A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 3: Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better
This is part three of my guide to JOY-sei ryuugaku life, concerning the navigation of the city of Yokohama (and travel outside). Here’s a copy-and-paste of the table of contents quickjump:
Part 1 (The Dorms, The Neighborhood, Commuter Passes)
Part 2 (Getting to School, Getting Comfy in Your New Place, Resident Registration, Cell Phones, Money)
Part 3 (Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better)
Disclaimers: this is not an official guide; things are current at the time I wrote this post and may change; you can probably use this as a guide for non-YNU study abroad but a good chunk of things won’t apply to you; this is based on my experience and things may be different when you get here. If a website has an English page, I’ve linked to it, but most of the links will be in Japanese-0nly.
Welcome to Japan – Now Go Out and Explore!
Now that you’ve imagined settling into your room, it’s time to head on out and get hype about experiencing Yokohama — and when you’ve got the time and money, the rest of the Tokyo metro area. After all, Yokohama’s the second biggest city in Japan (I’m sure you can guess what the first one is); there’s got to be stuff to do, right? And there is — there’s quite a bit to do here that a couple of senpai said something along the lines of oh, drat, I ran out of time.
What follows is an (definitely incomplete) list of things you can do in Yokohama, sorted by Blue Line train station, from Kamiooka to Shin-yokohama. Website links are given in their English equivalents if at all possible.
This guide is currently under construction!! Lots of things and descriptions are missing.
Kamiooka is one of the major stations serviced by the Keikyu Line, allowing would-be passengers to Tokyo to take a limited express (green-text “tokkyu” — 特急) train that gets one to Shinagawa in just under half an hour’s time, thus making it the fastest way for us Gumyoji residents to get to Tokyo. (The one-way fare from Kamiooka to Shinagawa is 410 yen.) Trains going in the other direction allow you to reach destinations on the Miura peninsula such as Kanazawa-hakkei (230 yen one way), home to the Sea Paradise amusement-park-slash-aquarium, Yokosuka (270 yen), home to a United States naval base; and Zushi (270 yen), which has a really nice beach — among other things.
Wing Kamiooka/Keikyu Department Store (Website): They might as well be one big mall, because they’re both managed by Keikyu and occupy the same building. Wing’s got a handful of boutiques on its first two floors and restaurants in its basement-level Restaurant Avenue; Keikyu’s got a bunch of recognizable brands and a supermarket in the basement. A Yodobashi Camera branch takes up the entirety of the 7th and 8th floors of the Keikyu Department Store — but price-check with Labi (see Mioka, following.)
Mioka (Website): Built recently (construction finished in 2009-2010, actually), this shopping centre is comprised of two buildings: the “List” building, after real-estate brokers List; and the main building, home to Labi (Yamada Electronics), which takes some 5 floors of space; a handful of medical clinics; a Konami Sports Center; and a Toho Cinemas branch. The 6th floor notably houses a handful of restaurants. Connections between the two buildings are available on some floors.
Camio/Passage Kamiooka (Website): Home to the only Japanese branch of Sports Authority (nee SportMart) I know. I’ve not looked around too much, but it’s got quite a number of restaurants, the grocery store Himawari Ichiba, and the media rental outlet Tsutaya.
Akaifusen Mall Kamiooka (Website): Comprised of apparently four buildings (it looks like two), the main building houses a video game arcade (The Earth), a bowling alley (Akaifusen Bowling Club), a pachinko place, an Internet cafe, a karaoke place (Opera), a batting center (Akaifusen Batting Club), and a couple of restaurants. On the side is a Uniqlo. On the other side is a building that’s currently in some state of reconstruction at the time of my writing this (it used to have a pachinko parlor, a Daiso 100-yen store, and a grocery store with a well-stocked liquor section — not sure if they have plans to renew any of those businesses.) There’re also a couple of incidental shops that aren’t part of the Akaifusen proper, but are worth a look: GameStation, for used video games/consoles, trading cards, and figures; and a ramen place that serves pretty nice ramen at about 750 yen. For even cheaper eats, there’s a Matsuya around the corner with gyudon starting from 230 yen — and cheaper still are the Sunkus and 7-11 convenience stores.
Ah, home sweet home away from home. Nice place.
Gumyoji Kannon-dori Shopping Arcade (Website): The main tourist draw to the area, it’s a rather nice homely shotengai that sells all of your essentials. There are plenty of food options ranging from yakitori you can bring home and grill yourself to freshly made ramen to Mos Burger; there are also a handful of shops that sell clothing, electronics, and other things. Also home to the Japan Post office at the end of the street (take a right at the corner with the 7-11 and it’ll be on your left).
