Yokohama is a bit of a quandary to classify. It’s closer to my flat than many parts of Tokyo, there is no major break in the urban landscape along the train line to really indicate that you are leaving one city and entering another, but it very clearly is a different city with a different feel. To me that makes it eligible as a daytrip destination, even if I generally have only gone for a couple of hours when trying to get to a particular destination.
Getting there couldn’t be easier – many JR and private train lines connect it to Tokyo in about half an hour. One word of caution is that the train lines from Tokyo going on to Ofuna split at Yokohama station and the majority of city attractions are located a few stops further along the Yokohama / Negishi line, pick the wrong line and you will bypass what you are looking for.
The key day-trip sights are Chinatown, the waterfront, and the developments in those areas (including Landmark Tower – Japan’s tallest building). As with most large cities there are of course lots of things to see and do outside of these, but these make up a reasonable day.
First stop – Ishikawacho station and on to Chinatown. Although the first few feet out of the station make you wonder if you are in the right area, follow the general flow of people and you will soon find yourself looking at the first of several large and ornate gates. Carry on through and it’s a Chinatown much like many others around the world with restaurants on top of restaurants, tea shops, gift stores, groceries, community organizations, temples, street vendors, and some more restaurants.
Next – over the hill and down to the waterfront for a walk along the promenade park. If it’s a better day for indoor activities, the restored 1930’s ocean liner Hikawa Maru makes a good stop out of the weather. After a good stroll the red brick warehouses, reminiscent in style more of Hamburg’s Speicherstadt than other Japanese buildings of the era, offer an impressive selection of cafes and shops within their impressively renovated interiors.
Finally – from the warehouses follow the canal toward the imposing Landmark Tower. On a clear day the views from it’s observation deck are supposed to be outstanding, but on the day I thought about going up several busloads of people got in line ahead of me and I decided to settle for a lengthy browse through a nearby bookstore before catching the train home.