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Window on Yokohama, Japan


A big ship comes to town – in this case Celebrity Millennium on which we were passengers recently – which docked at the port city of Yokohama, located about halfway up the east coast of Japan's island of Honshu.

The second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo and the most populous municipality of Japan, Yokohama lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, and is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area.

It is also, as we discovered, a very beautiful and advanced city that mixes quirky with quintessential. Let us show you what we mean. this pooch out for a stroll with its owners who proudly let us photograph it, giving a whole new meaning to taking the dog for a walk!

For instance here in Yamashita Park within sight of our ship we found this famous statue of “The Little Girl with Red Shoes On.” The statue represents the subject of a song that is one of the most famous songs in Japan and is associated specifically with Yokohama. The song is called “Akai Kutsu” (“Red Shoes”) and it's the story of a little girl who was adopted and who travelled, by another ship many years ago, to the USA. Read more.....

The day we visited, the balmy early-spring weather was ideal for strolling in the park. This memorial, though, was erected in memory of the local Indian community lost their lives in the devastating 1923 earthquake, a reminder that this area is situated on a triangle of geological fault lines, and is ever on the alert for tremors.

See more of Yokohama on this video.

One of the greatest joys of travel is meeting and interacting with the locals. Watch the video (above) and you will see this joyful group of students jumping in the air and welcoming our ship to Yokohama. This photo is the sequel as they see themselves on Gordon's video.

This port serves all sorts of shipping, not just cruise ships.

This was Golden Week, an annual festival week in April, the longest vacation period of the year for many Japanese jobs, and everyone was in a relaxed and happy mood, strolling the waterfront esplanade. It was a time for families and lovers to take advantage of the sunshine and fresh air.

The latter is another plus  for Yokohama which, despite its size and many industries has surprisingly clean air.

Like people everywhere, the Yokohama-ites love to shop, and their shopping centres are temples of order and beauty. This one, near the main railway station had enough to keep us busy for hours, even if we couldn't read most of the names on the goods for sale, but ..........

........have you ever see such a beautiful clock in a shopping centre?

Of course this site is also about food, and Yokohama did not let us down with this either. Near the port we discovered a German-style beer festival (Yokohama Fruhlingsfest) in full swing and frothing steins of the good local brew.

In the shopping centre, this boulangerie could seem out of place if you didn't know how seamlessly French cuisine meshes  with Japanese food. There's something about the attention to detail, the care for precision, and honouring of true flavours that is common to both, which makes them ideal table-fellows.

The food hall at Sogo, the major shopping centre we visited, was a complete eye-opener. Not only could I not read the signs, even the foods themselves were many times also incomprehensible. There were dozens of counters, each selling a slightly different type of food – in this case skewered foods, obviously ideal for takeaway.

Noticeable too was the infinite care and taste devoted to the packaging alone, every bit as beautiful as the contents.

Green tea is perhaps the drink of choice for much of the population, and here it was on display to serve yourself.

However the preoccupation with brands was also evident with a full range of these French teas as well.

The shopping centre also had several arcade of  cafes, bars and restaurants and after much peering at the pictures and realistic plastic menu items on display in the windows we decided on tonkatsu a fried and breaded pork cutlet. What we didn't realise was that each dish comes as a 'set' with a soup, rice and vegetables or salad.

It was a wonderful meal, more than enough, and only cost about $9. All the food was prepared in the open kitchen you can see here in this picture taken from the arcade outside. The place was packed, and was obviously the lunch spot of choice for local businessmen. Along the wall, above the tables there were coathangers on which they could hang their jackets.

One of the major landmarks of Yokohama is the Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel, part of the futuristic Minato Mirai 21 harbourside redevelopment. 

In one of the newest urban business districts in the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area, the Landmark Tower, Japan's tallest skyscraper, has pride of place, along with the three Queens Square Towers, which contain a large shopping mall.

By night the clock (the world's largest) constantly changes colour, a vivid contribution to the beauty of this metropolis.

Finally it was time for our ship to depart, and we found ourselves the focus of a mini-celebration onshore. Musicians, a crowd and much waving and cheering. I am sure they were as sorry to see us go as we were to be leaving.

As our mighty ship just managed to pass below the bridge, we hoped we would be back before too long. In a couple of days we had seen a lot, but not enough – managing only to scratch the surface of the culture and the attractions of this wonderful city.





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