Yokohama is such an underrated city on the Japan tourist trail. Sure, if pressed for time, I’d visit Tokyo, Kyoto and somewhere in the countryside, but with an unhurried schedule, this is a great place to spend some time.
But Yokohama was just a blip on the radar when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into its sheltered harbor on 1853. If you think it would be his ship represented in the manhole cover below, you’d be wrong (as I initially was):
This ship is actually the Nihonmaru (or Nipponmaru), a training vessel that plied the waters of the world from the 1930s to 1984, racking up enough nautical miles to equal 45 trips around the globe. It’s now docked in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai port neighborhood and you can tour the ship from top to bottom and bow to stern – hardly anything is off limits and there are excellent bilingual explanations throughout. If you want to know more about Yokohama’s maritime history – this was one of the first ports in Japan opened to international trade in 1859 – you can tour the actual Maritime Museum itself in an underground building next to the ship.
Granted, Yokohama has modernized quite a bit but even today, it still manages to maintain a feel slightly different to Japan’s other cities – a bustling Chinatown enclave, the old foreigners’ settlement on the hill peppered with Victorian mansions, an uber-modern port area with one of the nation’s tallest buildings. Add to that a tasty ramen museum, several art installations and a beautiful traditional garden and Yokohama could keep you busy for days.