Yokohama: Inside Japan’s Creative Capital

Post Published October 20, 2023

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Yokohama: Inside Japan’s Creative Capital

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Explore Yokohama's Vibrant Neighborhoods

Yokohama is so much more than just a business hub. This port city is brimming with vibrant, artsy neighborhoods that each have their own unique character. Getting lost wandering the streets is one of the best ways to experience Yokohama like a local.

One such neighborhood is Kannai. As the city’s original downtown area, Kannai exudes old-world charm with its retro brick warehouses and historic churches. Stroll down Basha-michi shopping street to browse arts and crafts stores housed in traditional Japanese buildings. Stop for a break at Bakauke, a cozy jazz cafe filled with musicians jamming on their instruments. Don't miss the Yokohama Archives of History to learn about the city's fascinating past as one of Japan's first treaty ports.
For a contemporary vibe, head to Motomachi. This chic area lines the waterfront with sleek high-rises and luxury shopping at stores like Chanel and Tiffany & Co. There's great people watching and cafes to duck into along Motomachi Street. One standout is Baccanale, an elegant Italian restaurant inside a converted bank building. The food and service is sublime.

Hungry for more international flavors? Make your way to Yamashita Park and visit Chinatown, Yokohama's vibrant Chinese quarter. The ornate Chinese gates signal your entrance into this bustling neighborhood packed with shops and eateries. Fight your way through the crowds on Chukagai Center Street to feast on dumplings and Peking duck. Don't miss popping into the historic Chinese temples either.
For quirky boutiques and indie galleries, head to Isezakicho. This artsy neighborhood comes alive at night with its countless cozy bars and live music venues. Sip craft beer at Ant 'n Bee Pub or sing karaoke at Honjin. Browse artwork at BankART Studio NYK, a contemporary gallery housed in a former bank. The vibe here is distinctly laidback and youthful.

What else is in this post?

  1. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Explore Yokohama's Vibrant Neighborhoods
  2. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Must-See Modern Architecture and Design
  3. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Experience the City's Arts and Culture Scene
  4. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Shopping Galore - From Boutiques to Malls
  5. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Savor the Local Food and Drink
  6. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Day Trips Nearby - Kamakura, Hakone, and More
  7. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Where to Stay - Hotels with Waterfront Views
  8. Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Getting Around Yokohama - Trains, Buses, and Taxi Tips

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Must-See Modern Architecture and Design

Yokohama: Inside Japan’s Creative CapitalYokohama is a leading hub for contemporary architecture and design in Japan. As the city rapidly expanded during the Meiji era, Western influences shaped Yokohama's modern landscape. Today, visitors can explore a range of cutting-edge buildings along with retro architectural gems.

One must-see is the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall, designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando. This minimalist concrete structure commemorates where Japan first opened to foreign trade in 1859. Inside, three curved galleries with panoramic windows overlook the waterfront. It's a serene space flooded with natural light.

For a striking view of the cityscape, head up to the Sky Garden observatory on the 70th floor of the Yokohama Landmark Tower. Japan's second tallest building, this office skyscraper has a unique sail shape that narrows as it rises. The Sky Garden's floor-to-ceiling windows provide a breathtaking 360-degree panorama. On clear days, you can even spot Mount Fuji.

Asia's largest Ferris wheel, Cosmo Clock 21, is also an iconic landmark along the harbor. Its slowly rotating pods offer a fun way to soak in waterfront views. At night, 15,000 LED lights illuminate the giant wheel. Nearby is sailor-suited Hikawa Maru, a retired 1930s luxury liner open for tours.

Art aficionados shouldn't miss the Yokohama Museum of Art, designed by renowned architect Kenzo Tange. Its three curved concrete galleries are connected by glass corridors with views of Yokohama Park. Inside, artists like Picasso and Warhol exhibit alongside modern Japanese painters.

