Yokohama (横浜市) is the capital of the Kanagawa Prefecture is part of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Currently home to 3.6 million people, Yokohama is the largest single incorporated city in Japan and second in urban population to Tokyo, though Osaka does hold a higher daytime population due to increased commerce.
Yokohama is also home to the Port of Yokohama, one of the largest and most used ports in Japan. Its prime location and overall structure allows for use in many industries including cargo transfers, product distribution, and global trading. The port has been thriving since its construction in the late 1800’s, earlier than almost all other functioning ports today.
During and the Edo period, Yokohama was nothing more than a simple fishing village. Japan practiced an ongoing policy of seclusion, blocking it from Western traders and diplomats. However, in 1853, Matthew Perry, landed just south of Yokohama and forced the Japanese government to open its ports for commerce. A treaty was signed in 1854 with the Tokugawa Shogunate and the port village of Yokohama was built up to facilitate the new traffic. The new Port of Yokohama was thus opened in 1859 and became the center of foreign trade in Japan. The Kannai district was set aside for foreigners in this time and was surrounded by a moat, though it was often crossed leading to major diplomatic issues such as the Namamugi Incident in 1862.
The Meiji Restoration of 1868 saw Yokohama redeveloped for the silk trade and facilitation of western influences became a major factor. The first Japanese daily newspaper started in Yokohama in 1870 and the first railway was build to connect Yokohama to Shinagawa and Shimbashi in Tokyo.
The city continued to grow, with a power plant installed in 1887 and the city incorporated in 1889. Factories and industry led to even further growth in the early 20th Century which in turn created many wealthy families in Yokohama. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 destroyed most of Yokohama with 30,771 dead and 47,908 injured in Yokohama alone. While Yokohama was soon rebuilt, it was again largely destroyed during World War II due to more than 30 air raids by US forces.
After World War II, Yokohama was used by the United States as a base for the transport of American casualties in the Korean War and goods from the United States to Eastern fronts. The city began to grow again, rebuilt and flourishing anew in the late 1950s. In 1972, the Yokohama Municipal Subway was built and major projects like Minato Mirai 21 showcased new technologies such as maglev trains.
The Yokohama Landmark Tower was built in 1993, making it the largest building in Japan. The year 2009 will mark the 150th Anniversary of Yokohama opening as a port city. The city’s economy is currently one of the more productive in Japan, home to numerous shipping, biotech, and automotive industries. Nissan is currently moving its headquarters to Yokohama as well, expected to finish doing so in 2010.
There are many places of interest and landmarks in Yokohama. The historic port of Kannai contains the Yokohama Marine Tower, one of the largest lighthouses in the world as well as Yokohama Chinatown, a large Chinese sub-community. Additionally, Yokohama Stadium, the Yokohama Doll Museum and the Silk Center of Yokohama are located in this general area.
The Motomachi shopping district is home to many international stores and the Yamate is a 19th century Western settlement with multiple Western style mansions built into it. The Minato Mirai 21 harborside development is well known for its Landmark Tower, Queen’s Square, and the Cosmo Clock 21 – at one time the world’s largest Ferris Wheel.
The NYK Maritime Museum reveals a great deal of the cities history as it represents many of the special events taking place to mold the overall end result of the city. Putting the pieces together like a puzzle has revealed the significance of each era the city has been through. This message is strongly delivered in the museum.