Going on a vacation to Japan should include, if possible, some time in the Yokohama area. Yokohama city fuses with Tokyo to form what's known as greater Tokyo, the 35 million people metropolis everyone should visit once in their lifetime. There are plenty of activities to do and things to see, not to mention the shopping experience, art, traditions and much more. You will discover that most of what Yokohama has to offer is outside. Just walking aimlessly will be enough to appreciate the beauty and modernity of this area. Your walk can start from Yokohama Station, or from Sakuragichoo Station.
Those who, despite the beauty of the bay area, don't like walking, can take a tour by sightseeing bus called Akaikutsu loop bus. Day tour bus tickets can be purchased here.
Let's see by categories what Yokohama has to offer to a curious tourist.
1. Landmark Tower Observation Deck.
The Landmark Tower is the tallest building in Yokohama, located in the bay area known as Minatomirai. The building contains a food court, restaurants, shops, together with a hotel. But the best feature of the Landmark tower is its observation deck on the 69th floor. From there, great views of the bay and beyond will definitely make your day. Another good spot for a birds eye view is the Marine Tower, just a short walk from Sakuragichoo (with the advantage that the Landmark Tower will be in your photos too).
View from the Landmark Tower observatory
2. Watch Boats and Mount Fuji from the Osanbashi Pier.
This pier is where the big cruise boats arrive and depart. The pier can be reached by foot, and it is a great spot to observe the sunset over Yokohama: on a fine day, Mt. Fuji will happily pose between the tall buildings for you to take a memorable picture. This is I think the best place for sunset and for a night view of the entire Yokohama city area. It is possible to walk along a wooden path on the pier terminal roof, where you'll also find some benches and, during the good season, small stands selling beer and coffee. Sitting from one of the benches you can decide whether you'd like to face north (Minatomirai in full view) or south and watch the busy boats carrying people back and forth. And if boats approach the pier, make sure you wave at the travellers!
People sitting on the pier, watching the sunset.
3. Yamashita Park, A Slip of Green by the Sea.
Not far from the Osanbashi Pier is Yamashita Park. Its location just by the water makes it one of its kind. It is shaped as a thin and long rectangle, connecting the modern district of Minatomirai on one side and the more European old neighborhood and Chinatown on the opposite side. A nice waterfront promenade runs along the longest side of the park. That's another great location for watching the city, the boats and the seagulls, and at the same time relax or do some sports. An old cruise liner, Hikawa Maru, is anchored here. That boat was traveling the route Yokohama-Seattle, and its interior can be visited where people can see real furnitures and decor from the 30's.
View of Yamashita Park
Retired Hikawa Maru Cruise Liner
4. Explore Yamate European Neighborhood.
In the old days, when the port of Yokohama allowed foreign ships to draw anchor, the Yamate Hill was populated with Europeans. They all built houses there as the elevated location was safe from sea waves and at the same time gave a good viewpoint over the port. Nowadays, those houses belong to the municipality and can be visited. Also, in the area there are gardens, a European cemetery, and churches.
European style building in Yamate
5. Visit Sankeien Gardens.
To get to Sankeien garden you need to hop on a bus from Yokohama station and ride about 50 minutes out of town. It is worth going, as the park/garden deserves a visit. The peculiarity of this garden is that some of the old traditional houses from Kyoto and Kamakura were moved in here (17 in total), and in this sense the garden can be compared to an open air folk museum. The gardens are big, exquisitely arranged and designed, they include also a three story pagoda and a pond.
Sankeien pond and pagoda
6. Check Out the Modern Art Museum
Yokohama museum of art is centrally located in the Minatomirai shopping district, right behind Landmark Tower. Its collection boasts works by some of the most famous artists like Picasso, Dali and Magritte, and features also great photography works by both Japanese and worldwide artists. This museum is also one of the main venues of the Yokohama Triennale, and if you happen to be in Japan in 2017 you should check it out.
Yokohama museum of art
7. Nippon Maru - A Boat Turned Museum
This boat is docked by the Landmark Tower. It used to serve the Japanese navy, and there young sailors learned the art and trained before graduating as officials. Now it is used as a museum, and people can try the same kind of trainings sailors had to go through.
Nippon Maru training ship
8. Visit the Cup Noodle Museum
This museum celebrated the very first instant noodle product by the company Nissin. Inside the museum, visitors will not only learn about the product's history, and its inventor, but can also stimulate their creativity and make their own noodles. This museum is ideal to take children to, as they will love experimenting and experience some factory activities.
There are also other museums around the bay area, like for example the dolls museum, where history and craft join forces to display old Japan's daily life via reproduction by dolls. Just near the Osanbashi pier, a strange looking upside-down pyramid building is home of the maritime museum. Also, in the heart of Chinatown, you may find a trick art museum, good fun for kids.