For a cultural experience, check out the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. These two former storage sheds built in 1911 now house shops, restaurants, and event spaces. Catch live jazz or pop-up flea markets inside the historic brick walls. Nearby Bashamichi street has more Meiji-era brick warehouses converted into boutiques.
To see contemporary residential architecture, stroll around the upscale Minato Mirai 21 harbor district. Sweeping curves and bold geometric shapes define these luxury high-rise condominiums. Some offer incredible bay views behind massive glass walls. Look up to appreciate their futuristic facades.
Yokohama's Doll Museum designed by renowned architect Terunobu Fujimori is also worth a detour. Resembling a whimsical stack of gift boxes, its unusual exterior will catch your eye. Inside, get lost wandering three underground floors filled with over 12,000 dolls and toys.

For a serene natural experience, visit the lovely Sankeien Garden designed in 1906. Historic buildings from across Japan were transported and carefully reassembled amidst streams, ponds and walking paths in this tranquil garden.

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Experience the City's Arts and Culture Scene

Yokohama has flourished into one of Japan's most creative hubs, making the city a must-visit for arts and culture lovers. As a center for innovative design, architecture, and technology, Yokohama also attracts a youthful, hip crowd that keeps the city's arts scene dynamic and energized.

Wander through the indie galleries in Isezakicho to discover up-and-coming artists and minimalist exhibitions. Many small spaces like BankART Studio NYK provide a platform for local talent to get their start. Exhibitions change frequently, so there's always something new to experience. According to a local blogger, "I love exploring Isezakicho's tiny galleries, you never know what experimental art or photography you'll find."

Music fans shouldn't miss Yokohama's incredible live music venues, like Fiddler's Green or El Puente. You can catch intimate jazz gigs one night then dance to rock bands the next. Yokohama Arena also draws major pop stars and rock bands from around the world. "The live music scene is really vibrant," shares one expat. "There's great energy, cheap tickets, and you may even catch the next big Japanese act."

Theatregoers can enjoy premieres of visiting Broadway shows like Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera at Yokohama's performing arts centers. The Minato Mirai Hall, Pacifico Yokohama, and Kanagawa Kenmin Hall host world-class theatre, dance, classical music, and comedy shows. "I saw Wicked performed in Japanese when it came through Yokohama," describes a frequent theatre visitor. "The beautiful theaters here make you feel like you're on Broadway."

Yokohama Triennale is the city's premier contemporary art festival held every three years. Hundreds of installations transform city sites into modern art museums. "During the Triennale, there's suddenly contemporary art all over town," explains a design writer. "It makes you think about Yokohama in a whole new way."

The Yokohama Museum of Art is also worth experiencing for its cutting-edge exhibitions. Check their calendar for avant-garde installations or the latest pop art show. The striking architecture itself feels like an artistic statement.
Exploring Yokohama's multicultural side also offers insight into its creative culture. In Chinatown, don't just eat dumplings but also visit the colorful Chinese temples. Or wander Yamate's Western-style streets lined with churches where Japanese Christians once lived. "There are so many cultural layers in Yokohama to uncover," describes a frequent traveler.

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Shopping Galore - From Boutiques to Malls

Yokohama is a shopaholic's paradise, bursting with boutiques, massive malls, and everything in between. From high-fashion flagship stores to quirky independent shops, shopping in Yokohama always promises a few unexpected surprises.

In the chic Motomachi district, the streets are lined with luxury boutiques like Chanel, Hermes, and Cartier for elite brand name splurging. According to one personal shopper, "Motomachi is where to go in Yokohama when you want to drop some serious cash at the most exclusive designer stores." Don't miss the iconic Sogo department store, a local landmark with multiple buildings connected by skywalks. Shop for couture fashion or explore the incredible basement food hall.

