Motomachi-Chukagai Station is a railway station located in Naka Ward, Yokohama. It is an underground terminus of the Minatomirai Line operated by Yokohama Minatomirai Railway Company. The station is situated in Motomachi district, close to the famous Yamate area of Yokohama.
Yamate, located on a hill close to the harbor, is a quiet residential area with a foreign touch. Motomachi is situated at the foot of Yamate hill. It was originally a farming and fishing village, but after 1859, when Yokohama Port was opened to foreigners and the number of foreigners increased, it transformed into a business district with a western touch. Today Motomachi is very popular among tourists as several attractions are located in the area.
Motomachi Shopping Street
Motomachi Shopping Street is located just outside the Motomachi exit of Motomachi-Chukagai Station. This five-block long street is famous throughout Japan for its original fashions, having started a new fashion trend in the 1970s known as hama tora. Both sides of this street have modern boutiques, cafés, and bakeries. Among the best known boutiques here are the Kitamura, Mihama, and Fukuzo. The most famous bakeries here are the German Bakery and the Madame Pompadour Bakery. Motomachi Shopping Street attracts shoppers throughout the year, but more so in February and September, which are the sale months, called Charming Sales.
Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Asia, and one of the largest in the world. It is located just a short walk from Motomachi-Chukagai Station, which serves Chinatown directly (Chukagai is Chinatown in Japanese).
Chinatown’s history goes back to 1859 when Yokohama Port was opened to foreigners. Many Chinese immigrants arrived as traders in ferries and settled down in this area close to the harbor. As more immigrants arrived, they opened their own schools, community centers, shops and restaurants. During the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Chinatown was also affected and many surviving Chinese returned to China. Further immigration was also stopped by the China-Japan War in 1937. After the war ended and peace was restored between China and Japan, Chinese immigrants started coming in again. Immigration was further given a boost in 1972, when Japan established diplomatic relations with People’s Republic of China. Today there are nearly 4000 residents in Chinatown, most of them from the Canton region.
There are over 200 restaurants and an equal number of stores in the narrow and colorful streets of Chinatown. The restaurants here are extremely popular with clients often waiting in long lines outside. Foods served here are from all over China - Cantonese, Beijing, Shanghai, and Szechwan. A recent addition is Daska, a food theme park, with a large number of food stands and eateries spread over three floors.
In the center of Chinatown is Kanteibyo, a temple constructed in 1873 by the Chinese residents. Considered the symbol of Yokohama Chinatown, this brightly colored temple is dedicated to Kanwu, the god of business. The temple is magnificently illuminated at night.
Yokohama Chinatown is surrounded by gates - four main gates called Enpei-mon Gate, Seiyo-mon Gate, Zenrin-mon Gate, and Choyo-mon Gate; and six smaller gates. Zenrin-mon Gate, brightly colored in gold and red, is the most conspicuous of all the gates. This and Seiyo-mon Gate are located on the Ishakawacho side, Enpei-mon Gate is on the west side, Choyo-mon Gate is on the east; and the smaller gates Genbu-mon Gate on the north and Suzako-mon Gate on the south. The other gates are Tencho-Mon Gate, Chikyu-Mon Gate on the Kanteibyo Street, and two Ichiba Dori-Mon Gates on the Ichiba Dori Street. Guardian deities are said to be enshrined in each of these gates.
Yoshimoto Omoshiro Suizokukan (Fun Aquarium)
Yoshimoto Omoshiro Suizokukan, or Fun Aquarium, is located in Chinatown near Zenrin-mon Gate. It is divided into two sections – a regular aquarium and an aquarium for small children. The regular aquarium has over 5000 fishes of 300 different species. This regular “fun” aquarium is unique in the sense that its fish tanks are all built in different shapes such as school lockers and ancient temples. The tanks also have switches and buttons that visitors can “play” with – giving such looks as if the fish are swimming upside down, or turning the tanks dark with the fish glowing. The children’s section of the aquarium, designed like a kindergarten, is just as interesting with slides and climbing frames placed in between the uniquely designed tanks.
The Fun Aquarium is truly a fun place, which both adults and children enjoy. The aquarium is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entry fee is 1400 yen for adults and 700 yen for children.
