Yokohama…

Having been so stressed out with studying and working recently, I randomly decided to book myself a birthday weekend away to Yokohama.  It’s been good to have something to look forward to, and I’ve wanted to go to Yokohama for a long time.  I like port cities, so I always figured I would like Yokohama – and I was right! I loved it!!

I booked a hotel (Toyoko Inn) at Shin Yokohama (where the bullet train station is) as it was cheaper and seemed more convenient. I wasn’t sure about that decision before the trip, but I don’t regret it now.  Getting to Yokohama from Shin Yokohama was really easy, and even though getting back was a little more complicated it wasn’t that bad.  And, through some twist of luck or fate my hotel fee was cheaper than I expected.  I was expecting about ¥7000 and it came out at less than ¥5000! I don’t know if that had anything to do with my being a member card holder, or if the website was just wrong, but I’m not complaining.

After arriving at Shin Yokohama and dumping my bag in the hotel, I made my way to Yokohama, more specifically to Sakuragi-cho, where my adventure was going to begin.  One thing I was looking forward to about Yokohama was going to Next, a British clothes store which I LOVE.  Well, I was planning to go on Monday, after I’d had enough of sightseeing, but as I came out of Sakuragi-cho station, I found that Next was right there in front of me, and it was just too much temptation to ignore!  So, the first thing I really did in Yokohama was go shopping for clothes.  And it was soooo good!  Also, when I gave the store clerk my member card, she knew it was my birthday and gave me a birthday discount!  How cool is that?

My first sightseeing mission was to go up the Yokohama Landmark Tower.

Landmark Tower

However, on the way I got a little distracted again and discovered H&M.  This was also too tempting for me, so I did a little more shopping before the sightseeing began… (Hey, it was my birthday!)

Yokohama Landmark Tower is the tallest building in Japan.  Its elevator is the world’s second fastest (the first is in Taipei).  It reaches speeds of 12.5m per second, and can reach the 69th floor (where the observation deck is) in about 40 seconds!  It made my head feel fluffy, and my ears pop, but it was kinda cool.  The views were absolutely spectacular!

View of Yokohama from the Landmark Tower

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View of Yokohama from the Landmark Tower - Mount. Fuji

Yes, that’s Mt. Fuji in the top left corner!

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View of Yokohama from the Landmark Tower

See the horizon?  Doesn’t it look like the edge of the world…?

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View of Yokohama from the Landmark Tower

Cosmo Clock 21 (ferris wheel) and Yokohama Bay Bridge

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By the time I left the Landmark Tower building my belly was rumbling, so I stopped for some lunch, and then headed off to see more of the Minato Mirai 21 area, including the famous red brick warehouses (Yokohama Akarenga Sōko).

Red Brick Warehouses

Strolling along by the sea, despite the cold wind, was just wonderful. The sun was shining brightly and it really was a beautiful day. I walked right along the port, by a huge ship that was docked there…

Ship

…and had some fun photographing seagulls…

Seagull

I left the port side to wander through Yamashita Park, where I found a statue of the famous “Girl with the Red Shoes On”, Kimi Iwasaki.

The girl with the red shoes on

I saw a gorgeous book in Yokohama, depicting the story of this girl, and I wish I had bought it.  I thought I would be able to find the story easily enough on the internet, but I haven’t been able to find a definitive version yet.  Here’s the best I’ve found online, and here’s an extract from that website:

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”):

A little girl nice in her pretty red shoes
Has gone far away, taken by a foreigner (American).

From the port of Yokohama, over the waves,
She has gone with him to his home.

I wonder if she is happy and has nice days.
I wonder if her eyes are blue like a foreigner’s.

I remember her when I see pretty red shoes.
I wonder how she is when I meet a foreigner.

The song is based on a true story; although versions of the story vary somewhat, the general gist of it is as follows. The little girl in the song is Kimi Iwasaki, born July 15, 1902, in a village in the foothills of old Shizuoka prefecture that was then called Fujimi-mura (it is now in the Shimizu ward of the city of Shizuoka). At the age of three, Kimi was adopted by an American missionary couple, Charles Hewett (or Huit) and his wife. Her mother, Kayo, being poor, had surrendered her in the belief that she was doing the best thing for her daughter.

In the song, a young girl accompanies a foreigner by ship from Yokohama, presumably headed for the United States. Her mother wonders if she is happy and if her eyes have turned blue like a foreigner’s. The lyrics reflect Kayo’s belief that the Hewetts had taken Kimi home with them.

In fact, contrary to the words of the song, Kimi had never left Japan at all. When it was time for the Hewetts to leave, it was discovered that she had tuberculosis, which was incurable at that time. It seemed doubtful that she would survive the long ocean voyage, so she was left in a Methodist church orphanage in the Azabu-Jūban section of Tokyo. There Kimi died on September 15, 1911, at the age of nine.

As one might expect, there were a lot of souveniers available relating “Akai Kutsu”.  I just bought this one, which I thought was cute:

Yokohama chocolate: Akai Kutsu

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Yokohama chocolate: Akai Kutsu

One of Yokohama’s main tourist attractions is its Chinatown (yokohama chūkagai), which is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world.  I was excited about going there, but I have to say it wasn’t my favourite part of Yokohama, and I actually preferred it down by the port.  It was very crowded, and seemed too commercialised.  I was also a bit unprepared for the pushy food sales people, who even spoke English to me.  Living in Japan has made me accustomed to being left alone when I shop, but I felt a little hassled as I walked around Chinatown.

