yokohama: chinatown and yamashita park {walking tour 20: part 1}   23 comments

Saturday, April 15:  This morning, I head for Yokohama at around 10 a.m., taking the JR Yokohama Green Line to Sakuragicho Station, then changing to the Negishi Line for Ishikawacho Station. When I ride my bike to park at Fuchinobe Station, I find an attendant there charging 100 yen to park: I guess it’s only free on Sundays.  Oh well, 100 yen is hardly going to bankrupt me.

It is easy to find the beginning of Walking Tour 20 (Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City) at Chinatown’s Nishimon-dori (West Gate Street), as it’s right outside the station and there are signs pointing the direction.  The 11:15 start to my walk is later than I intended.  Little do I know I’ll end up walking over 10 miles today, from the south of Yokohama to the north, all along Yokohama Bay and in and out on a circuitous route through the city streets.

The West Gate of Chinatown

Yokohama’s Chinatown, or Chūkagai, is the largest of three Chinatowns in Japan, followed by Nagasaki and Kobe.  It was set aside by the Japanese government in 1863 and now has about 3-4,000 residents, mostly descendants of Chinese from Guangzhou who came as servants of Western merchants or as traders.  Some acted as treasurers to Western firms, while others came as craftsmen who could make clothing and other essentials needed by foreigners. When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, the growth of Chinatown came to a standstill, but it started thriving again in 1955, when a large goodwill gate was built and Chinatown was officially recognized by Japan.

Yokohama’s Chinatown

Almost immediately, I’m enticed into a three-story shop called Amina Collection.  It has cute clothing, accessories and home decor mainly imported from India and Nepal.  Why it’s in Chinatown, I don’t know; the shopkeeper, who has her hair wrapped in a large turban and wears a maize-colored flowing skirt, tells me her corporation owns many similar shops in Japan.  What I really love are the incense aromas and the whimsical and enchanting music piped in through the shop.  I ask the shopkeeper if they sell the CD with the music playlist, but unfortunately for me, she says the owner downloaded the playlist to an MP3.  I also find some cute tops and kimono toppers (the kind of kimono cover-ups sold in America, not traditional Japanese kimono).  Since I’m just starting my walk and don’t want to buy anything yet, I tell the shopkeeper I’ll return later.  At this time, I think the walk will bring me full circle back to Ishikawacho Station, where I can easily return to shop before heading home.


I continue into Chinatown, overwhelmed by crimson and yellow signs, fierce dragons twisting and turning on buildings and signs, shops with Chinese lanterns and masks, huge restaurant boards with pictures of enticing dishes, and touts in front of each restaurant beckoning tourists in.  It is getting to be lunchtime, but my stomach takes a turn at the thought of eating Chinese food.  When I was in China, I was sick almost constantly from the food, but I think maybe in Japan the Chinese food will be fine.  After all, the Chinese restauranteurs must cook to Japanese tastes, just like they cook to American tastes in the USA.

North Gate

Restaurant in Chinatown


Though the large multi-ingredient dishes look mouth-watering, I figure maybe I can stick to something like steamed dumplings that aren’t cooked in oil. My hunger gets the best of me, and I drop into a tiny joint where I order three shrimp steamed dumplings with a Pepsi.  It costs nearly $10 for that tiny meal, which is meant to sustain me all day.  After I leave the restaurant, my stomach immediately cramps up and I wonder if it’s because of the food or just my fear of eating Chinese again.

Those stomach cramps are to stay with me the rest of the day, yet I end up walking over 10 miles. 🙂

Yokohama’s Chinatown

a pagoda in Chinatown

East Gate

After lunch, I’m in search of the Kantei-Byo.  The original temple, known as the Kuan-Ti Mao Temple, suffered many disasters.  It was built in 1887, destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, and suffered damages during the 1945 Allies air attack. In 1981, it was struck by lighting and caught fire. It burned down again in 1987, and finally, was reconstructed in 1990 as Kantei-Byo despite the political differences of the Taiwan and Beijing Chinese.

According to Japan Travel, Kantei-Byo is dedicated to the famous Chinese warrior “Kanwu,” who excelled in the areas of power, courage, justice, and loyalty, as well as business. For all these reasons, the people of Chinatown follow Kanwu as their “God of Business.”  However, another source, my book Tokyo: 29 Walks in the World’s Most Exciting City, says the new shrine is dedicated to Sangokushi; to him, the Chinese can pray for good fortune and good business.  Oh well, whomever a person prays too, he’s sure to be successful in business. 🙂

I finally find the temple, with a huge Coke Zero truck parked in front.  The light doesn’t favor this view, so I go immediately into the temple courtyard.



Two golden dragons greet me on the wall of the temple.

Dragons at Kantei-Byo

I love the wonderful details under the eaves of Chinese temples.


The visitors to the temple light incense sticks and bow and pray to the gods within.

incense burner at Kantei-Byo

Here’s the view from the temple to the outside gate. Much better than the outside-to-inside shot with the Coke Zero truck.


I find colorful and intricate architectural details and relief carvings under the temple’s eaves.


