, and the Chukagai greatly diminished. It further deteriorated when the war between Japan and China started in 1937.
In 1955, the Yokohama Chukagai was formally established. Once again, this former settlement flourished, especially in 1972, when Japan severed relations with Taiwan and formed diplomatic relations with Mainland China. It soon became a popular tourist destination.
Take a stroll around, grab a snack of roasted chestnuts, manju (steamed buns), and other yummy delicacies. Buy Chinese herbs and spices to season your own cooking.
You can find four colorful gates at the entrances to Chinatown, and five more gates can be found inside. The intricately-carved, brightly-colored gates are eye candy. You can also visit the Kanteibyo, a temple located at the center of Chinatown. It is built to honor the Chinese god of prosperity.
Chinese food is known to be one of the best cuisines in the world, and the food to be had here at the Chukagai is no exception. One of the oldest and most famous restaurants is the Chungking Szechwan Chinese Restaurant. Opened in 1959, they serve genuine Szechuan cuisine, including spiny lobster and abalone. It is so popular, they have opened several branches in Chinatown alone.
Shofukumon comes highly recommended for their Cantonese fare. Their second floor is dedicated to an all-you-can-eat dimsum and 40-something different dishes to order for only ¥2800. Best thing is, there is no time limit enforced. On the sixth floor, Shofukumon boasts of being the first shark fin restaurant to open in Chinatown.
Chungking Szechwan Chinese Restaurant is located at 164 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Open Hours: 11:30am to 10:00pm, last order at 9:00pm. Closed Mondays from 1:45pm-4:30pm.
Shofukumon is located at 81-3 Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. Second floor is open from 11:30am to 10:00pm, last order at 9:00pm. Entry until 8:30pm. Sixth floor is open from 11:30am to 3:30pm, last order at 2:30pm. Evening hours: 17:00pm-10:00pm, last order at 9:00pm.
9. Osanbashi Pier
An Architectural Marvel With a Beautiful View
Osanbashi Pier is the oldest pier in Yokohama, and is considered one of the best spots in the city for a walk. It’s also one of the best spots to view the Minato Mirai skyline. If you’re lucky, you might get to see Mt. Fuji in the distance on a clear day.
The Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal is located here, where foreign cruise ships dock. The pier garnered international attention when, in 1995, a contest was held for its redesign. The wood, glass and steel structure, designed by Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi, is a marvel to behold. So even if you are not a passenger, the Osanbashi Pier is still a delight to visit.
The roof is a work of art, an architectural achievement, or both. The wooden floor boards are made to imitate rolling waves. Large patches of grass can be found on the rooftop. Lots of locals come to this place for picnics.
Chome Kaigandōri, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken 231-0002, Japan.
Open everyday: 9:00am-9:00pm. Free admission.
10. Landmark Tower
Get the Best View of Yokohama City
The 296.3-meter Landmark Tower is the second tallest building in Japan, and the jewel in the crown of Yokohama’s skyline. On a clear day, one can get a breathtaking glimpse of Mount Fuji in the background of the Minato Mirai skyline. The building also boasts of what is called the world’s fastest elevator. The Sky Garden observation deck on the 69th floor offers 360-degree views of Yokohama and beyond.
2-2-1 Minatomirai, Nishi Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 220-0012, Japan.
Open: 10:00am – 8:30pm, 9:30pm on Saturdays. Open everyday.
When in Japan, be sure to visit Yokohama City, a lively melting pot of different cultures where East meets West. Enjoy experiencing the best of both worlds!
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