Yokohama Marine Tower
Yokohama Marine Tower, located just one minute’s walk from Exit 4 of Motomachi-Chukagai Station, is one of Yokohama’s many landmarks. This 106 meter high lattice tower is the world’s tallest inland lighthouse. This magnificent tower was erected in 1961 as part of the centenary celebrations of the inauguration of Yokohama Port.
Yokohama Marine Tower has a light capacity of 600,000 candles, which flash every ten seconds in alternating colors of red and green. At night the tower itself is also lit in green and red. There is also an observation deck at the height of 100 meters (30th level) from where visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding areas. Below, on the 4th level, there is a restaurant. On the 3rd level there is a large hall that can be rented for various ceremonies and events. The 2nd level is the entrance lobby to the observation deck. There is also a small museum depicting the history of the tower, and a souvenir shop. The 1st level has an Information Center, a café, and a bar.
The Tower is open to visitors every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are 750 yen for adults, 500 yen for youth (13-17 years), and 250 yen for children.
Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery
Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is a historical burial ground, which served the foreign residents of Yamate in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its history goes back to 1854 when a marine of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s fleet died and land was required to bury him. Upon the Commodore’s request, the Japanese government offered him a piece of land near a Japanese cemetery on Bluff as a cemetery for the Americans. When Yokohama Port was opened and more foreigners came in, naturally more died as well. This small piece of land was now not enough. To make more space for the foreigners, the Japanese removed their own graves to another area in 1861. In 1866, the Meiji government further added parts of Negishi Racetrack to the foreign cemetery. In 1894, some more land was added to the cemetery and its administration handed over to the foreigners under a treaty. Ever since, Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery has served as a foreign cemetery run by an executive committee.
Some well-known names buried here are Charles Lennox Richardson, John Wilson, Charles Wirgman, and Ludovicus Stornebrink. The French military advisers of Boshin War – Francois Bouffier, Jean Marlin, and Auguste Pradier – are also buries here.
Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is located 3 minutes from Motomachi-Chukagai Station.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Located near the Cemetery is the Sacred Heart Cathedral. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church Diocese, which includes Kanagawa Prefecture, Shizuoka Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture, and Yamanashi Prefecture. The church was originally built in 1906 in Yamate Bluff, but was completely destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. It was later reconstructed in 1933 on the same design as the original at its present location.
Motomachi Park is a woody and grassy park situated adjacent to Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery. Besides serving as a place of relaxation to the residents of the area, the Park also offers a large swimming pool and an archery range. Motomachi Park is also home to three of the Yamate Seiyokan Residences - Yamate 234 Ban-Kan, Ehrismann Residence, and Berrick Hall. Berrick Hall is the biggest of the Yamate Seiyokan Residences. Built in 1930 as a British merchant’s house, it is a Spanish-style building with a triple-arch entrance.
Harbor View Park
Harbor View Park is the most famous park of Yokohama. It is located a short walk from Motomachi-Chukagai Station on top of a hill overlooking Yokohama Port. A private park, opened to the public in 1962, it is very popular among tourists as it provides a magnificent view of the bay and harbor. Visitors can also enjoy a scenic view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge from here.
Two of the Yamate Seiyokan Residences are also situated in the Park – Yamate 111 Ban-Kan and British House Yokohama. Yamate 111 Ban-Kan, the better known of the two, was built in 1926 and has red Spanish-style roof tiles.
Two small museums are also located in Harbor View Park - Jiro Osaragi Memorial Museum (a memorial museum of Jiro Osaragi, one of the most famous writers of post-war Japan), and Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature (contains manuscripts and letters of literary masters of Kanagawa Prefecture).
Three other small museums are located within 7 to 8 minutes from Motomachi-Chukagai Station. These are:
Iwasaki Museum: A museum with a collection of materials related to fashion.
Yamate Museum: Housed in a wooden building built in 1909, it has a collection of the foreign residents’ mementos.
Tin Toy Museum: Housed in a Victorian-style house, the museum is Teruhisa Kitahara’s private collection of tin toys produced from the 1890s to 1960s. There are over 3,000 tin toys that include almost everything from Disney characters to Superman and Batman.