For a mix of high street and Japanese fashion, head to Vivre. This local Yokohama chain has multiple locations across the city filled with trendy apparel and accessories. Prices are mid-range so you can update your whole wardrobe without breaking the bank. "I always leave Vivre with armfuls of cute stuff. The salesclerks are so helpful, I end up trying things on I never would have picked," shares one blogger.
In the artsy neighborhoods, independent boutiques offer one-of-a-kind finds you won't get back home. Brownsville in Motomachi has racks of hip vintage threads and quirky tees. One customer raves, "I love how Brownsville mashes up modern streetwear with retro pieces. You never know what unique item you'll find."

For cutting-edge Japanese fashion, look no further than Koganecho Bazaar, dubbed Yokohama's "creative incubator." Local designers rent cubicles in a former warehouse to display their avant-garde styles. Rummaging the maze-like hallways feels like an adventurous scavenger hunt. "Koganecho is the perfect place to discover Yokohama's emerging fashion scene. I've found designers there who later got famous," shares a frequent visitor.

Hunting for hip secondhand stores? Shinyokohama Ramen Museum has a whole floor dedicated to thrift shops like Kinji Antique Clothing selling one-off vintage apparel. "I love digging through the racks and finding real hidden gems, like an old kimono or leather jacket," describes a thrifty shopper.

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Savor the Local Food and Drink

Yokohama’s culinary scene perfectly encapsulates the city’s culture of innovation and multicultural influences. From ramen noodles to craft beer, Yokohama’s diverse food and drink draws locals and visitors eager to savor the flavors of this creative capital.

One signature experience is slurping up a hot bowl of Yokohama Ie-kei ramen. “Ie” means home, and this ramen style features a rich pork and chicken broth, thin noodles, and slices of yakibuta (roasted pork belly) that melt in your mouth. “I became addicted to ie-kei ramen in Yokohama,” admits one blogger. “The tender pork and noodles are so satisfying on cold days.” Try popular joints like Ide Shoten in Kannai or Manchinro Honten in Chinatown.
For a perfect pairing, don’t miss Yokohama’s booming craft beer scene. Breweries like Yokohama Brewing Company, Far East Brewing, and Bashamichi Brewery are leading the wave of creative brews from crisp IPAs to bold stouts. “The local craft beer in Yokohama is fantastic,” shares an expat. “It’s very high quality but cheaper than Tokyo.” Seek out brewpubs like Ant ‘n’ Bee Pub or Craft Beer Market Bashamichi to sample specialty ales.

Yokohama’s Chinatown is also a must for foodies craving Chinese cuisine. From dumplings to Peking duck, over 500 restaurants cram into this bustling quarter. “Every time I’m in Chinatown, I end up in an hour-long debate trying to decide where to eat,” laughs a frequent visitor. Local favorites include Shin Yokohama Raumen Museum for a Food Court experience and Manchinro Honten for Cantonese classics in an elegant setting.
For sweets, Yokohama excels at baked treats perfect with tea. Fukusaya is a classic neighborhood bakery crafting castella sponge cakes since 1925. Their honey toast sandwiching ice cream between fluffy bread is a local legend. For buttery croissants and picturesque pastries, the French-inspired Patisserie Pâtisserie Yamada is a must. “I love grabbing a box of cakes at Yamada and having a little picnic in Yamashita Park,” shares one blogger.

Seafood lovers shouldn’t miss the vibrant Koiwa covered fish market. “I go to Koiwa whenever I want the freshest sashimi and local catches like anago eel,” explains one local. Wander through over 40 stalls and pick up anything from giant tuna to live lobster. Nearby restaurants will even cook up your market purchases.
Osanbashi Pier has incredible bay views and restaurants specializing in Yokohama seafood. Why not try the local shioyaki-style grilled fish or sautéed Japanese lobster? “Dining at Osanbashi while watching ships glide by is one of my favorite things,” says a Yokohama visitor. “The seafood literally can’t get any fresher.”

