Just south of Tokyo on the western shores of Tokyo Bay, Yokohama has a unique atmosphere and history that makes it well worth a visit. Japan’s second-largest city and home to nearly four million people, it feels surprisingly uncrowded and relaxed compared to the country’s capital, with a breezy waterfront, gleaming skyscrapers and an abundance of historical and cultural attractions, including museums, gardens, temples and creative venues.
The city’s personality is rooted in its history as one of Japan’s first international trading ports. A fishing village prior to the mid-1800s when Japan remained closed off to the outside world, it became the first harbor town in the country to welcome foreign trade in 1859. This move saw it quickly develop into one of Japan’s leading trading bases, helping to shape the cultural diversity and international flavor that characterize it today.
One of Yokohama’s most popular attractions originates from the Chinese immigrants who flocked to the port during the late 1800s, and again after World War II. Today, the city’s Chinatown is not only the largest in Japan and Asia, but one of the biggest in the world, making it an essential fixture on visitor itineraries.
Entered via the main, decorative Goodwill Gate built in 1955 or three other ornamental entrance ways, this warren of streets covers a 2,500 sq. meters, and brims with more than 500 Chinese restaurants, grocery stores and shops, as well as a profusion of food stands. Visitors can delve into the colorful lanes and markets, browse for traditional Chinese souvenirs and sample the huge variety of Chinese culinary delights on offer, from Sichuan cuisine to dim sum, hand-cut noodles, Peking duck and more.
Other Yokohama highlights include Yamashita Park, a stretch of picturesque gardens set along the main bay front. A gentle stroll through the park serves up stellar views of the city’s Minato Mirai 21 business district, where a clutch of glass skyscrapers, the Cosmo World Ferris Wheel, and the Landmark Tower gaze down over the bay.
Minato Mirai is also home to the Red Brick Warehouse, a waterfront shopping and arts complex set in the port’s early-20th-century customs houses. The beautifully converted red brick buildings not only presents a glimpse into Yokohama’s trading past, but offers up stylish shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities with an array of contemporary shops, cafes, bars and arts events.