Inside the temple is gorgeous, but they want 100 yen to go inside and I’m not allowed to take pictures.  If I were allowed to take pictures, I’d gladly pay the entrance fee, but as I can see the altar from outside, that’s enough for me.


incense at Kantei-Byo


Just outside the temple, I find another in the line of Amina shops and I go inside to try on more cute tops. The two salesgirls look so cute, I can’t help but try on tops in the shop that are similar.  They look terrible on me, sadly.  I guess when you’re super tiny, you can get away with wearing anything!

Outside the shop, I encounter these two characters, one of them next to a wide-mouth panda entrance.

a cool character near the East Gate

creature with wide-mouthed panda

Another Chinatown gate

Finally, I make my way out of Chinatown and head to the waterfront.  First, I encounter the memorial commemorating the Reverend James Curtis Hepburn, a medical Protestant missionary who created the first Japanese-English dictionary in 1867 and Romanized the Japanese characters.  He often treated Japanese and Chinese patients for free in his house if they couldn’t afford payment.  The memorial marks his and his wife’s work from 1859-1892.

Hepburn Memorial Marker

The south end of Yamashita Park extends 2/3 mile from the Yamashita Pier to the Osanbashi Pier.  To cover the flood control pumping station at the south end, a raised platform has an ornamental water cascade that extends from the upper level to street level.

south end of Yamashita Park


At street level, the ornamental water cascade ends in a pretty pool.

ornamental water cascade at Yamashita Park

From Yamashita Park, I can see Yokohama Harbor.  Today is the perfect day for a walk, with temperatures in the high 60s and a brisk wind.  How I love windy days when the temperature is right.

view of Yokohama Harbor from Yamashita Park

Looking inland, I can see the buildings fronting the park. The Marine Tower was belatedly constructed in 1961 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Yokohama’s founding in 1859.  There is an observation deck at the 100-meter level, but I don’t go up today.  At 106 meters is a lighthouse lamp visible over the bay for 24 miles; it is the biggest inland lighthouse in the world.

Marine Tower

General MacArthur stayed at the Hotel New Grand on the evening of August 30, 1945 to begin his stint as the commander of the occupying American forces in Japan.  Also from the hotel, he boarded the USS Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945 to accept the Japanese surrender, thus ending World War II.

Hotel New Grand

A fancy rose and flower garden in the park invites a stroll.

gardens at Yamashita Park

Along the harborside walkway, I can see the north part of Yokohama.

view of northern Yokohama and Yokohama Harbor

Off a small pier south of Osanbashi Pier, the Hikawa-maru, a luxury ocean liner built in Yokohama in 1930 is permanently moored.  It made 238 crossings between Japan and the U.S. West Coast from 1930-1960.  It is now retired from service.

The Hikawa-Maru

Yamashita Park and the Hotel New Grand

The Guardian of the Waters statue was a gift from sister city San Diego to Yokohama and its people.

Guardian of the Waters

Guardian of the Waters


tulip mania at Yamashita Park

tulips at Yamashita Park

Looking south along the waterside walkway, I can see the 1989 Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Yokohama Bay Bridge and view of the North Dock

a ship in port

As I approach the north end of Yamashita Park, I have a better view of Yokohama with its iconic Ferris wheel.

looking to the north

The Osanbashi Pier is at the north end of Yamashita Park.  From here, I’ll be heading inland.

Osanbashi Pier

Here are a few notes on how I get to places in the Tokyo area without access to GPS:

Westgate provides teachers with a phone, but we’re only allowed to use it to make calls to a pre-programmed list of numbers.  We are not allowed to use it to call anyone who is not programmed into the phone.  We can accept calls, but we can’t make them.  Besides, it is an old-fashioned flip-phone and not a smart phone with fancy features like GPS.

I have my iPhone from the U.S., but so far I haven’t had the need to get a pre-paid SIM card for my phone.  As long as I have access to wi-fi, at home and at work, I can use the phone for data or messaging.  I was advised that I can Google directions to a destination by just entering in the beginning station (in my case Fuchinobe) and the end station, and I can get directions as to when to switch trains, how many stops between stations, etc.  I can even get a timetable.

The problem of course is that I don’t get GPS when I’m out and about.  My phone is worthless at these times.  So, before leaving my house, I look up the information and take screen shots of the train route.  Below is a version of how I made today’s trip.  I have another screen shot that expands the 12 stops so I can know exactly which stops I’ll be passing, so I can be on the lookout for my particular stop. So far this method is working pretty well for me. 🙂


my metro directions screen-shot from Google Maps


23 responses to “yokohama: chinatown and yamashita park {walking tour 20: part 1}

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  1. Beautiful and colourful, both Chinatown and the gardens.

  2. I love the bright colour in your photos, Cathy. I wonder if your stomach problems are being caused by the Pepsi and not the food, and if you would be better sticking to water. I do the screen shot method of keeping information too. I’m sure there is also an app for transport in Japan too, which you can use without internet once you’ve downloaded it.

    • I’ve been trying to get Cathy to drink more water for years to mo avail. Coming from someone else may sway get!

