Since the port of Yokohama opened in 1859, it has grown from a small village of 600 people to Japan’s second largest city with a population of over 3.5 million! From its early days of exporting Japanese silk and tea, it has become a vibrant metropolis and a major international trading port.
We spent today exploring the area surrounding Yokohama’s harbour, an easy day trip from here. I was disappointed to discover that the world’s largest ferris wheel doesn’t operate on Thursdays at this time of year but a ride in the world’s fastest elevator to the observatory on the 69th floor of the Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building, afforded us excellent views of the surrounding area. In addition to its role as a modern seaport, Yokohama has also become an industrial centre and since it hasn’t rained for the past few days, the air was pretty hazy. We couldn’t see very far into the distance.
While much of the harbour area is very modern, including a moving sidewalk that carried us from the train station to the Landmark Tower five minutes away, there are also a number of very historic buildings that are still in use. We spent a while poking through some of the interesting little shops that are now housed in one of the old brick shipping warehouses. Since coming to Japan, we’ve both read James Clavell’s novel, Gaijin, which was set in Yokohama during its very early trading days so it was easy for us to imagine what the area might have been like in those days.
We also enjoyed strolling the seafront promenade in Yamashita Park and visited the nearby Silk Museum which was very interesting.
Not far from the harbour is Chinatown, one of Yokohama’s most popular tourist attractions. With its colourful facades and abundance of eating establishments, it struck us as much less genuine than Vancouver’s Chinatown or even Edmonton’s. Apart from the many restaurants, there were lots of tiny souvenir shops where practically everything seemed to have a panda motif. Kantei-byo, the very elaborate Chinese temple at the heart of the district was interesting to see, however.