Gumyoji Temple: The Buddhist temple that serves as the namesake for the area. Not too much to see, but it’s the closest temple we have to the dorms, if you’re curious. The temple staff is very friendly, but fair warning: you’ll need to break out the Japanese (or bring a friend who can). Just ascend the stairs at the end of the Kannon-dori.
Gumyoji Park: Easily accessible via the stairways to the right-hand-side of the Keikyu Gumyoji station, it’s a nice park that has quite a bit of space if you’re in the mood for sports — unlike Maita Park, though, there’s not too much grass to play on if that’s a factor. Do check out the observatory tower, which provides nice panoramic views of the city any time of day.
Minami Ward Library: Not only are there three stories of books you get to choose from, there’s also…a swimming pool on the roof. Yes, really (that’s the green block of…water you see on Google Maps) — and it opens to the public during the summer season for the cost of 100 yen per hour. Not too shabby, right?
Minami Sports Center (Website): Located right down the street from the dorms, the sports center offers a handful of facilities at rather cheap rates. I’ve only gone there for badminton, which they offer in the morning for 300 yen; to that end, rackets and shuttlecocks can be rented for a nominal fee (or you could just go to Seria and buy a passable racket for 100 yen).
Miura-yu (Website): A super sento (bathhouse) operated by the Keikyu group; 800 yen on weekdays, 900 yen on weekends. There’s a membership card that you can purchase for 200 yen that shaves 150 yen off of tickets for a year. There are two gender-segregated bathing areas that largely offer the same baths on a rotation that swaps which areas people can enter for the day.
Nakashima-kan: If you want the sento experience, but don’t want to pay extra for Miura-yu, Nakashima-kan is closer and costs only 450 yen to get in. The catch: bring your own shampoo and soap. As with Miura-yu (and most other sento), bathing is gender-separated.
Wakamiya-yu: If Nakashima-kan is closed, or if you’re /really/ into sento, seek out Wakamiya-yu: when you get to the main road, just take a right and follow it a ways up until you see the ゆ-tapestried door on your right. Being part of the same network of Kanagawa sento as Nakashima-kan, it offers the same 450 yen price, but is considerably older and therefore more worn-down, which gives it a bit of a quaint old-school throwback-ish feeling. You get less for the money, too: they only have three main baths.
Maita Park:I didn’t get to see this because I didn’t visit in season, but apparently you can play in the Ooka River in the summer? Not sure how that works, though… In any case, it’s a sizable park that has a small loop of a walking path, a decent-looking playground, and both (unmarked) concrete and grass surfaces for sports and other things. Things happen here on occasion, too — check the neighborhood bulletin board for more information around July for the annual summer festival, for example.
Maita Shopping Road: Aside from the shops in the station exit areas, there’s also a clearly marked shopping road…but maybe you can find out whether the shops there open or not! I visited one afternoon to find a good handful of shops shuttered, so I can’t exactly vouch for the shops here.
Idogaya/Idogaya Station Area: If you fancy walking a bit, the neighborhood of Idogaya (and its associated Keikyu station) is about a 10-minute walk away and has a handful of things, including probably the closest Daiso to the dorms.
If you want to go to Maita Park (see above), this is actually the closer station.
Yokohama Tramport Museum: Take a look at the history of Yokohama’s public transportation, now newly-renovated (August 2013). Entry fee: 100 yen. Get your Japanese skill ready — there’s not much indication of English.
Oodori Park: Splitting one of Yokohama’s streets in two from Bandobashi to Isezaki-chojamachi stations and then some, the park’s approximately 1.5km length makes for a nice walk.
Yokohamabashi Shopping District (Website): A bit more old, rustic and cramped than the Kannon-dori, but also longer and offering more (and more varied) places to eat in.
Isezaki-cho (6~7-chome): The tail-end of the Isezaki shopping street; you can follow this all the way to Kannai Station.
Gyoumu Super: A supermarket with generally cheap prices. You won’t be finding a produce area here, unfortunately — look to Piago or Aoba for that — but they’ve got quite the selection of quick-prep entrees/ingredients and imported foods at relatively inexpensive prices.
Home to Isezaki-cho’s Piago supermarket (twice as big as the Gumyoji one and therefore has more stuff on its second floor — a decent rug for the winter can be had for under 1000 yen!) ( and the Isezaki branch of Utahiroba, the cheapest karaoke place we know of that doesn’t look too shady.
