Koganecho and Hinodecho: Two Nice and Artsy Neighborhoods
Yokohama area is full of interesting and not-so-known spots. One of such areas is the one by the Ooka River, between Hinodecho (日ノ出町), which means city of the sunrise, and Koganecho (黄金町),which means the town of gold.
These neighborhoods were famous in the past for being Yokohama's red light districts, especially Koganecho. Maybe that's why such a name was given to the area?
Anyway, when the ward was gearing up to celebrate the 150 years anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port in 2009, the infamous Koganecho area was not good advertisement. That's why from around 2006 the police started a clean up of the area, an operation that was called 'Operation bay-bai' (from the English bye bye). The area that was once rich thanks to gentlemen's bars and entertainment houses, was losing popularity among the residents, not to mention that the economy of all those families who relied on the lively streets for their restaurants, low rent, and all other activities connected to entertainment fell. So, yes, sex trade, and with it the bad name, was eradicated, but the area was bound to a decline. The answer to all this was art, and all those buildings that served for the entertainment industry became art galleries, shops, design studios and fancy cafes.
There are also art galleries, built between the railroad pillars, under the tracks, that allow visitors to enter and observe the artists at work from a series of aerial walkways.
In 2008, during the Yokohama Triennale, Koganecho City held a festival known as 'Koganecho Bazaar'; it was a two months festival where artists from in and outside Japan (China and Australia, for example) participated. Many designers also decided to move to the area, so that they could live and work there.
After the 2008 event success, the festival was repeated the following years, and it was an even bigger success again when it was repeated in 2011. That year, visitors had the opportunity to buy an all-pass ticket for the exhibition that included the visit to Koganecho Bazaar as well.
But now you don't need to wait for another Koganecho Bazaar to visit the neighborhood. All you need is a nice warm and sunny day, like this time of the year, and explore. However, if you like art, then the weekend is not the best time to go to Koganecho, because most of the galleries are closed. And definitely you want to see the galleries under the train tracks, enter and walk around to check out how art is made.
The main street is more or less following the path of the river, and is paved with red bricks, the buildings are tiny and colorful, many of them are just pieces of design, both inside and outside. There is lots of blue, yellow, red and green, small cafes with plants and benches, and restaurants with modern, minimal furniture. In short, there is a little bit of everything. The area reference point is the police box, on top of which a giant eagle stands, making people feel safe, they say.
Hinodecho instead is more the district where all restaurants and bars still are, so after one afternoon of strolling along Koganecho, you can head to the nearby Hinodecho to grab a bite. The closest train stations are the Hinodecho and Koganecho on the Keikyu line from Shinagawa.
Alternatively, if you prefer walking, you can take a stroll from JR Sakuragichoo station following this map (Minatomirai bay area).
Then from Hinodecho you can continue to Koganecho and perhaps stop by the statue of Hinodecho God of Laughs, which is supposed to bring good fortune.