Still, it did have some beautiful architecture. There are four main gates, and five more within.  I don’t know which ones are which, but here are some of them…

Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

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Yokohama Chinatown

There are also a couple of temples in Chinatown.  I know one of them is called Kanteibyo, but I don’t know the which one it is and I don’t know the other temple’s name.  So here are both of the temples I found…

Yokohama Chinatown

Temple no. 1

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Yokohama Chinatown

Temple no. 1

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Yokohama Chinatown

Temple no. 2

Of course, one of Chinatown’s main attractions is the food.  However, as I couldn’t read many of the signs, and I don’t eat beef and pork, I was wary about trying anything. I definitely didn’t want to try nikuman!

Santas escaping from becoming nikuman...

Perhaps Chinatown would have been more fun if I had tried some more food.  Maybe next time I should go with someone who can read the signs!  I don’t know if they were in Chinese or Japanese, but there were way too many kanji for me!

It was already getting dark by the time I left Chinatown, so I decided to make my way to Yokohama Marine Tower, as I wanted to see the night view.

Marine Tower
When I went there, I saw a sign which was all in Japanese except “Birthday Go Go”.  I didn’t understand much of the Japanese, but I thought it might be some kind of birthday discount.  So I told the woman it was my birthday and showed ID… and got in for free!  I saved myself ¥750. 😀

The Marine Tower is the tallest lighthouse in the world, at 106 meters. It was very crowded inside, and the line for the elevator was really long.  So, when the offer came, I decided to take the stairs.  I didn’t actually realise that I had just volunteered to walk up the whole tower!  But once I had started I couldn’t very well stop (the “point of no return”, as one of my friends commented afterwards…).  There was an old guy and his (I guess) grandson there too, climbing just ahead of me.  The old guy was really cool, and he stopped a couple of times to speak to me, and one time to point out the view of Fuji-san with the setting sun, which was utterly awesome.  I couldn’t catch it well on camera though, as I was very out of breath and the tower was actually shaking in the wind!!

I climbed the Marine Tower, and it was worth it for this view of Fuji i the setting sun (which this photo doesn't do justice to at all!)

That photo is terrible, but the view was really excellent! I did feel ever-so-slightly terrified as I climbed the tower, but the sense of achievement when I reached the top was like climbing Mt. Fuji itself!  Haha!

And the night views were, as I had hoped, wonderful…

Yokohama at night, with Mount. Fuji

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Port illuminations

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Yokohama at night

I was quite exhausted (and cold) by the time I was done at the tower, so I decided it was time to head back to my hotel and relax. I walked back to the station the way I had come (god knows how much I must have walked during the weekend!), along by the sea.  It took me quite a while to get back, though.  First I was captivated by the night view…

Yokohama at night

Then I found myself drawn to the eco-friendly illuminations at Minato Mirai 21 – “Candle Cafe 2009”.  The illuminations were done with hundreds of candles, which were being checked on and re-lit by a team of people.  It was a really cold and windy night, so I really felt for them having to go around re-lighting all these candles!  A lot were covered, though, and did a good job of staying lit.  It was really pretty, and an original idea, I thought.

Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

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Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

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Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

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Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

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Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

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Candle Cafe 2009 - Winter illuminations

Finally, I made it back to my hotel, where I chilled out and rested my achy legs!

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The next day, I started out slowly, checking out around 10am, leaving my bag at the hotel, and breakfasting in Starbucks.  I eventually made it down to Motomachi, which is a shopping area.

Motomachi

It was a bit boutiquey for my liking, but there were a couple of shops that I liked, including another Next and a Gap.  It was a relaxing place to meander around and, being a Monday, it was quite quiet.

My last real sightseeing spot was Harbor View Park, which I went to because it’s supposed to be the best place to see Yokohama Bay Bridge from.  It was a great view!

Yokohama Bay Bridge

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As always, I took loads of photos while I was away.  So, if you want to see more than just the highlights above, please check out my Flickr page.

I really enjoyed my birthday trip to Yokohama!  It was just what I needed – shopping, sightseeing and Starbucks!  Oh, and some serious relaxing, too! 😀

7 thoughts on “Yokohama…

  1. Glad to know that your birthday was great. Thanks for the useful information on Akai kutsu. I never knew the story behind the scene. See you soon!

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  2. Great tour of Yokohama! It’s the city I work in, so I spend a lot of time in the areas you visited. Check out my blog, as I have pics of Yokohama and Tokyo. By the way, I passed JLPT 3 last year after a second try. I hope you did well!

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  3. Good post. I have recently moved here and wondered what the view is like from the top of the Landmark Tower. If you make it back here and want serious relaxation, there is an onsen across the road from the Ferris Wheel with views from the roof.

    I never heard of the story of Akai Kuttsu.

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    • Thanks for the comment. I recommend the Landmark Tower – the views are really great! I’m sure I’ll come back to Yokohama sometime – it’s a beautiful city and I’d like to see it in another season.

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