Thursday, January 26, 2012

Revisiting Yokohama : Minato Mirai Area

On the last day of 2011, we visited Yokohama again. Actually it was a totally unplanned visit. Having spent 2 whole days sightseeing in Tokyo, we wanted to finish off the trip with something different. Since Yokohama was probably the closest from Tokyo, we decided to go there.

Yokohama has been one of my favourite cities in Japan.  The look of the city is much different from the other Japanese cities. Our earlier visit to Yokohama was to the Yamashita Park and China town area. This time we skipped these places and visited the Minato Mirai area.

Minato Mirai, or “Harbour of the future” as the name suggests, is a newly developed urban area which used to be a shipyard till the 1980’s. It’s seaside location makes it a perfect city centre complete with shopping malls, hotels, convention centre, amusement park, residential complexes and recreation areas.

Japan’s tallest building, the Landmark Tower, is the most easily recognizable skyscraper. The 69th floor of the Landmark Tower is called Sky Garden and it has an observatory. You can ride on the world’s fastest elevator to reach the observatory.

Opening Hours: 10:00-21:00 hrs
Closing Days: Open all 365 days
Entrance fees: 1000 yen.
 Along the waterfront in front of the Landmark tower is situated the Cosmo World.
The Cosmo World houses the famous Ferris wheel with its time display. 
It used to be the biggest clock in the world at the time it was installed. Cosmo World has many other amusement rides, including a roller coaster ride and kids zone.

Opening Hours: 11:00-21:00
Closing days: Thursdays
Entrance fees: No entrance fees. Separate tickets for each ride, ranging between 300-700 yen.
 Anchored just across the road from the Landmark tower, is the retired sailing ship “Nippon Maru”. This ship was built in 1930 and sailed for over 50 years serving as a marine training vessel. It has travelled a distance of 1,830,000 kms and some 11500 people were trained aboard it. It also served as a vessel for repartriating some 25000 people from Japan’s overseas colonies after the end of WWII. It was retired from service in 1984 when it was permanently docked at its current location.  
 The Yokohama Maritime museum is located closeby. It showcases Yokohama’s role as the first major international port in Japan. Considering the fact, that Yokohama was the first place in Japan to open up to the outside world, the city’ development into a major international port was indeed a major step.

A combined ticket for 600 yen can be purchased for the Maritime museum and the Nippon maru. When either of the attraction is closed, the ticket for the operating attraction is priced at 400 yen. Nippon maru is occasionally closed additionally for maintenance.

We couldn’t enter both the museum and the Nippon maru as they were closed for the New Year holiday. But we did walk around and take some pictures.

Opening Hours: 10:00-17:00
Closed: Mondays  and New Year’s Holiday.

We drove from Minato Mirai area to the Aka Renga park. 
The red brick warehouses, known in Japanese as “Aka Renga Soko” were serving during the period when the area was a port.
Now these have been converted to serve as a shopping cum restaurant area. The area outside is the perfect place to spend some leisurely time.

Just outside the Aka renga park are the remnants of the foundation of the erstwhile centre office of the Customs House Annex constructed in 1914. 
It was destroyed by the Kanto Earthquake and lay buried till its discovery during the construction of the Aka-renga Park. 
The Japan Coast Guard Museum is a stone’s throw away. 

Try riding a “Velotaxi”, a cycle rickshaw of sorts, just outside the Aka-renga Park.
 The World Porters mall is a popular hangout in the area. Each floor has a different theme. The Broadway floor which has restaurants, movie theatres, shops and amusement area is particularly impressive.

Driving from the area towards Yamashita Park, we saw a couple of interesting buildings- prominent among them being the “ Tower of Queen”- which houses the office of Yokohama Customs ;
and the “Tower of Jack”, which is the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall.

Yokohama city Map :

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