One of the largest temples in eastern Japan, Soji-ji is a major temple belonging to the Soto-sect of Zen Buddhism. It was established in 1321 in Noto Province by Jokin Keizan (1268-1325), but after a disastrous fire, it was relocated to Tsurumi in 1911. Both the statue of Miroku Bosatsu, which dates to 1276, and the bell (cast in 1269) have been named important cultural properties. Along with Eihei-ji (in Fukui prefecture) in 1615, Soji-ji was named a major Zen center by the Tokugawa government. The public is welcome to participate in meditation sessions at this very active Zen temple.
Amid the urban din of southern Yokohama lies a serene, picturesque sanctum. Based on an ingenious design conceptualized by Tomito Hara, this traditional, Japanese-style garden is riddled with trickling rivers and winding trails. Tomitaro Hara began by acquiring several buildings including tea houses, a farmer's house, a pagoda and various villas, and then placed them on his property amidst ponds, wooded slopes and landscaped gardens; these were later opened to the public in 1906. The picturesque, undulating landscape of the park is dotted with a troupe of iconic buildings which are as striking to look at as they are historically significant. Sankei-en also features lovely tea houses which further augment its allure. Although there are sixteen separate buildings, the Rinshukaku villa, with paintings by Kano-school masters, is particularly noteworthy. In addition, the famed pagoda, Tenzui-ji Juto, Gekka-den, Tenju-in, Choshu-kaku, Shunso-ro, Tokei-ji, the Yanohara House and the main hall of Tomyo-ji have been designated significant cultural properties, too.
Dedicated to the Minamoto family's guardian, the god of war, this shrine is believed to date to 1063. Noted for its striking vermilion embellished and lacquered torii arch, the shrine is very different from the Zen temples usually associated with Kamakura. Legend tells us that at one time only the shogun could walk on the Drum Bridge (Taikobashi), the original of which dates to 1182. Other attractions are the very old ginkgo tree near the dancing platform and the lotus-lilied ponds, which rest on former rice fields. It is recommended that visitors acquaint themselves with certain manners particular to Shinto before entering. Another famous sight in Kamakura, the Daibutsu (giant statue of Buddha), is easily accessible from this shrine.
Yokohama Bay Bridge is one of the prominent landmarks in Yokohama, not only because it spans part of Yokohama Bay, but because of its aesthetic design. The Yokohama Bay Bridge is a suspension bridge with 176 cables strung diagonally from two H-shaped support pillars. The bridge carries the six-lane Metropolitan Expressway and a pedestrian road 860 meters across the mouth of Yokohama Harbor. Its auspicious position led it to be deemed the "Gateway to the Port of Yokohama." Opened in 1989, the Yokohama Bay Bridge was designed to be one of the centerpieces of Yokohama's futuristic looking cityscape, and it certainly has realized that goal.
The Marine Tower is a 348 feet high lighthouse built to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Yokohama as an international port. The Marine Tower is the tallest functioning lighthouse in the world and is the symbol of Yokohama. The observation platform, located 100 meters above the ground, offers a panoramic view of Yokohama Harbor. On clear winter days you might even catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.
This beautiful Noh Theater, has a stage that is over 120 years old, making the Yokohama Noh Theater almost as old as the city of Yokohama itself. It is the perfect setting for Noh, the traditional form of Japanese theater that combines drama with dance. The theater has seating for 481, and performances take place throughout the year. But be warned, the performances at this theater are extremely popular and are frequently sold out; advanced booking is necessary if you want to be sure of getting a seat. It is also possible to have a free guided tour of the theater (in Japanese) if you call in advance.
The year 1859 was a turning point for the city of Yokohama when its port became one of the first to open itself to foreign trade after the long-standing isolation of Japan, following the end of the Edo period. From a small fishing village to Japan's second largest city, the rapid transformation of Yokohama is truly a miraculous one. This extravagant metropolis is home to more than its fair share of expats and boasts one of the world's largest Chinatowns. Its more contemporary quarters are exemplars of modernity, thanks to the proliferation of snazzy bars, international restaurants and a scintillating nightlife. The surreal Osanbashi Pier is the defining feature of the city's spectacular waterfront, while museums like the Yokohama Port Museum and Yokohama Art Museum largely offer cultural nourishment. The sprawling Yokohama Stadium is another of the city's contemporary highlights, as is the urban neighborhood of Minato Mirai 21. From its beautiful shrines and lush gardens to modern landmarks like the Marine Tower, Yokohama is a tourist-friendly city that benefits from the unstuffy attitude of its locals.
The records of Kirin Brewery Co. indicate that beer was first brewed commercially in Japan in Amanuma area. Kirin Park is a small city park that covers part of the old Amanuma area, and features the special old well known as "Beer's Well", or the biru ido, which supplied the pure water with which that first beer was brewed. Naka Ward has established a Commemorative Monument to the Birthplace of Beer in Japan at this site. Do reflect on this fact, of all the new, exotic technologies, fashions, foods, and drinks that foreigners brought through Yokohama into Japan, perhaps beer and baseball have made the greatest impact on the leisure habits of the average Japanese.
Richard Henry Brunton was born in Scotland in 1841. He was initially employed by the Japanese Government as an adviser to build lighthouses. He arrived in Japan in 1868 and left in 1876 after a disagreement. However, during his time in Japan, he designed some 26 lighthouses mostly in the area of Tokyo Bay. Additionally, Richard helped with the design and building of numerous other projects including bridges, waterworks, the Yokohama harbor and Yokohama Park, where his statue is placed. - AH
On the corner of a street very close to the BayStars monument, you'll find an engraved stone monument with a metal etching of an Edison-type generator. This monument commemorates the coal-fired power plant that used to be on this site. The plant was built by the Yokohama Kyodo Electric Light Company. It began supplying electricity to 700 houses in the city in 1890. -AH
The stone monument in Yokohama Park is a reminder that Yokohama Park was the first such park opened in Japan for the use of both foreigners and Japanese. It was designed by Richard Henry Brunton, a Scottish engineer (his statue also stands in the park), after fire destroyed the area in 1866. The park was opened in 1871 and included a cricket ground. In 1923, the park provided a refuge to people after the Great Kanto Earthquake and in 1929 a baseball stadium was built. The current stadium was opened in 1978.
This large copper etching on the wall shows a cheering BayStars team. It is surrounded by the hand prints of the team and commemorates 1998, the year the Yokohama BayStars won the Japanese Baseball Grand Championships. This part of the street is nicknamed BayStars Street. -AH