Yokohama, rightly known as the birthplace of Japan’s modern culture, lies in the south of Tokyo. It is the first harbour city introduced to the world as the entrance to Japan. This explains why, ever since its port was opened, Yokohama has been the site for a beautiful mélange and confluence of cultures.
Yokohama has a comparatively mild climate, as it is situated in the middle of the Japanese Islands on the Pacific Coast. It has an average temperature of 16 degrees centigrade. Spring and autumn are very pleasant. Summers may be hot and humid while winters are mild, though it may snow at times. Springs are the best bet to visit this city, especially when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom!
The Yokohama Port is an international trading port. Not only is the city a tourist mecca, but a thriving urban hub, with great opportunities for business and culture. No wonder it acts as a magnet and attracts people from all over. The urban vibe mixes with a deep respect for traditional Japanese culture which emanates from its international museums, unique parks as well as the harbour cityscape.
The Bayside Marina Hotel designed by Japanese firm Yasutaka Yoshimura takes a refreshingly creative look at this bay-city. In fact, it pays homage to the port-city in this hotel design which references a shipping container.
Needless to say, it is also located by the seaside of Yokohama. The hotel basically comprises of prefabricated modular cottages. These are randomly placed on the site and hence, each residence has a different view. The containers which are fabricated in Thailand and assembled in Japan are long and narrow.
Two containers stacked upon one another make up one unit. There is enough space between any two units thereby ensuring privacy and preventing any kind of disruption due to noise. Concrete pathways connect these containers.
One enters into the living area and a stairway leads up to a mezzanine floor that hosts the bedroom. The décor within each unit is simple and minimalistic, quite in sync with the Japanese aesthetic.
The Aka-Renga Soko (Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse) was formally the Customs Inspection House for Yokohama Bay’s shipping activities in the early 1920’s. There are two buildings, which were planned by a Japanese architect and a government official named Tsumaki Yorinaka. The handsome red brick historical buildings now host unique shops, restaurants, a shopping mall, banquet hall, and event venues.
These structures are distinctive as they are made of red bricks, which is quite unusual for Japan. The two main buildings run parallel to each other leaving an open courtyard-like area in between. Some of the key design highlights are the bricks themselves, the beautiful hardwood floors, and exposed ceilings. This gives them both an earthy and chic look.
The Green Haven
When we talk about any space in Japan, there has to be a mention of a garden. The Sankeien Garden is a classical Japanese garden covering over 175,000 square metres. It is renowned for its seasonal beauty.
It contains many historical houses and buildings that are recognised as being culturally significant by the government. The buildings were brought to the park from different locations in the country.
A key mention here must be made of the three storied pagoda located high up on a hill deep inside the garden. This pagoda, originally constructed in Kyoto in the mid-1400s, was relocated to Sankeien in 1914.
A simple stroll will take you through bridges, streams, small waterfalls, bamboo groves, and ponds. Since this used to be the residence of a wealthy silk merchant, Tomitaro ‘Sankei’ Hara (1869-1939), visitors make it a point to look at his house. It is huge with dozens of spacious interconnected rooms, overlooking a private green lawn.
How can one forget the beautiful blossoms that Japan is known for? People come here to experience the blooming flowers, but get enthralled by the buildings as well!
A Chinatown in a city is not uncommon. But, the Yokohama Chinatown is different. It is full of spectacular architectural gems. Of course, as it is known as the world’s best Chinese food spot, people flock here with gourmet-motives. But, once here, they cannot miss the exquisite architecture.
The 150-year-old locale is rich with many historical gates and temples. It is easy to see the vast difference between the Chinese and Japanese styles in every historical sight here.
The famous ‘paifang’ or Chinese-style gates, known also as ‘goodwill gates’ flank the area. There are ten gates and all have been constructed based on the principle of feng shui. They are elaborately designed. Especially conspicuous are the guardian deities that welcome visitors. These deities are donned in the brilliant colours of wu xing (the five elements).
There are a few beautiful and elaborate temples as well. The Yokohama Chinatown offers an interesting slice of Chinese culture, right in the middle of Japan!
Text By Dhanishta Shah