Railpass Rambles – Yokohama

From the bucolic charms of Takayama, we return to Nagoya and transfer onto a shinkansen for Yokohama.

Modern Yokohama skyline

Though less than an hour from central Tokyo, Yokohama has plenty of attractions in its own right.

As a port, it has been involved in pivotal moments of Japanese history.

For example, many people worldwide are familiar with Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa

We learn that ‘Kanagawa’ is here – an earlier name for what is today Yokohama. Mount Fuji is now hidden by skyscrapers.

This is also where Commodore Perry landed in 1854 and demanded the opening up of Japan after centuries of self-seclusion.

Which leads to Yokohama becoming a thriving trade port. We visit the Yokohama Silk Museum. It features dozens of dazzling kimonos, each one a work of art.

Yokohama has also been in the forefront of Japanese emigration, limited as it is. There’s an informative museum about this near the waterfront.

(A noteworthy observation: Japan is the only country we’ve been to in Asia that doesn’t have significant numbers of educated people who want to move to – or at least have a bolthole in – somewhere else. Such as Australia/New Zealand or Canada/USA.)

Most Japanese emigration took place early in the last century. This ship, the permanently-docked NYK Hikawa Maru, has an interesting history.

NYK Hikawa Maru

In service between 1930 and 1960, she ferried people to Seattle in the thirties, served as a hospital ship in WWII, was used to repatriate Japanese soldiers after the war, and returned to trans-Pacific passenger duty.

Also related to the sea – a Japan Coast Guard Museum. Its most riveting exhibit is a captured North Korean spy vessel.

This ship, disguised as a fishing boat, was sunk in a hostile encounter in 2001 and salvaged later.

Secret hold for the small craft (used for dirty work, no doubt)

Suitable for use by any James Bond villain.

Serious onboard weaponry

For dinner, we drop in on the Ramen Museum.

‘When in Ram, do as the Ramens do…’

More about dogs in Japan. People with small dogs often push them around in a pram. We thought these were re-purposed baby prams, but nope; they’re marketed and sold as doggy prams.

It’s a dog’s life

We must mention the neighbourhood we’re staying in here. It’s kind of like a Japanese Skid Row. It just turns out to be where our accommodation is located, but it’s definitely a ‘quartier défavorisé‘. Lots of impoverished, older single men around. And social services. But safe (this is Japan, after all.)

Interesting to see the Japanese response to the less fortunate. This neighbourhood has many multi-storey buildings with very small rooms and communal bathrooms and kitchens. Laundromats (which also have showers in them) are plentiful. So people have a roof over their heads, a way to keep themselves and their clothes clean, and some dignity-preserving privacy.

Sight or Insight of the Day – Yokohama

More noodle-related education. We visit the Cupnoodles Museum.

It tells the inspiring story of Momofuku Ando, the Father of Cup Noodles.

It started in 1958…

Without Ando-san‘s wonderful invention, where would the world be today? It’s like the Kraft Dinner of the East.

…and grew into the rich treasure-house of cup noodles we enjoy today