8 Best Tourist Attractions For Backpackers To Explore In Yokohama, Japan

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The Minato Mirai (waterfront) of Yokohama

Close to Tokyo at barely 35 kilometers away, the city of Yokohama may be smaller and less cramped but its tourist attractions are worth visiting especially for backpackers. Any visitor to this city just can’t help but appreciate the magnificent combination of old and new, the hills and the sea, grace and informality that it offers. The capital of Kanagawa prefecture which can be reached in just 30 minutes by train from Tokyo, I saw Yokohama for the first time on February 2016 when our ship, the IVS Kingbird had docked at the Port of Yokohama.

Map of Japan showing the location of Yokohama.

It was just a small fishing village until the 19th century and the end of the Edo Period when USA forced Japan to open its ports for commerce, thus Yokohama became the hub of the country’s foreign policy. Yokohama Port was one of the first ports to be opened for international trade in 1859 and foreign traders came trotting in. And so, outside style mingled with local culture where the people of Yokohama have developed their own version of everything contemporary, that blossomed to the present time.

Just like the city of Tokyo, Yokohama also suffered from two catastrophes that almost totally shattered the city into rubble – the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and bombings by allied forces during World War II in 1945. But albeit its sufferings, in the course of time Yokohama recovered, it became cosmopolitan and elegant through the years. Now let’s check out the best tourist attractions and places to visit that will make your trip as a backpacker in Yokohama worth the while.

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise

The 3-storey aquarium with underwater viewing tunnel at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise.

Located on a little island offshore and about 30 minutes by train from central Yokohama, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is one of the famous amusement parks and tourist attractions in Japan known for its Aqua Museum (one of the biggest aquariums in the country) and theme parks. Admission to the island is absolutely FREE where visitors, especially backpackers can stroll around through the different shops and promenades or dine at its restaurants, however, if you want to enter Aqua Museum or try the pleasure rides, you have to pay a little fee. The huge, 3-storey aquarium with an underwater viewing tunnel is found at the main building although there is an interactive area where visitors can have a close encounter with dolphins and sea lions.

Sankeien Gardens

Choshukaku house believed to have been built in 1623 in Kyoto but relocated to Yokohama at the Sankeien Gardens.

This is a quiet corner when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Yokohama – Sankeien Gardens is a historic park opened in 1904 by Hara Sankei, a silk businessman who brought various ancient buildings from all over Japan and built them in this garden. This is not just a traditional Japanese garden as it also has tea houses, a “daimyo” (house of a feudal lord or shogun) and a main hall. Another one of the best tourist attractions for backpackers, enjoy a pleasant walk here at Sankeien Gardens through luscious foliage and on tiny bridges over small streams.

Sky Garden, Yokohama Landmark Tower

The observation deck at the 69th floor of Sky Garden (Yokohama Landmark Tower).

Standing at 296 meters high and the metaphor of Minato Mirai (waterfront or harbor) area in Yokohama is the Landmark Tower Sky Garden. The world’s 2nd fastest elevator will bring you up to the viewing deck at the 69th floor in just 40 seconds and there you will surely enjoy the city’s panorama including Mt. Fuji when the days are clear. Landmark Tower not only houses a stunning observation deck and the world’s 2nd fastest lift but you will also find a 5-star hotel, some offices, shops and restaurants as well.

The Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden.

Yamashita Park

The Statue of a Little Girl with Red Shoes at Yamashita Park.

Opened in 1930 as part of Yokohama’s rebirth after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Yamashita Park is an inviting space and recreation corner to explore especially for backpackers. Located in proximity to the Port of Yokohama, this public park is not just a green space of beautiful flowers and towering trees but a place of stunning fountains and memorials. Among the statues that captivates your attention are: the Statue of a Little Girl with Red Shoes (based on a Japanese nursery song about a girl who left Japan to live abroad but longing for Yokohama harbor), the Guardian of Water created by an American sculptor and the monument of General Artemio Ricarte, a fellow Filipino from Batac, Ilocos Norte who was exiled here in Yokohama by the Americans during their occupation in the Philippines in the early 1900s, and other art displays.