This station is also the closest to Ramen Jiro Kannai, if you’re interested in trying it. As in my second writeup: if it’s your first time there, I highly recommend you get the small bowl.
Coming from Gumyoji in the direction of Yokohama and Azamino, this is the first transfer you can make to a JR line — the JR Negishi line, which turns into the JR Keihin-Tohoku line going toward Tokyo, offering prompt service to east Tokyo suburbs (most notable being Tokyo, Akihabara, and Ueno) and Saitama, if you wanna head up that far. (The other way brings you through parts of Yokohama largely not covered by the Blue Line — most notably Ishikawacho, which is closer to a handful of these points of interest. If it is, it’s marked with an asterisk.)
Isezaki Mall – Isezaki-cho 1~2-chome (Website): The main, more frequented side of the Isezaki Mall. Notably home to Kannai’s Book-Off for media on the cheap and Yokohama’s original Fujiya restaurant.
Bashamichi: Perhaps one of the oldest sections of Yokohama, Bashamichi is yet another shopping street that’s home to a lot of nice restaurants.
Yokohama Stadium (Website): A baseball stadium, home to the Yokohama DeNA Baystars team. The season begins in the springtime; check the site (or the ads they’ll eventually be posting on the subway).
Yokohama Chinatown*: Supposedly the largest Chinatown in the world (or, at the very least, Japan), Yokohama Chinatown has become quite a bit of a tourist spot. Be careful if you’re expecting real honest-to-goodness Chinese food, though; many dishes are reportedly tweaked to fit Japanese taste.
Yamashita Park*: A pretty broad strip of land facing the ocean, Yamashita Park is a
place of destiny for all the couples of Japan rather big park that’s home to a couple of attractions — such as the permanently-moored Hikawamaru, which you can tour (500 yen). Sea Bass sea busses (yes, that’s what they’re called) operate daily, shuttling people from Yamashita Park to the east exit of Yokohama Station in a 15-minute ride across the bay (700 yen). The same company operates two other longer and far more scenic cruises starting at 1,000 yen.
Motomachi* (Website): Originally catering to the needs of the first foreigners who settled here, the Motomachi Shopping Street is a decidedly more upscale, open-air shopping street — sort of like a nicer version of Bashamichi.
Nogeyama Park/Nogeyama Zoo (Website): I’ve never been, but a couple of my dormmates have mentioned it’s nice. As an added bonus — it’s free of charge to enter.
Colette-Mare (Website), World Porters/Aeon Vivre Minatomirai (Website), Landmark Plaza/Landmark Tower (Website), Queen’s Square (Website): Sakuragicho is pretty much Yokohama’s top shopping destination, with lots of brands setting up shop in these malls. Colette-Mare and World Porters also have movie theatres, if you fancy catching a film; World Porters also has a lot of restaurant options on its first floor.
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse (Website): Used formerly as customs houses until 1989, this pair of buildings was renovated in the 90’s; now, the “No. 1” building on the right — is used for a handful of events, such as the annual Yokohama Photo Festival. The longer “No. 2” building on the left has become home to a handful of boutique shops. It also houses a rather nice food court, if you’re feeling a bit peckish. From time to time, other setups will pop up here: if you’re here in October, for example, you can get a really good sense of this from the Oktoberfest grounds that get set up; in winter, a temporary ice rink gets installed; and so on and so forth.
Nippon-Maru Memorial Park/Yokohama Port Museum (Website): Permanently stationed in front of Landmark Tower and right beside the bridge heading over to World Porters is the Nippon-Maru, an old training ship used during World War II. Now, it’s a tourable exhibit, alongside the Yokohama Port Museum surrounding it; do note that tickets for the museum and the ship are separate (a museum pass doesn’t get you into the ship and vice versa). About once a month, they unfurl the sails on the ship; dates will be posted outside the museum. On top of the museum is a park with a really pretty view of the Cosmo Clock, World Porters, and the Navios hotel — it’s a good place to have a nomikai (drinking party).
Cupnoodles Museum (Website): Celebrating the life and times of the late instant noodle inventor Momofuku Ando (in fact, the formal name of the museum is the Momofuku Ando Invention Memorial House), the museum — in addition to talking a bunch about instant ramen — also offers a couple of interactive exhibits, such as the ability to create your own cup of noodles from a handful of toppings and soups, or to partake in the very creation of a package of Nissin’s original Chicken Ramen, from scratch. 500 yen entry fee; additional fees apply for the more interactive exhibits.