For a unique experience, dine aboard a pirate ship at the Yokohama Bay Quarter's Pirate Ship Hotel. While gently cruising Yokohama’s harbor, feast on a nautical-themed menu of seafood pastas and grilled meats. According to a recent patron, “Eating on the pirate ship was delightfully cheesy with great food. It's perfect for special occasions."

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Day Trips Nearby - Kamakura, Hakone, and More

Yokohama makes an ideal base to explore the wealth of sights near Tokyo. With its fast shinkansen bullet train connections, visitors can easily access historic Kamakura or the hot springs haven of Hakone. Other popular easy day trips include Nikko's lavish temples and the regal Meiji Shrine in picturesque Yoyogi Park.

Kamakura is an absolute must, being one of Japan's most important Zen Buddhist centers. This charming seaside town offers over 65 Buddhist temples and 19 Shinto shrines to explore. According to a temple enthusiast, "Kamakura's concentration of historic religious sites in a relaxed setting by the beach is hard to beat."

Start by squeezing through the doorway of iconic Kotokuin Temple to see the Great Buddha. This 40-foot-tall bronze statue dating back to 1252 is Japan's second largest Buddha. Then contemplate the Zen rock garden at Jochiji Temple, designed to aid meditation. Many find its subtle beauty to be the quintessential example of a Zen garden.

For an enchanting wooded setting, head to the thatched-roof timber halls of Hokokuji Temple. Follow the bamboo-lined path around its serene rock garden and sip matcha tea in the traditional tea house. Nearby is Hasedera Temple, where a 9-meter-tall gold-plated carved goddess of mercy resides. Don't miss the hillside hydrangea gardens exploding in purples and pinks during the rainy season.
Wander down Kamakura's shop-lined central Komachi Street to see early 20th-century Western-style buildings juxtaposed against such ancient temples. Stop at a cafe like Eitaro for a break with homemade cheesecake.

Just 30 minutes further is Hakone, nestled in the mountains of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Hakone's landscape features volcanic peaks, caldera lakes, and over 20 hot spring resorts. Relax your muscles soaking in an open-air onsen bath or experience sand baths buried up to your neck in heated sand. A first-time hot spring visitor explains, "I was anxious at first about the hot spring etiquette, but the sweeping views of nature from the baths were phenomenal. It was the most relaxed I felt during my whole Japan trip."

Hakone's greatest highlight is riding the Hakone Ropeway, a scenic gondola ride with epic views of sulfur-spewing Owakudani Valley. On clear days, iconic Mount Fuji presides over the landscape. At the end of the ropeway, board a retro pirate ship for a cruise across Lake Ashi to get back.

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Where to Stay - Hotels with Waterfront Views

Yokohama boasts no shortage of hotels offering prime waterfront views across the city's scenic harbor. Waking up to panoramas of passing ships and the Bay Bridge makes for an unforgettable stay. Treat yourself to a room with a view during your time in Yokohama.
According to a frequent traveler, "I always try to book a high floor at a hotel overlooking the water when I'm in port cities like Yokohama. Seeing the city lights reflect on the harbor at night is so beautiful."

For those seeking luxury, Pan Pacific Yokohama sits directly atop Osanbashi Pier. The contemporary high-rise rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing stunning vistas across the harbor to the Bay Bridge and Ferris wheel. Unwind at the end of the day watching ships sail by from your private balcony. A recent guest shares, "We booked a Premium Harbor View Room at the Pan Pacific and the view absolutely blew us away. We could even see Mount Fuji in the distance on clear mornings."

Within walking distance of Chinatown, the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel provides gorgeous fifth floor rooms with angled windows framing the waterfront. Book an Executive Harbor View Room for the prime real estate. A travel blogger describes their stay: "Watching the sunset over the harbor from my room at the Royal Park took my breath away. Getting such an amazing view made it totally worth paying extra."

For those on a budget, Hotel Edit Yokohama located in the hip Koganecho neighborhood still provides bay glimpses from some rooms. A visitor says, "I managed to snag a room with 'limited harbor views' for a steal at Hotel Edit. If you crane your neck, you get amazing floor-to-ceiling views of the port and Ferris wheel!"

