Sightseeing in Yokosuka, a City of Mixed Cultures
The city of Yokosuka, Japan is most known for its Japanese and American naval bases. The culture has been crossed and mixed and reflects in its food, atmosphere, and shopping. The US navy base opens to the public every year for Yokosuka Friendship Day in order to demonstrate the strong relationship between Japan and the US. If you plan on coming to Yokosuka for this event, consider staying for the weekend and visiting the surrounding areas as well. If you live and work in this city, you may be surprised that you don’t have to go towards Tokyo or Yokohama to see something interesting.
Friendship Day is when the US Navy base of Yokosuka opens to the public for touring and other festivities. Tribute bands, fireworks display, carnivals, barbecue, and tours of the military facilities can be accessed during this day. This is a rare opportunity for anybody to see the inside of a US military installation in a foreign country. 2019 Friendship Day was held on August 3rd from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. If not on Friendship Day, the only way to see the base without a pass is from a sightseeing ferry located right outside of the Aeon Mall near the back gate of the base.
Mikasa Park (三笠公園)
Very close to the US navy base, Mikasa Park is the hub of many events and festivals that occur in Yokosuka. It is home to the Japanese-Russo era warship “Mikasa”, which has been turned into a museum and can be boarded and toured. The statue that greets visitors at the front gate is Togo Heihachiro（東郷平八郎）the admiral of the Japanese fleet at the time the Mikasa was the nation’s flagship in 1905. The park itself has an architectural arch that reflects the sun’s light all hours of the day. Adjacent to the arch is a water fountain that puts on a show with music several times a day.
Monkey Island (Sarushima/猿島)
Sarushima, or Monkey Island, is a short ferry ride from Mikasa Park. The island was used as a World War II outpost to protect Tokyo Bay. Many of the gun turret posts, barracks, and powder magazines have been overgrown with the vegetation, and is reminiscent of the Ghibli Anime “Laputa” or “Castle in the Sky”, which was used inspired from this island. During the summer, it is a popular spot for fishing, barbecuing, and swimming. The island has shops that sells udon, bento, ramen, and kakigori (かき氷) or Japanese shaved ice. The most popular being Otona no Kakigoori (大人のかき氷), or adult shaved ice, which is just the kids version with liquor in it.
The ferry ticket can be bought from a trailer just inside the gate of Mikasa Park.
Commodore Perry of the United States Navy arrived in Japan in 1853 to persuade the Japanese to open trade to others besides itself and the Dutch. Using black gun ship diplomacy, he convinced the Japanese to open trade with the US and allies. This is the park where he landed. The park includes several memorials in English and Japanese, and includes a museum.
Leonce Verny was a French naval engineer hired shortly after the arrival of Commodore Perry to help modernize Japan’s navy. He constructed the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal and the Dry docks within the Yokosuka navy base that can be seen from this park. Many US and Japanese ships can be seen by several vantage points from this park. Within the park is a small museum and shop that houses an original industrial hammer that was used to help build the ships that was constructed in these dry docks.
Dobuita Shopping Street (どぶ板通 AKA the “Honch”)
Dobuita Street during the day is a quiet street that showcases different military fashions. Most noticeably and famously across many Japanese people, is the Yokosuka Jumper, which is a leather jacket with customizable patches sewn onto the back much like a U.S. Navy cruise jacket. The cross-culture of the U.S. and Japan can be seen in the foods that have become associated with Yokosuka: the Yokosuka Burger, the Perry Dog, cherry cheesecake, and Yokosuka Navy curry (Kaigun Curry, 海軍カレー).
The curry is most famous out of all the foods associated with Yokosuka. The curry is Japanese curry, but is thicker than the normal variety. The Japanese navy used to serve curry onboard the ships. In order to ration the water, they used less water in their curry. This resulted in the thick richness of Yokosuka Kaigun Curry. The sailors often looked forward to the curry every Friday, to remind them what day of the week it was under an arduous deployment.
At night, Dobuita becomes “The Honch”, dubbed by the American sailors and contractors who work on the base nearby. A series of American style bars and clubs dot the street, and during the busiest times of the night the US navy deploys uniformed members to help deter any negative actions from the particularly intoxicated by offering a curtesy rides back to base.
Dobuita is also the setting of Sega’s Shenmue video games. Sega’s design of the streets is so identical to the real life equivalent, that even the weather patterns of that time period in that area were used to recreate the setting.
Ikizukuri at Sakana Aitei (魚藍亭) Fresh Fish Sashimi Shop
Within Dobuita, there is a restaurant that specializes in the Ikizukuri (生き作り) style of preparing sashimi. Your choice of seafood will be caught in a net in a tank at the center of the restaurant, cut and prepared at a nearby counter, and served to you minutes after the fish has been killed. The result is extremely fresh sashimi. Many times the nerve endings are still alive, and the fish may continue twitching and move as you are eating it. An addition of soy sauce, lemon, or salt can trigger this phenomenon.
Kurihama Flower Land (Kurihama Hana no Kuni, 久里浜花の国)
Kurihama Flower Land has a lot to offer. From the name, you can guess that it is a flower park. There is a large poppy field that greets you at the entrance of the park, which blooms every fall. During the other seasons of the year, other flowers also bloom, and in the winter, holiday lights are on display. A Flower train, can trolley you from one end of the park to the other. Most notably, there is the Adventure Land park that is just past the poppy field. There, a life-sized Godzilla statue is on display, and can also double as a slide. The play park surrounding the statue is very impressive, and has several long slides, jungle gym equipment, and obstacle course items. Further into the park you can find a rose garden, and herb garden, an ashiyu (foot bath), and a bell that if rung together with your lover can bring good fortune. At the end of the park you can see Perry Park and the Yokosuka ferry terminal. The park’s mascot is a pink fairy, and can sometimes be seen frolicking at the peek of the season. There is also a sports complex next door that includes a golf course, archery range, and air rifle range. The mascot can sometimes be seen there as well.
Arasaki Park (荒崎公園)
There are many parks on the outskirts of Yokosuka. One of them is Arasaki Park, located on the western side of the Miura peninsula, between the Sagami Bay and Mt. Fuji. Cliffside hiking and flower viewing is a favorite among visitors at this seaside park. Photographers often gather here in the late evening to catch the sunset over Fuji, which is very clear with good weather.
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