    • As I’ve experienced more cramping in recent walks, without eating or drinking anything except a normal breakfast, I believe it’s coming from not standing up straight when I walk. When I focus on keeping my posture straight, the cramping seems to abate. I do have an app for Tokyo metro, but it doesn’t include the outer lines, like mine which is the JR Yokohama line. The screen shots are working well generally speaking, but yesterday I didn’t charge my phone enough and it died. Then I just had to remember what I’d looked at earlier!

  3. Arrrghhh… lost my long comment to you! Great photos again, and I love all the colourful buildings and the flowers. My favourite is the one with the tall, vivid pink incense sticks – a lovely composition. Sounds like there is some ingredient they use in Chinese food that disagrees with you 😦 A long walk Cathy, you must be very fit!

    • Oh, that’s so frustrating when you write a comment and then lose it! I’m glad you like colorful Chinatown. Actually, I’ve been experiencing that cramping a lot during these long walks, whether I’ve eaten recently or not. I think my posture is not good as I find myself slumping when walking. I feel better when I concentrate on standing straight. It’s tough because I’m walking fast and carrying a backpack and camera; maybe I’m weighed down a bit. 🙂

      • Sorry to hear that. Have you tried Orthotic insoles? I started to use FootActive ones (Australian) when I suffered from Achilles tendonitis and they really do help with posture and walking and alleviate foot and back pain. You may find you need a slightly larger shoe if you use them.

      • I’ve used those in the past, Jude, but not here. I used to have plantar fasciitis for about a year, and had to wear them then. I’m afraid I’ll have to wait till I get home to try them out; otherwise, I’d have to buy all new shoes! Good advice though. 🙂

      • They certainly helped me.

  4. Hi Cathy,
    I have friends in Japan. I’ll send you their info. They have an airbnb if you like you can visit their area the you have time.I like this post, your photos and story are always so great.

    • Thanks so much, Sue. Please do send me your friends’ names and their airbnb information. I would love to go if I can find the time. 🙂

      • Hi Cathy My friends name is Renee Sawazaki and her husbands name is MO. Here’s a copy of an email from her Renée Sawazaki
        5​-12-11 Annaka, Annaka, Gunma Japan 379-0116
        ​+81 (​0​)​70-3172-2110

        Owner, MRS Gunma​. ​Two traditional Japanese homes for ​classes, ​vacation, ​workshops and retreats next to hot springs in Takasaki & Annaka, Gunma

        Available on for overnight stays:
        Search “Takasaki” and find them under the titles:
        “Huge traditional Japanese home next to hot spring”
        and “Japanese Elegance near Hot Spring & Sand Bath Spa”

        ​Part-time lecturer, Takasaki City University of Economics and Paz College​

        Young Learners Subcommittee Chair​, J​apan Association for Language Teaching ​
        Let me know how you get on. Cheers and Light, Sue

      • Thanks so much for sending me this information, Sue. I’m compiling a list of where to go when my contract ends. I think my list is growing too long, and probably impossible to do in one week. I’m now wondering if I can and should extend my stay so I can see more! Thanks again! 🙂

      • Also my first poetry book was recently published. Check my WordPress site.

      • Very nice, Sue. I love the poems you’ve posted. I’ve put it on my wish list for when I return to the USA! 🙂

  5. The temple details are beautiful, Cathy. I love the intricacy and patterns. You can keep all the modern bits. They seem so soulless.

    • Thanks, Jo. I don’t mind some of the modern bits, but I do love the more traditional religious shrines and temples and the Japanese gardens. There is always something interesting to see almost everywhere. 🙂

  6. The Chinatown visuals are SO much more appealing to me than the other parts of the city. It’s interesting that in Japan the government set aside a place for the Chinese, now called Chinatown, but in New York (and I assume San Francisco and other American cities) the Chinatown grew organically from where Chinese immigrants lived. It seems a clear example of the Japanese need to keep themselves apart and segregate those foreigners, right? Love all the detail shots at the temple, the incense, the painting, etc. It’s all so fabulously colorful. Hope the food sits better with you in general! Also love that blue, white and green border at Yamashita Park – such nice colors, restrained yet joyful.

    • I love the bright colors of Chinatown too, Lynn, but the working harbor of Yokohama doesn’t thrill me. However, I do think some of the modern architecture in Yokohama is fun, especially the sail-shaped Intercontinental and the Ferris Wheel, which give the skyline a whimsical quality. Also some great sculptures near Landmark Tower and the Yokohama Museum of Art, which I think I show in a later post.

      It is somewhat strange how Chinatown was an area set aside by the Japanese for the Chinese, but there is a long history of enmity between the two cultures, such that nothing surprises me in regard to how they treat each other. When I was in China, I saw signs on restaurants: No dogs, No Japanese. I couldn’t believe it. Also, the Japanese in the past have liked to keep foreigners in their box, or in their places. I do think even some of that goes on now; I can see it in my workplace.

      I’m glad you like my temple photos. That was my favorite spot in Chinatown. 🙂

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