Cosmo World (Website): Home to the Cosmo Clock 21 ferris wheel, one of Yokohama’s most famous and recognizable landmarks, this amusement park is split up into three sections. Most of the thrill rides, along with the Cosmo Clock itself, are located right across from World Porters and the Cupnoodles Museum, with the other rides just a bridge away. There is no entry fee; instead, you pay for individual rides boardwalk-style. (Tip: The Cosmo Clock (700 yen) has two “see-through” gondolas (cars 20 and 50) with transparent floors, but the only thing you’ll be missing by going on a regular gondola instead are the intricate views of the framework that make up the ride, so don’t bother…unless you’ve got a friend who’s afraid of heights you want to tease.)
Zou-no-hana Park and Oosanbashi Pier (Yokohama International Passenger Terminal): You probably won’t be using the pier at all, but the view of Minatomirai from the upper decks are fantastic. Zou-no-hana (“Elephant Nose”) park is named because the park and the fixture that loops its way around resembles such; it stretches from the bridge right next to the Red Brick Warehouse all the way to Oosanbashi’s entrance.
Sankeien Garden (Website): It’s not in this area, but in order to get to this rather spacious garden, take bus number 8 from the station to the Honmoku Sankeien stop, then follow the signs to Sankeien. The entry fee is 500 yen; one-way bus fare is 210 yen. Park hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (admission closes at 4:30).
Update 4/24: Takashimacho used to be where one alighted to go to GENTO Yokohama, which had a pretty neat entertainment complex featuring a movie theatre, an arcade, and a concert venue, but GENTO has closed as of late January 2015. Takashimacho was also home to the Gekidan Shiki’s Canon Cats Theater (“Cats” as in the Andrew Lloyd Webber play), which was in operation up until 2012.
Yokohama Station is, as one might guess, a major station that allows transfer to a handful of lines that provide service to Tokyo, Chiba, and Saitama. See more on “Heading Outside of Yokohama”, below.
Sotetsu Joinus (Website): This union of two malls (the underground section used to be a separate entity named The Diamond) has quite a number of unique boutiques and brand-name goods. The roof of the Joinus building is home to Joinus no Mori, a small park with wonderful views.
Sogo Yokohama (Website): On the other side of the station (you’ll pass through the Lumine and Porta malls in order to get here) is Sogo, which is another proper department store/mall. Food of all sorts takes up level B2 where you enter from, but this is notably home to a Muji (for household goods), Loft (for crafts and the like), and Kinokuniya bookstore all on 7F. Also check out the Sogo Art Museum on the 6th floor!
Aeon Vivre (Yokohama Station): Boasting a similar selection of clothing to what you’ll find at World Porters, Vivre is an eight-floor shopping mall that’s also notable for being host to Yokohama Station’s closest Sweets Paradise dessert buffet, Book-Off, and Tower Records. Also of interest if you find yourself slowly turning into a train otaku: Popondetta, on the top floor with Book-Off, offers train paraphernalia of all sorts (the only example of such a store that I know of).
Round 1 Yokohama Exit 5: Round 1 is a notable chain of Japanese leisure centers, offering arcade games, bowling, karaoke, and darts (and, at certain other locations, entire sporting facilities) under one roof. Floors 1-3 hold arcade games, floors 4-6 feature bowling, and floor 7 offer darts, ping-pong, and karaoke. Something to note is that the non-arcade parts of Round 1 are open 24/7 (the arcade itself is open from the break of dawn to midnight).
Mitsuzawa-kamicho/YNU Area Outskirts
Mitsuzawa-shimocho has nothing of note that I can think of, but getting off there and walking to school leisurely (or vice versa) is a nice thing to do once in a blue moon. Mitsuzawa-kamicho offers likewise not much of note.
Tokiwa Park: A fairly big park; has a handful of facilities available for public use such as a soccer field and a pair of tennis courts. Just go out the southwest exit of YNU.
Wadamachi: Located south-south-west of YNU, this small town has a rather quaint shopping street and a couple of nice restaurants. This area is also serviced by the Sotetsu line’s Wadamachi Station (five stations away from Sotetsu Yokohama Station).
If you’re gonna be riding a bullet train to the west, this is the closest stop we’ve got. If you’ve got the commuter pass as far as Mitsu-kami, you’ll need to just pay for the fare inbetween Mitsu-kami and Shin-Yokohama (230 yen).
