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Free and Close-by! The Frescoes On the Minato-Mirai Line

Free and Close-by! The Frescoes On the Minato-Mirai Line

Translated by Hilary Keyes

Written by Matsurika

Kanagawa 2016.10.20 Bookmark

Most passengers just use the Minato-Mirai line to go back and forth - but that's a waste! If you get the chance, there are two unbelievable art spots you absolutely must see located inside and near these stations.

When thinking of sightseeing spots in Yokohama, the Minato-Mirai area immediately comes to mind. Shopping, gourmet restaurants, a theme park that young and old can enjoy, art - you can find almost everything at a convenient distance here.

And, connecting Yokohama station to Motomachi-Chūkagai station, where you'll find Chinatown and other sightseeing spots, is the Minato-Mirai subway line.

Most passengers on the Minato-Mirai line simply use it to go back and forth - but that's a waste! If you get the chance to take the Minato-Mirai line there are a couple stopovers you should absolutely make along the way.

Only a short distance from the Minato-Mirai line stations you'll find some incredible fresco work that you can view for free.

Inside Nihon Ōdōri Station: Artist Ryōhei Yanagihara's Mural


To begin with, let's look at this mural, found in Nihon Ōdōri Station. Designed by Yokohama's representative illustrator, comic artist and essayist Ryōhei Yanagihara, this mural features the character Uncle Tory, from the Suntory Holdings Tory's whisky brand.

Mr. Yanagihara was born in Tokyo in 1931, but moved to Naka city in Yokohama where he produced the majority of his works. He passed away in August of 2015 at the age of 84. Other than his illustrations, Mr. Yanagihara also published many works on boats, children's books and more.

Mr. Yanagihara loved the sea and drew many ships over the course of his career. By looking at the picture of this fresco you can clearly see the unique forms that are distinct to Mr. Yanagihara's work.


There are three murals in Nihon Ōdōri Station. Here is the face of Minato-Mirai with the Landmark Tower, Queens Tower, the InterContinental Hotel, and Aka-renga Sōko (the Red Brick warehouse) in the background, this piece shows off the incredible landscape of Yokohama's port city.


And this is the third fresco. This piece features the aptly nicknamed "King, Queen and Jack" of Yokohama city: the Yokohama prefectural office (the "king"), the Yokohama Customs office (the "queen"), and the Yokohama Port Opening Memorial Hall (the "jack"). These three buildings are representative of Yokohama's rich cultural heritage.

How to Find the Frescoes

Here's how to get to the frescoes from the station.


Get off the train at the Minato-Mirai line's Nihon Ōdōri Station and head towards the ticket gates.


From the ticket gates walk towards exit 3; hanging down from the ceiling you'll see a large yellow illuminated sign with a number three on it, head along this path.

In this photo on the left you can see Mr. Ryōhei Yanagihara's three large murals.


If you've become a fan of Mr. Yanagihara's art after seeing these frescoes, you might want to buy some of these treats as a souvenir.

These are the popular Ariake Harbor baked sweets made in the shape of boats by the confectionery company Ariake found in Naka city, Yokohama.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama Port, in 2009 the package design was changed to one featuring more of Mr. Yanagihara's drawings.

Marine Tower: Kiyoshi Yamashita's Mosaic Frescoes

Next, we'd like to show you the works of Japan's van Gogh, Kiyoshi Yamashita.
Kiyoshi Yamashita was born in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, and, though he struggled with a slight speech impediment and was developmentally challenged, Mr. Yamashita was an artistic genius, bringing forth thousands of brilliant works of art throughout his lifetime. By tearing up thousands of pieces of colored paper and pasting them to other papers, Mr. Yamashita triumphed as a torn paper collage artisan.

From 1940 when he was 18 years old until 1954, Mr. Yamashita went on a 14 year wander, drawing as he traveled far and wide across the whole of Japan. At that time his book, "The Wandering Diary" was published, which was later made into the TV drama "The Naked General's Wandering Diary". It's because of these points that Mr. Yamashita is thought of quite fondly by the Japanese.


Mr. Yamashita's works can be found a mere one minute walk from the Minato-Mirai line's Motomachi-Chūkagai station in the Marine Tower. Within the tower's entrance hall, two large frescoes can be found.

Both works were donated by the artist himself in 1961.

This piece shows the Yokohama of 1961. The above mosaic shows what looks to be a modernized Yokohama Customs office building and a large scale ship and pier scene.


And on the right side of this piece shows the old Yokohama landscape. With beautiful fireworks lighting up the sky, people in historical garb walking along the harbor below, and ships floating in the sea, the whole of this mosaic brings to mind the celebratory atmosphere of the original opening of the port.

How to Find the Frescoes

Ok, now let's make our way from the station to these works. First, get off the Minato-Mirai line train at the last stop, Motomachi-Chūkagai station.


Go through the ticket gates and walk along the route leading towards exit 4, the Marine Tower Exit.


Take the escalator up to the ground level.


If you turn around and face the exit, you'll see the top of the tower.


Keeping Marine Tower in sight, walk straight down the road.


After entering the building turn left.


And once you've gone inside, you'll discover the mosaic frescoes right before your eyes.

So What Do you Think?

The two art spots we've introduced you to here are places that you can easily find in the stations while commuting, or when you're walking about the city. And after viewing these works by the incredible artists Ryōhei Yanagihara and Kiyoshi Yamashita, made with the nostalgic image of the port city Yokohama in mind, you can soon make your way over to Yamashita Park and take a look at the Yokohama of today.

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