9. Enjoy a Day At a Spa
Not far from the cup noodles museum, in the artificial island in Minatomirai, is Manyo Club onsen and spa. You can soak your body in one of the several hot water baths, or can simply indulge in an openair foot bath to relieve your feet from a day of walking. The foot spa is located on the roof of the building, overlooking the bay, and it is a good place to take a good view of the bay area, especially in the evening when all the lights are up. You can reach the terrace, wearing the spa yukata and take photos while keeping your feet warm. The entrance fee to the spa allows for a one day use of all facilities, such as the onsen, restaurant, a small game arcade, relaxation and massage rooms.
Foot Spa at Manyo Club
10. Boat Tours Around the Bay.
There is also the possibility to look at the cityscape from the water. You can choose whether you'd like to wait for the sunset on a boat, while drinking and eating, and at the same time cruise around the bay. Or, you can be ferried back and forth between Yokohama station and Minatomirai bay area. It is common for groups to rent nicer boats for a few hours at night and party on board.
Minatomirai seen from the boat
11. Christmas Market in December.
The wintery and Christmassy atmosphere reaches Yokohama as well. In the wide square at Aka Renga (the red brick houses) in the middle of Minatomirai artificial island, every December people can shop for typical Christmas decorations, food, drink, presents and other tokens that make this time of the year so special. Lights and music make sure to transport you to dear old Europe. Two or three rows of small wooden stalls are set up for nearly one month from late November, so that people can enjoy weeks of shopping for their dearest ones.
Shoppers at the Christmas market in Aka Renga
12. Luxury Shop at Sogo Yokohama.
The best place in Yokohama for luxury shopping is definitely Sogo department stores. They are right by Yokohama station, and surely will offer a shopping experience like no other. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and other major fashion maisons have their shops here. From clothes to shoes to jewelry, if high-end shopping is your thing, you will not be disappointed here.
13. Shopping at The Outlet Mall in Torihama.
In case you are not willing to empty your wallet but still like brands and fashion, fear not. Yokohama has the right place for you, too. Not far from Yokohama, in Torihama there is Mitsui outlet mall. The place can be reached by taking a train from Yokohama to Shin-Sugita, on the JR line, and then from Shin-sugita a bus (or train) will take you to Torihama. The outlet mall is made to look like a small sailors and a fishermen village, all shops resembling houses, colorful and inviting, arranged around a common square. There even is a tiny lighthouse, and people can have nice views of the ocean from up there. Being an outlet, probably you won't find the latest fashion in trend, but surely the price tags will be more inviting. Not far from the mall there is also a boat pier where plenty of racing and sailing boats are anchored.
Torihama Mitsui outlet mall
14. Have Fun at Cosmo Clock Amusement Park.
In the heart of the Minatomirai Island is a small but fun amusement park. It features a big Ferris wheel, which offers beautiful views of the city below, a roller coaster and some other water rides. The amusement park is not confined on the island, but there is a smaller themed park on the mainland, facing the Ferris wheel. Main attractions are a haunted house and snow world. In addition, there are attractions for smaller children.
Ferris wheel and roller coaster of Cosmo World
15. Yokohama Hakkeijima Aquarium.
Situated at the tip of Yokohama bay, the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is an aquarium and amusement park in one. It is built on a man made island, and combines the entertainment of water runs and other water attractions with the awe of a wide variety of sea creatures. A museum to lear about marine life and a theatre to watch sea lions and dolphin shows are also included. This place is ideal to spend a day to with the whole family.
16. Skating Rink in Winter Months.
In the same square where the Christmas market happens there is enough space to set up an ice skating rink, which is placed there for about three months, between December and February. This and the decorations contribute to the festive atmosphere. Skates can be rented at the rink, and night skating is also possible. The rink is named Art Rink, as each year an artist is appointed to decorate it. This year's theme is "Fruit punch in ice”.
17. Watch Baseball Games.
Tucked between Chinatown, Yamashita Park and Minatomirai is the Nissan Stadium. Baseball games are played every weekend, so this is an ideal thing to do for those who love sports or those who want to experience the Japanese way of supporting their favorite teams.
18. Eat Dumplings at Yokohama's Chinatown.
As for food, there is a huge choice, really. However, especially if you are into Chinese food, the best place to be is Yokohama's Chinatown. By the main shopping street in Chinatown, you'll see dozens of vendors selling and advertising all possible kinds of dumplings, dim sums, egg tarts and what not. All restaurants offer all-you-can-eat options for a reasonable price, but always keep on the lookout for some rip-offs. Sometimes you realize you could've paid much less if you only moved away a bit from the main street.