Yokohama's skyline (Shutterstock)
List Words : Robin McKelvie | 05 October 2019

9 of the best things to do in Yokohama, Japan

Thousands will descend on the city of Yokohama this November for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, though the city has plenty more to offer than its vast stadium...

1. Go green at Sankei-en Garden

Cherry blossoms at night Sankei-en Garden (Shutterstock)

Cherry blossoms at night Sankei-en Garden (Shutterstock)

Escape the rugby and the crowds at Sankei-en, a glorious green lung that has roots dating back in the 19th century, when it was fashioned by the silk merchant Tomitaro Hara.

This is the Japan of your childhood imagination, a traditional Japanese garden sprinkled with ponds, rivers and pagodas. It spreads its green tentacles across 175,000 sq m, so there's always plenty of space for everyone. 

Check out the tea houses and enjoy aimless strolling along the snaking network of trails. Don’t miss the stately mansion, built for a local lord, and the triple-storeyed Tomyoji Temple.

2. Travel to the future

View of Minato Mirai 21 district and the Royal Wing cruise ship at night (Shutterstock)

View of Minato Mirai 21 district and the Royal Wing cruise ship at night (Shutterstock)

Minato Mirai literally means ‘future port’, and Minato Mirai 21 forms a thrillingly modern swathe of the city that lives up to its futuristic moniker.

It feels like a city in its own right, with its jaw-dropping skyscraper strewn skyline vaulting for the heavens, and a slew of glitzy shopping malls, a ferris wheel, museums and amusement parks.

A great way to get a real feel for its drama is to take a boat trip. Alternatively, sweep up the 296m high Landmark Tower in the express lift to enjoy a view from one of the tallest buildings in Japan. It is the perfect symbol of this dynamic city’s drive and ambition.

3. Delve into Chinatown

Chinatown, Yokohama (Shutterstock)

Chinatown, Yokohama (Shutterstock)

Japanese culture is deeply fascinating, but Yokohama also shares a colourful window into China, too, just across the water walk, between the striking gates. It's the country’s largest Chinatown, spread across a large area of central Yokohama.

Chinatown is no tourist confection. It grew organically from the 19th century as Yokohama’s port opened up to trade for the first time, and merchants not only brought their food and culture, but also put down roots and built their own homes.

Today, you can savour the rich architectural legacy, and also taste it on the plate at a wealth of restaurants, serving delicious cuisine from myriad Chinese regions.

4. Explore your arty side

Yokohama Museum of Art (Shutterstock)

Yokohama Museum of Art (Shutterstock)

Yokohama Museum of Art is a spacious, strikingly modern gallery: a work of art in itself. It was created in the 1980s by celebrated Japanese architect Kenzō Tange and spread across three floors.

The museum showcases a rich range of Japanese artists, but it is no slouch in regard to international luminaries, either, housing works by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

This is one of the most impressive and compelling art galleries in Japan. One intriguing and timely temporary exhibition is a look at the ‘Aspects of Japan’s 160-year-old relationship with the West’, which runs right through until 2020.

The well-stocked shop is great for arty souvenirs, too. Handily, the gallery is also open late on Fridays and Saturdays, until 8pm.

5. Escape to nature in Yamashita Park

Hikawa Maru in Yokohama Port (Shutterstock)

Hikawa Maru in Yokohama Port (Shutterstock)

Join the locals strolling in their favourite green space of Yamashita Park.

It was borne of tragedy, when rubble from the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake was used to reclaim the waterfront as a park, which opened in 1930. Today, it somehow survives amidst the modern city, a true oasis beside the water. 

One striking sight here is the Hikawa Maru, a graceful ocean liner that was much loved by everyone - from Japanese royalty to Charlie Chaplin in its heyday. You can hop aboard as it’s now open as a museum.

6. Visit the idyllic Shomyoji Temple

Shomyoji Temple (Shutterstock)

Shomyoji Temple (Shutterstock)

If you’ve come to Japan hoping to see that fairy tale wooden temple sitting by the water with a little bridge breaking across to it, then you've come to the right place.

Shomyoji Temple is the quintessential Japanese temple. It was commissioned by a family as their tomb back in the Kamakura period.

The Jodo-style gardens are a delight, the ideal place to find your inner Zen, as you gaze over the red arched bridge. There is a modest museum to check out here, too.

7. Ditch the sake for beer

Kirin Ichiban (Shutterstock)

Kirin Ichiban (Shutterstock)

Yokohama is home to the Kirin Brewery Yokohama Factory, one of the biggest brewers in Japan.

Their beer tends to have a familiar European-style taste, no surprise given that its origins lie back in the days of increasing European trading influence in Japan.

The company was founded as far back as 1907. The brewery tours are really worthwhile, taking you behind the scenes and, of course, letting you taste the delicious wares for yourself.

You’ll learn that as well as the crisp local water, Czech hops are essential, yeast too. Their yeast store is 1,000 varieties strong. 

8. Noodle frenzy

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, Yokohama (Shutterstock)

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, Yokohama (Shutterstock)

The locals in Yokohama love their noodles – you can try them all over the city.

If you want to push deeper than the bottom of the bowl, then you’ve got two great options. The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is dedicated to the hallowed, comforting noodle dish.

They aren't snooty about their ramen here. There's even a section on instant noodles. Rather than just being a simple restaurant, they’ve replica houses where you can try ramen from various regions of Japan.

There is also the quite grand CupNoodles Museum, spread across four floors. Here, you learn about its humble origins, with the highlight being able to try noodles from all over the world.

9. Visit the capital

Chidorigafuchi Park, Tokyo (Shutterstock)

Chidorigafuchi Park, Tokyo (Shutterstock)

Yokohama is an interesting city to visit, but with Tokyo only half an hour away by train, it's more than likely you'll be visiting both during your Japan trip.

The capital stuns the senses with the grandeur of London or New York – it feels vital, important and intense. It is home to glorious contrasts, too.

One minute you'll be enveloped in the glitzy neon of its frenetic shopping and nightlife district, the next chilling out in a leafy park by the Grand Imperial Palace. There are a million different Tokyos to discover.

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