Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama: Japan’s Second City

Part of the Greater Tokyo-Yokohama Metropolitan Area, Yokohama is located in Japan’s Kanto region, about 15 miles southwest of Tokyo. Known as Japan’s most cosmopolitan city, Yokohama has a large foreign population, including many Chinese and Korean residents, who give the city its international flair.

Once a minor village, Yokohama first achieved international importance when, in 1854, American naval officer Matthew C. Perry concluded the Convention of Kanagawa with Japan’s military rulers. The result of months of painstaking diplomacy, the Convention allowed American whaling vessels to dock in Japanese ports for the first time, and effectively opened Japan to the outside world.

Perry’s gunboat diplomacy had, at first, convinced the Japanese to open the port of Kanagawa. When that city was deemed too close to Tokyo, Yokohama was chosen instead.

While Yokohama’s history as a port city has played the largest role in shaping its present circumstances, other events have had major impacts of their own. In opening Japan to foreign trade, Commodore Perry forced the country into a rapid program of modernization. In the 20th century, the twin disasters of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and Allied bombing raids in 1945, each reduced the city of Yokohama to a pile of rubble. Destroyed twice within 22 years, Yokohama is now one of the world’s most modern cities.

Of all Yokohama’s modern attractions, the most impressive is the Minato Mirai 21 area. Begun in 1983, Minato Mirai 21 is an 88 acre development that was once a shipyard. Today, the area includes office and residential space, an amusement park and Japan’s tallest building, the Landmark Tower. Yokohama is also notable for its Keihin Industrial Area, its sprawling Chinatown and its busy port, which are among the largest in the country.

The home of the Yokohama BayStars baseball team, Yokohama also has two professional soccer clubs. Yokohama’s climate is exceptionally pleasant year-round, and though it’s classified as humid subtropical, the humidity is not nearly as high as in many western countries that aren’t known for being humid. All in all, Yokohama provides a welcome break from the more claustrophobic Tokyo.