Hotel Stay at Haneda Airport
Yokohama is not usually very high on the list of places to visit for many travellers to visit during a stay in the neighboring metropolis of Tokyo. It had always been the same for us – why explore another town that just appears to be very similar to Tokyo’s suburbs when there are many other exciting places around and limited time to see them. However during this stay we had an early return flight from Haneda Airport and so chose to stay in a hotel close by the airport, making it easier to get there in the early hours. As we had checked into the JAL Airport Hotel early afternoon we decided to make the short trip on the train to downtown Yokohama to discover if it was worth venturing there from Tokyo.
Train Journey to Yokohama
Riding the train you realize just how far the Tokyo Yokohama metropolis stretches, house after house, building after building. Exiting at Yokohama station we took the walkway through Yokohama Sky building and then crossed a bridge into Nissan Global Head Quarters Gallery. This is a great place for all car freaks who would like to sit and look at the latest car models without being approached by an annoying sales people. There were not only the newest cars on show, there was also a section with interesting facts about the companies history and even more interesting exhinits for anyone who is interested on the technical side of cars, there were motors and on display as well. Kids love the interactive screens, showcasing the in and outs of the many different vehicles. Nissan also holds children specific sessions during the summer holidays, but please note that these are in Japanese only.
Hara Train Model Museum
After our visit I found out that right next door is the Hara Train Model Museum with a selection of over 6000 model trains arranged on vast layouts, Jerome could have probably spent hours there and would have not wanted to leave, we have added it to the next time wish list.
Strolling through Yokohama
Leaving the air conditioned hall behind we were back outside in the still stifling hot summer’s heat, despite it being the beginning of September. However, once we had passed Shin Takashima station we stumbled onto a pedestrian area, with cooling mist sprayed from jets in the ground to the joy of many children and adults. Jerome immediately immersed himself in the tiny drops, while we casually strolled along the road in the cooling artificial mist. Halfway along the pedestrian area we found a lovely restaurant with tables outside where we took seats and had lunch. Jerome kept disappearing and playing with some of the other kids while we waited for our food to arrive. Luckily he was not too wet on his return.
After lunch we headed on towards the harbor, which is the heart of Yokohama. The skyscrapers easily match those in Tokyo and there was a cool sculpture, that Jerome described as a roller coaster looping was set amidst the buildings. Shortly after we got a first glimpse of the harbor, the fun park with its big wheel and the famous Japanese sailboat, the Nippon Maru. The four mast sailing ship dates back to 1930 and was built as a training ship for cadets. During her service she sailed around the globe an unbelievable 45 times and has been docked in Yokohama port ever since she retired in 1985. If you have always wanted to look into a classic sailing boat, take the possibility and explore this beautiful, wooden ship inside and out. Tickets can be combined with the Yokohama Port Museum.
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouses
Strolling on over the elevated park of Kishamichi we soon arrived at the famous Yokohama Red Brick Warehouses. These stunning, historical buildings were used as warehouses until 1989 and then converted into a cultural and shopping destination in Yokohama. The two brick buildings now house a range of cafes, restaurants and shops and a variety of events are held in the plaza between the two. Taking a short walk through the ground floor of one of the building we enjoyed browsing at the many boutiques and cafes. Somehow it felt wrong for us to be inside the dark building while the sun was shining outside, therefore, we exited the building.
Refreshing Drinks and Icecream
We walked on, across the bridge to Zou No Hana Terrace. Here we treated ourselves to cool drinks and an ice cream and sat outside on the benches in the shade of the cherry trees. Jerome happily watched the boats passing in the port and there even was a cruise ship docked at the cruise terminal.
Wandering on, not far from the harbor we found Yokohama’s other major sight, Chinatown. Japan’s largest Chinese community, reminded me quite a lot of London’s , except it was larger in size. The narrow streets were lined with restaurant after restaurant and red and golden lampions crisscrossing above our heads. Some of the restaurants had plastic food displays or picture menus, just like any Japanese restaurant would. Every now and then we spotted a shop with Chinese souvenirs and food plus the odd fortune teller and Chinese medicine shop. In the heart of the district we visited the elaborately carved and colourful Tang Guan Temple. We watched some worshippers light incense sticks and then kneeling down to pray to the three gods.
Dinner at an Okinawan Restaurant
Instead of having food in Chinatown we took the train back to Anamoriinari and had dinner at Kariyushi, a restaurant, with delicious food originating in Okinawa. The dishes brought back happy memories of our times on Miyakojima and Ishigaki, even though Jerome was too little then to remember our stay on the tropical islands. The super Japanese food was a perfect end to this holiday in Tokyo and Japan.