Yokohama, a city that sits in Tokyo Bay, is often overlooked when traveling in Japan. I admit, it is not that exciting and culturally rich as other travel destinations, but it still has unique attractions to offer. If you are in the Tokyo area looking for a day-trip and are sick of shrines and temples, Yokohama is for you.
Yokohama is the capital city of Kanagawa prefecture. It is slightly to the south of Tokyo and on the mainland of Honshu Island. It is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo area. Initially starting out as a fishing village that opened Japan’s doors to foreign trade through its port, it developed into a prominent port city very rapidly, and also holds a large population of foreign nationals. Yokohoma’s climate is a humid subtropical climate with hot and humid summers and not too cold winters.
There are many places of interest in Yokohama that fascinates travelers. At 106 meters, Yokohama Marine Tower, is the tallest inland light house in the whole world. It is located in the Yamashita Park next to the water front in the celebrated port area of Kannai. Japan’s largest Chinatown is situated in this city as well, and is worth a visit. You will find the food tasting very different from the Chinatown in New York or any other place. If you liked the ramen noodles there, be sure to stop by the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum to learn how this mouth-watering dish spread from Yokohama to the rest of Japan. Very near to Chinatown is the famous Yokohama Doll Museum and the Silk Center. The Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature with its lovely rose garden is also within reach.
Yokohama’s harbor area houses the Cosmo Clock 21, which is not only a giant ferry wheel but the worlds biggest clock too. It also provides amazing photographs at night. If you’re awed by vast arenas or stadiums, the Yokohama Arena built for 17,000 people is in the vicinity, next to the Shikansen station. The International Stadium Yokohama and Nissan Stadium are some more. Finally, in the Naka Ward, there is a famous Japanese garden called “Sankeien” that was designed by a silk trader, Tomitaro Hara.
Yakushima is an island located off the south-east coast of Japan. It is officially recognized by UNESCO and is on the World Heritage List since 1993. Yakushima is an extraordinary travel destination, referred to even as a magic island, as more than seventy-five percent of the place is covered with dense forests and mountains. Mountain tops are covered with snow throughout the winters and climate is sub-tropical in the coastal regions. These mountains receive heavy rainfall, making Yakushima’s climate soggier than other parts of Japan. The word Yakushima means Medicine Island and herbologists around the world have been cultivating local herbs for various cures for a long time.
With one main road circling the island, beautiful mountains, trails, and waterfalls along the way attract a lot of hikers and nature lovers. Fruit gardens and museums are some of the main tourist attractions that make Yakushima an enchanting place. The fruit garden is at the south-west coast of the island, offering a relaxing stroll between the tropical trees and fruit plants. The museums and visitor centers in Yakushima exhibit the natural wonders of the island. They also provide a knowledge ride of the history of Yakushima Island.
This mountainous region offers a plethora of beautiful scenery. There are two waterfalls, “Okonotaki” and “Senpironotaki,” just off the main road. Spread out over the island are also beaches, the most famous among them being “Nagata-inaka-hama.” If you happen to visit the island between the months of May-August you could encounter giant sea turtles. They come to shore to lay eggs late at night (or early in the morning, depends how you look at it), between 1 am to 2 am.
Some buses run between major destinations inside the island, but renting a car in Yakushima is practically a must. It’s a long way from Tokyo and requires a ferry or flight in from Kagoshima, but well worth the trouble for those of you who are hungry for some adventure.
Located to the southeast of Tokyo, Kamakura is on the itinerary of almost all tourists. Once upon a time it was the political capital of the country. Later its glory as a capital was lost to another city, but it remains a favorite tourist destination.
Kamakura has numerous attractions which bring tourists to this small city in great numbers, usually as a day-trip from Tokyo. Located in an open, picturesque location, is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. It is 13.35 meters high and is second to the one in Nara’s Todaiji temple. The temple for the goddess of mercy, Kannon, sits in Hasendera. The 9.18 meters tall goddess has eleven heads representing its various characteristics. Adjacent to the temple is the Amida-do Hall, which houses a three-meter tall golden Buddha. From there you can visit the observation deck that offers a splendid view of the city, and back at the base of the slope lies a lovely garden with a temple – Benten-do – dedicated to the goddess of feminine beauty and wealth.
Kamkura’s most prized shrine is the Tsurugaoka. It is dedicated to Hachiman, the Samurai god. The main hall has a museum which displays swords, masks and documents – true treasures of the shrine. Out of the five Zen temples of Kamakura, Engakuji temple is most famous. The temple grounds include Shariden, a well designed hall where rests a tooth of Buddha. Engakunji lights up colorfully during autumn.
The beaches of Kamakura come alive with people in the summer months, while millions of people gather in the historic city to witness the New Year celebrations. In the spring, it is a custom for the Japanese to visit the Zeniarai Benten shrine to wash money. It is believed that by doing so the money doubles – worth a shot.