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The Best Of Yokohama As Experienced On A Pop-Culture Pilgrimage

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Located in the greater Tokyo area, Yokohama is full of attractions connected to culture and history, and scenic shopping areas by the sea. A MATCHA editor from Thailand, who is fascinated with this bustling port city and video games, will be your guide on this tour to discover local gems!

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Where to Visit in Yokohama

Yokohama is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture. This city offers attractions boasting rich cultural heritage, scenic ports, and shopping streets frequented by locals. From Tokyo, Yokohama is accessible in less than an hour, which makes it the perfect destination for a day trip.

The writer first visited Yokohama on a "seichi junrei," a pilgrimage-like journey, to see scenes from her favorite video games, and became fascinated with the city itself. This article features attractions where you, too, can discover the charm of this port city.

Seichi Junrei: Visiting Sites Related to Pop-Culture

As mentioned earlier, "seichi junrei" describes a pop-culture pilgrimage by fans to the site of scenes or locations in their favorite anime, video game, movie, drama, or novel. Although this buzzword garnered popularity around 2007, this trend of visiting sacred pop-culture places is still going strong.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: Fans Share Their Favorite Spots

A view of the city from Osanbashi Pier. Photograph taken in 2008

Our writer visited Yokohama in 2007 and 2008 to embark on a seichi junrei.

A video game featuring the city was her personal favorite at the time. Coincidentally, a guidebook of Yokohama authorized by the game creator was published. While seichi junrei was not a notable phenomenon among international fans, the writer—who was an exchange student in Japan—visited the city with the guidebook in hand.

This article features photographs taken around 2008 by the writer, along with current photos taken from 2018 to 2020.

Sankeien: A Spacious Garden

As mentioned above, Yokohama boasts a wide variety of attractions. Sankeien, a large Japanese garden, is an excellent spot to appreciate tradition and cultural heritage.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: Fans Share Their Favorite Spots

Sankeien Garden. Photograph taken in 2018

Although Sankeien Garden is not in the city center, it is easily accessible by bus from Yokohama Station in about 35 minutes.

The garden, which opened in 1906, spans 175,000 square meters. There is a large pond on the grounds, along with 17 historical Japanese-style homes. Some of these properties have been designated as important cultural assets by the Japanese government. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal flowers and events throughout the year.

This scenic garden is ideal for enjoying an authentic Japanese atmosphere. Matcha tea and confections are served in the lobby of the Sankei Memorial Hall.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: Fans Share Their Favorite Spots

Sankeien Garden. Photograph taken in 2018

The writer has visited this garden many times because it appeared in the final scene of her favorite video game. This scene featured irises in full bloom, so she would visit from late May to June to appreciate the flowers in reality.


Yokohama Chinatown: A Site Showcasing Authentic Cuisine and Multiculturalism

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: Fans Share Their Favorite Spots

Yokohama Chinatown. Photograph taken in 2008

Yokohama is a port town that has flourishes historical with international trade. Foreign residents have taken root in the area, in turn transforming Yokohama into a cosmopolitan city. Created by Chinese merchants after the port opened in 1859, Yokohama Chinatown is the largest of its kind in Japan.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: Fans Share Their Favorite Spots

Yokohama Chinatown/Photograph taken in 2019

Now it has become a must-see sightseeing spot. While taking in the sights, visitors can enjoy souvenir shopping and taste delicious Chinese cuisine at eateries lining the streets.

Those living in Japan also come to Chinatown to buy seasonings and ingredients used in authentic Chinese cooking. There are two shrines in the area, and traditional events—notably Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival—are observed every year.

Although our writer initially visited Yokohama Chinatown because it appeared in a video game, she currently comes to enjoy the tasty food.


Yamate Seiyoukan: A Historical Heritage of the Port Town

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

The Home of a Diplomat. Photograph taken in 2008

Neighboring Yokohama Chinatown, the Yamate area is a sightseeing attraction on top of a hill. When Japan opened its territories to the outside world, Westerners settled in this area.

Historic spots such as the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery and Yamate Seiyoukan (Western-style house) are located here.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

The Home of a Diplomat 2019. Photo by Pixta

The seven Western houses called the Yamate Seiyoukan were once residences for foreign ambassadors and merchants. The buildings are now open to the public and are either used as a cafe or for hosting events, including concerts.

