Everyone who lives here in Japan—Japanese and foreigners alike—admire the port city of Yokohama. This is mainly due to the marked contrasts of her very pretty face: Yokohama offers a wonderful mix of new and old, hills and bay, elegance and casualness! The brilliant Minato Mirai area, wonderful Yamashita Park, exotic Chinatown, the sophisticated Motomachi shopping street, the historical Yamate district, and the relaxed and friendly Noge; these areas and much, much more are all part of the wonder of Yokohama. Yokohama is located 30km south of the center of Tokyo (30 minutes by train), and as of 2011, her population stood at around 3.7 million.
Until the end of the Edo era, Yokohama was only a small fishing village, and Kanagawa (the town, not the prefecture) along the Tokaido (the main road connecting Edo and Kyoto that ran through Yokohama and the rest of Kanagawa Prefecture, and which had inns along it) was a more important place. After the Japan-U.S. Peace Treaty was signed in 1854, the Japanese government designated Yokohama village as a trading base and expanded the land with landfill. In 1859 Yokohama officially opened her port to the rest of the world and became the business center in Japan. Foreign trade and traders came rushing in. The people of the Edo era had developed their own unique and sophisticated culture, but they were quite innocent to the outside world. When the people of Yokohama made contact with foreign elegance, their curiosities were stimulated and they quickly absorbed and developed their own versions of everything new. This had a strong influence on Yokohama and its originality was thus formed. Yokohama culture has flourished ever since, and it continues to flourish today.
Over the years, Yokohama experienced two serious disasters that completely destroyed the city—the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the allied bombings of World War II in 1945. Many foreigners died or left Yokohama at those times and many were buried in the Foreigner's Cemetery here in Yokohama.
There is a saying that goes: In Kyoto, you will be treated as a newcomer even if your family has been residents there since your grandfather's generation. But in Yokohama, you will definitely be recognized and welcomed as a citizen in three days! You will realize the people here are friendly, big hearted and flexible. They have accepted some enormous changes over the course of a few centuries, and in the process have become cosmopolitan, and sophisticated through their sufferings.
I really recommend that you visit Yokohama sometime between your trips to the historical discoveries of old Japanese cities such as Kyoto or Nara and the beautiful nature of rural areas such as Hokkaido or Nagano. It is a compact city that is easy to move around in. You will feel completely at home here and it will be a chance for you to take a deep breath during your busy schedule. So, please drop by and enjoy Yokohama for a day or two. I am certain that you will be impressed with the energy and style that Yokohama has to offer!
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