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Situated 20 km (12.5 miles southwest of Tokyo, Yokohama was an unimportant little fishing village until 1854, when Japan’s long centuries of self-imposed isolation came to an end.
Foreign diplomat’s traders, and missionaries where at last able to enter the country. But the unrest they inspired prompted the Tokugawa government to move theme all here to guarded compound on the village flats ostensibly to guarantee their safety, but more importantly to contain the contamination of their uncouth way’s and ideas.
The ploy worked well enough until the Meiji Restoration, when those Western ideas where needed to modernize the country. In 1869 Yokohama became an international port, and the burgeoning international community quickly spread beyond its confinement to the high ground still known today as the Bluff. In 1872 Japan’s first railway went into service between Yokohama and Tokyo, and the city began to flourish.
The two cities have twice shared the same destructive fate. The great Kanto earthquake of 1923 destroyed some 60000 homes in Yokohama and took over 20000 lives. The next twenty years of reconstruction and growth were wiped out overnight, in may 1945, when American bomber leveled nearly half the city. the harbor was hastily restored during the Korean War and today is one of the busiest and most important trading ports in the world.
With a population of some three million, Yokohama no longer sits in Tokyo‘s shadow. In many respects, in fact, it is the more cosmopolitan city preferred by many residents of the greater metropolitan area as a place to live the work. If you are on a short visit to Japan, your excursion time might be better spent elsewhere. But Yokohama’s great waterfront, port redevelopment project, museums, and restaurants should still keep it high on your list.
From Sakuragi-cho station it’s a short walk to the waterfront (which is still referred to by its old name, the Bund) and to the South Pier and Yamashita Park.
Here you can take a tour of the harbor on one of the sightseeing launches moored near the ship Hikawa-maru, now retired form services. It carried passengers between Yokohama and Seattle for some thirty years; in summer, it has pleasant beer garden on the upper deck.
At the entrance to the South Pier is the nine-story Silk Center Building. The Silk Museum on the second floor, with its collection of kimono and exhibits of the silk -making process, evokes the period when Yokohama was the hub of that industry.
On the first floor are the main offices of the Yokohama International Tourist Association. For a bird’s eye view of the harbor, take the elevator to the observation deck of the 106 m (348-ft) Marine Tower. The beacon atop the tower gives it a claim of being the tallest lighthouse in the world; it also has an interesting oceanographic museum.
The Minato Mirai 21 project, launched in the mid -1980s was intended to turn a huge track of neglected waterfront north and east of Sakurai-cho into a model “city of the future,” integrating business, exhibition and leisure facilities. The centerpiece of the project is the 70 story Landmark Tower.
Yokohama’s tallest building; its observation deck affords a spectacular view of the city and the Bay Bride, especially at night.
If you fancy a short walk from here, across the Kisha-Michi Promenade, you can go to Shinkocho, a man-made island which features the just renovated Akarenga Park, a row of old redbrick custom houses that now serve as shops, restaurants and boutiques.
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Japan’s austere, ruthless, but statesmanlike new ruler, Yoritomo Minamoto set up his government in Kamakura well away from the “softening” influence of court life that had been the undoing of his predecessor, Kiyomori, First of the national rulers to take the title of sei=I tai-shogun (“barbarian-sub-during great general”), Minamoto expanded and consolidated his power by confiscating lands form some of the defeated Taira and redistributing them to his samurai vassals.
Minamoto died in 1199, and the feudal structure passed intact to the tutelage of his widow’s family, the Hojo, who were content to paly regent to a figurehead shogun, in much the same way as the Fujiwara had done with the emperor. The fiction of Japanese imperial power had become infinitely extendable, the emperor at Kyto- still seconded by a Fujiwara regent at court—legitimized a minamoto who was himself a military dictator controlled by a Hojo regent. In a country where form and substance were inextricably interrelated, two things counted in politics: symbolic authority and real power. Neither could exist without the other.
A thwarted Mongol invasion in 1274 weakened the Kamakura regime. The fighting brought none of the usual spoils of war that provincial warlords and samurai had come to expect as payment. And the treasury was empty after earthquake, famine and plague had crippled the economy. Buddhist monasteries were using their private armies to support imperial ambitions to bring power back to Kyoto. Worst of all the Kamakura warriors resenting the way the Kyoto court referred to them as “Eastern barbarians,” sought refinement in a ruinous taste for luxury: extravagant feasts, rice costumes, and opulent homes. Kamakura was falling apart.
Located in Shinagawa which is, otherwise not very rich in tourist attractions; this is one gem that should not be missed.
Sengakuki is a temple that evokes one of the most popular stories in all of premodern Japanese history.
Thousands of visitors come annually to Sengakuji to lay incense on the tombstones and walk through the small museum called Hall of the Loyal Retainers, where weapons, personal effects, and other memorabilia are preserved.
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Graphic showing average weather in Yokohama in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
|Month||Temp °C||Rainfall Cm||Temp °F||Rainfall Inches|
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