Over in the Minato Mirai 21 district, Hotel JAL City Yokohama offers prime access to the harbor's top attractions along with bay-facing rooms. Guests recommend upgrading to the Premier Harbor View Twin for panoramic views of the Bay Bridge's futuristic sail shape. "The Premier Harbor View room really showcases Minato Mirai's incredible waterfront location," shares one tourist. "I could even see Cosmo World's colorful Ferris wheel from my window."

On the eastern edge of Yokohama, Panorama Hotel Atami Bay faces the crescent-shaped Atami Harbor with Mount Fuji looming in the distance. A recent guest describes, "The natural beauty of the rugged coastline in Atami was incredible from my room at Panorama Hotel. Surprisingly, it was cheaper than the big hotels right in Yokohama."

A little further afield in Kawasaki, Hotel New Otani Tokyo directly overlooks the vast Tokyo Bay. Upgrade to a room facing the ocean to experience their famous sunsets over the water. "Watching the sunset from Hotel New Otani took my breath away. I could see all the way across Tokyo Bay to Chiba," raves a visitor.

For a uniquely retro option, spend the night aboard a docked 1930s steamship hotel, the Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu, and wake up to water all around you. According to a maritime blogger, "Staying on the historic steamship hotel really made me feel transported back in time, like an old cruise passenger. But the bay views were still amazing."

Yokohama: Inside Japan's Creative Capital - Getting Around Yokohama - Trains, Buses, and Taxi Tips

Yokohama has a highly connected public transport system making getting around a breeze without a car. The extensive train and subway network zips visitors efficiently between neighborhoods and sights. For shorter hops, buses and taxis fill in the gaps. Here are some tips and tricks for navigating Yokohama like a local using trains, buses, and taxis.
The Yokohama Municipal Subway provides convenient access around central Yokohama underground. According to a frequent visitor, "Yokohama's four subway lines made it super easy to zip all over. I barely had to walk outside at all when sightseeing in bad weather." The Blue and Green lines in particular connect major areas like Chinatown, Kannai, and the harborfront. An all-day pass only costs a reasonable 760 yen.

Above ground, JR East trains offer quick connections from Yokohama Station to destinations across Kanagawa and Tokyo. The fast shinkansen bullet train even whisks you away to historic Kamakura in just 25 minutes. "I loved how I could effortlessly day trip from Yokohama to other sites near Tokyo thanks to the great train access," shares an avid traveler.

The retro seaside Keikyu Line is also perfect for joyriding to harbor attractions like the ramen museum or Chinatown. For fun rides with kids, a trainspotter recommends, "Take the Keikyu Line to discover stations like Bashamichi, Kanagawa-Shinmachi, and Kami-Ooka with quirky designs. My son loves looking for our next cute train station name on the maps at each platform."

While trains provide efficient transport across Yokohama, buses fill in gaps for shorter local trips. According to a budget-conscious traveler, "Yokohama's buses were a lifesaver getting between hotels, shops, and restaurants within neighborhoods. At only 210 yen per ride, they're a steal." Useful routes connect major hotels with key districts like Motomachi, Yamashita Park, and Minato Mirai 21.

When buses won't cut it, taxis provide convenient point-to-point travel in Yokohama. But be warned, a local cautions: "Yokohama taxi fares start at 730 yen for the first 2 kilometers then rise quickly. I once paid over 3000 yen for a ten-minute cab ride in traffic from Motomachi to Chinatown." To avoid sticker shock, have a map handy or set a budget when hailing Yokohama cabs.

For sightseeing flexibility at affordable rates, renting a bike is an excellent option. A guide explains, "I rented a bike to leisurely explore Yokohama's harborfront. Pedaling along the seaside lanes and parks was such a fun experience." Convenient depots at major train stations provide quick bike rentals starting around 500 yen for a full day.

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