Monument of Gen. Artemio Ricarte at the Yamashita Park in Yokohama.

Guardian of Water sculpture at the Yamashita Park.

The Nissan Global Headquarters

Gallery of the Nissan Global Headquarters in Yokohama.

If you are a car enthusiast, Yokohama is the spot of Nissan’s spectacular world headquarters which is one of the best tourist attractions that this city offers. It is not just the office of this car manufacturing giant but also a destination where you can actually view its immense showroom, technology displays and various cars throughout Nissan’s history. From just a mere walking distance from the Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden, admission to their gallery is absolutely FREE where you will be given an opportunity to sit and test drive the cars (except the vintage and special editions) so make sure that you have with you your international driver’s license.

The Yokohama Cosmo World

Yokohama Cosmo World‘s best attraction- unique ferris wheel and roller coaster that actually dive into the water.

Known for its special ferris wheel that has the biggest clock in the world and its roller coaster that directly drops into a pool of water, Yokohama Cosmo World is an amusement park at the Minato Mirai (waterfront) area facing the harbor. A truly scenic spot for backpackers to spend a time during the day which becomes romantic when dusk sets in, admission to the Cosmo World is also FREE of charge, except for the attractions and rides. This tourist destination is fitting for the whole family as the rides are suitable to both kids and adults.

Yokohama “Chukagai”

Yokohama Chinatown at night.

It is Japan’s largest Chinatown, Chukagai in Japanese, which is located in central Yokohama and a tourist attraction famous for having the best Chinese cuisine in the world. Covering an area of 500 sq. meters, it got 620 shops, temples and rows upon rows of Chinese street foods to devour while exploring its dramatic alleys. Four colorful gates stand at different entrances to the district which are all accessible near the harbor and Yamashita Park and the best time to go there is at sunset when all the lights are on but make sure your tummy is not full as you can’t resist from tasting the different Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese foods on offer at Chukagai.

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village

Japan’s Kirin Beer headquarters in Yokohama.

For “beerologists” or beer buffs, going for a tour at Kirin Beer Village in Yokohama is a marvelous experience especially for backpackers. A showcase of Japan’s popular alcoholic drink, the site is a 7-minute walk from Nama-mugi station of the Keikyu Railway Line on the northern section of Yokohama where it offers a free tour in the factory then a free beer tasting at the end of the excursion. Here, you will be given tickets to exchange for three glasses of the freshly brewed beer of your choice which are either: “Ichiban shibori”, lager or black beer. The brewery tour lasts for 80 minutes which is usually undertaken in Japanese although an English speaking guide is available upon requests.

Kanpai! Free beer tasting at the Kirin Yokohama Beer Village.

Now that Japan offers a visa-free entry and you’re planning to go for a visit in the country this year, I highly recommend that you include the city of Yokohama in your itinerary. This is a fun-sized city which is very easy for backpackers to move around and explore its tourist attractions and feel completely at home with its friendly people. I am very sure that you will love the positive vibe and style that this city has to offer.


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How to get from Tokyo to Yokohama:

The best way to get to Yokohama from Tokyo and from airports such as Haneda and Narita is by train. Tokkaido Shinkansen bullet rain traverse between these two cities in a matter of 20 minutes for a fare of JPY 2,600. It’s a bit expensive so it is better to obtain a Japan Rail Pass because the train ride to Yokohama will be free.

About the Port of Yokohama:

A port extraordinaire in Japan which was opened in 1859, the Port of Yokohama is an all-around port handling different cargoes such as container, automobiles, stone oil and cereals. It is one of the biggest ports in the country which is located at the entrance of Tokyo Bay and has 10 major piers. Yokohama Port has serves as a gateway to the city of Tokyo thus it also welcomed millions of cruise ships since its opening in the 19th century.