Be sure to visit the nearby parks, rose gardens, and an observatory deck in the area. Yamate is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea or simply walk the streets among the historical homes on a beautiful day. The writer felt like a character in her favorite video game—existing in a realm between fiction and reality.

Those who want to take a walk steeped in nostalgic romanticism should check the official site of the Seiyoukan. An English map can be downloaded from this page.

Motomachi: A Shopping Street Steeped in History

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

Motomachi Shopping Street. Photograph taken in 2008

Motomachi is an old-fashioned shopping street located between Chinatown and Yamate district that is frequented by locals.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, this area prospered as a shopping district for foreign nationals. Various stores selling the latest fashion items, along with Western merchandise and services, opened one after another.

Many local Yokohama brands also originated in this thriving area.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

Motomachi Shopping Street. Photograph taken in 2019

Motomachi still thrives as a shopping district with a unique atmosphere.

Local Yokohama shops such as the leather goods store Kitamura and Kitamura K2, the shoe brand Mihama, the accessories shop Star Jewelry, confectionery chain Fujiya, and the bakery Pompadour line the street.

There are chic restaurants and cafes where you can share photogenic snaps on your social media account. The writer's favorite spot is Cafe Next-Door, located next to Mutekiro, a French restaurant.

The writer often took a coffee break at this cafe or bought confectioneries to-go when there was no time to spare. The Yokohama Renga, a chocolate cake inspired by the Red Brick Warehouse, is a must-try for chocolate lovers.

There is an English version of the shopping street's website, which features the latest news on Motomachi.

Yamashita Park: A Seaside Park Near Tokyo

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

Yamashita Park. Photograph taken in 2008.

Yamashita Park is a huge seaside park with a public square and garden. A popular sightseeing spot, it's an ideal place for a scenic stroll. Additionally, the park feels spacious and not crowded because of its vast size.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

Hikawamaru at Yamashita Park. Photograph taken in 2019

Hikawamaru, a former cargo and passenger ship, is anchored at this park. Visitors are allowed to board the vessel, which served as a hospital ship during World War II.

There is a separate dock for cruise ships. Without setting foot on a cruise, you can take in the breeze while watching the seagulls soaring in the sky. This view will surely brighten your mood, washing away the weariness of everyday life.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

Rinko Park 2019. Photo by Pixta

Another seaside park, which appeared in our writer's favorite video game, is located nearby. It is called Rinko Park and is a short distance away from Minatomirai Station.

Mostly locals frequent the park, but the occasional tourist can be found here, too. The park offers a quiet atmosphere that will soothe any visitor's mind.

Those wishing to get away from the bustle of Tokyo should visit this park while listening to the sound of the waves.


A Place to Enjoy Both Fiction and Reality

Many tourists, along with those on pop-culture pilgrimages of their own, flock to Yokohama. This romantic city near Tokyo has appeared not only in manga comics and video games but also in TV dramas and movies.

Yokohama is also the stage for popular anime and gaming events.

Pop-Culture Pilgrimage To Yokohama: A Fan Shares His Favorite Spots

A view of the city from Osanbashi Pier. Photograph taken in 2019

Our writer first visited Yokohama to experience the setting of her favorite video game. However, she was moved by its beautiful scenery, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and cultural heritage on this single excursion that sparked future visits.

The seaside parks also offer an escape from the urban concrete jungle. Fortunately, the places mentioned above are less than an hour away from Tokyo.

Those who are wondering where to go for a seichi junrei or simply want to sightsee should consider Yokohama. This port city offers an eclectic selection of cuisine and places of interest.

If you have a favorite piece book, comic, film, or other work, why not visit the actual places that appeared in it? By venturing out to the settings in your favorite work of fiction, you might also become fascinated by the real world.

Written by

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Kogetsu

Tokyo, Japan

A Bangkok native who landed in Japan several years ago. I still hate the trains at rush hour, though... In my free time, I enjoy traveling, eating delicious food, and visiting sacred sites. I love Japanese culture--especially shrines and pop culture. ♥ If I see a cat, I can't resist petting it. I have over 10 years of experience in the translation field. (Let's not talk about my age here...) I became an editor because I love to write. I introduce news and topics related to Japanese culture on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and have 40,000 followers as of December 2019. I suppose this makes me somewhat of a blogger.
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