Kohoku IKEA (Website): The closest branch of the famous Swedish flat-pack furniture and home goods store. If you’ve got an IKEA where you’re from and have ever visited it, it’s pretty much the same, except the signage is bilingual (with katakana, speakers not skilled in the Swedish language can vaguely pronounce the names of their products!) and the prices are in yen. Tip from a senpai: go with a couple of people and have everyone chip in for one of those flat-rate shipping boxes, available after checkout. They’ve also got the (super-cheap) food they have at other Ikeas, including the cafeteria, the snack bar, and the Swede Shop at the end – no lingonberry soda on tap, unfortunately. Shuttle service to and from the store is available right outside of the JR Shin-Yokohama Station.
Nissan Stadium (Website): Home to the local Yokohama F. Marinos soccer team, and host to the FIFA Cup finals back in 2002. Also home to Nissan Water Park, an indoor swimming facility split into two parts.
Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (Website): This building — with interior decor modeled to look like Tokyo in 1958 (the year instant noodles were invented) — houses stores of nine carefully-selected ramen shops from all across the country, allowing visitors to try out a bunch of different kinds. The caveat: there is an entry fee, which is 300 yen.
Heading Outside of Yokohama
With how Japan’s many train lines network and snake together, things can get real confusing real fast. Here’s a piece of advice: Hyperdia is your friend. It’s a Web interface in which you put in your beginning and end stations, and it’ll figure out how you need to get there, and how much it’ll cost you. iOS and Android apps are available, if you’ve got a data connection on a compatible device.
Kawasaki: Take the JR Tokaido Line one stop north for 220 yen. If you want to visit the Kawasaki Daishi/Heiken-ji temple, take the Keikyu Line from Yokohama to Keikyu Kawasaki, then transfer to the Keikyu Daishi Line to reach Kawasaki-daishi Station; this costs 230 yen.
Haneda Airport: Whether you’re greeting someone who’s coming to visit or heading somewhere else, getting there is as simple as taking the Keikyu line’s “Airport Express” train from Kamiooka, Gumyoji, or Yokohama to the airport. (For additional reference, see this map.)
Odaiba: Take the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line to Oimachi station, then descend down several flights of escalators to catch the Rinkai Line. Most of the awesome things, such as Diver City, Aqua City, The Decks, and so forth can be found by alighting at Tokyo Teleport station. If there’s an event going on at the Tokyo Big Sight international convention center that you want to attend (for you otaku types interested in the twice-yearly Comic Market, this is your holy ground), get off at Kokusai-tenjijo station.
Tokyo Inner-City (23 Wards): As mentioned earlier, if you want to go to the east part of town (Tokyo, Akihabara, Ueno, Asakusa), the cheapest way to do so is to take the Keikyu Line to Shinagawa for 290 yen, then transfer to the JR Keihin-Tohoku line for your destination. (For Tokyo Tower, get off at JR Hamamatsucho station.) If you want to go to the west part of town (Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and so on), take the Tokyu Toyoko Line to Shibuya for 260 yen, then proceed to take JR or subway lines to your destination.
For the Tokyo Skytree (and its staggeringly huge mall, the Solamachi), take the Keikyu Line to Oshiage (Skytree-mae) station (it’ll change into the Toei Subway Asakusa Line at Sengakuji; make sure you’re not on a train with Kanagawa-shimmachi or Shinagawa as its final destination, as you’ll have to make additional transfers if you do ride one).
Saitama, Tochigi, Gunma prefectures: The JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line offers through service onto the Utsunomiya and Takasaki main lines, though be careful and listen to the announcements — you may need to transfer onto a different train at Omiya Station.
Chiba prefecture (Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea, Makuhari Messe, Narita Airport): It’s so far away that taking JR trains all the way is actually a lot cheaper: from Yokohama, take the JR Tokaido line to Tokyo, then transfer to the Keiyo line to Maihama (Disneyland), Kaihin-Makuhari (Makuhari Messe), or Narita Airport stations respectively. At Maihama, transfer to the Disney Resort Line monorail through its Resort Gateway Station for DisneySea; you can either take the monorail or walk if you want to go to Disneyland.
For destinations a bit further away from home, such as the Kansai area (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe, etc.), Shikoku area (Takamatsu, etc.), Kyushu area (Fukuoka, Nagasaki, etc), and so on, the fastest way to get there is via shinkansen/bullet train (take it from Shin-Yokohama station); if you don’t have much money, though, the Seishun Juuhachi Kippu (Youthful 18 Ticket) goes on sale for 11,500 yen three times a year and is valid for five full days for that specific season — and they don’t have to be consecutive, either! — but they only allow for rides on local/rapid trains. (See Japan Guide’s excellent guide or JR East’s fficial page for more.) Check around the web for valid sale and use dates, and buy them from a JR station’s “Midori-no-Madoguchi” (みどりの窓口) ticket offices.