Neighborhoods in Yokohama each have their own distinctive atmosphere. Some of the most popular expatriate areas are located in Naka-ku: Yamate Bluff, Motomachi/Chukagai, Honmoku, Negishi and the Minato Mirai area located in Nishi-kudue offer available services and conveniences, such as easy access to international schools or common expat companies. Several of these areas have been home to foreigners since Japan started allowing foreign ships into its ports for trade.
In Yokohama, foreigners enjoy a comfortable lifestyle with more greenery and outdoor space compared to Tokyo. Naturally, anyone moving to Japan has his or her own priorities for choosing a neighborhood in which to live: the commute to office or school, the prevalence of expatriate infrastructure, etc. The following is a brief description of what makes so many of Yokohama’s major neighborhoods unique.
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THE BLUFF / YAMATE-CHO
“The Bluff” in Naka Ku’s Yamate Cho is a historic neighborhood where foreigners have been living since the 1800s. Offering views of downtown Yokohama and a large number of historical buildings, gardens and public parks. Some of the original Victorian houses built by the British in the 1800s still remain, and along with sites such as the foreigners ‘cemetery which serve as a reminder of the history of this neighborhood. In addition to the parks and green spaces, Yokohama International School and St. Maur’s International School are located on the Bluff, making it the first choice for many expat families with children.
MOTOMACHI / CHUKAGAI
Yokohama Chinatown, or Chukagai as it is called in Japanese, is one of the biggest in the world with hundreds of restaurants and shops–easily recognizable in bright red paint with gold trim and traditional Chinese motifs. Foreigners can also take part in traditional Chinese festivals which are held at various times throughout the year. Right next to Chinatown is the Motomachi shopping district offering the latest in fashion and designer goods and restaurants.
Just a short walk from Chinatown and Motomachi shopping district is Yamashita Park. This public park consists of wide, open, green space dotted with well-tended flower beds stretching about two-thirds of a kilometer along Yokohama’s waterfront. It was built just after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 to provide residents with an open space to enjoy strolling. Nowadays, the park also hosts many events and festivals throughout the year which are open to the public.
The Motomachi/Chukagaiareahas western style apartments are within walking distance from St. Maur’s International School and Yokohama International School. The area is located near train and subway stations for easy commuting.
The Honmoku area is hilly with fairly wide streets compared to other parts of Yokohama. The area is situated near Yokohama Bay and used to be a US army base which was returned to Japan and then rebuilt as a residential and shopping area. MyCal Honmoku is a huge shopping area with more than 300 shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and live houses is located in the area. It is a popular place for young Japanese couples out on dates during the weekends.
The Honmoku area is well-known for its greenery and large parks. One famous park is Sankeien,a large Japanese garden and very popular with foreigners. Sankeien Park has plants representing all the seasons in Japan: cherry blossoms and azaleas in the spring, plum blossoms in late winter and bright red, orange and yellow foliage in autumn.
Negishi Shinrin Park, located nearby, has vast, open grounds that are perfect for playing catch, jogging or dog-walking. Large western style homes with yards and parking spaces along with plenty of parks make the Honmoku area ideal for families.
Much of Yokohama’s activities and excitement centers in or around Minato Mirai 21, Port Future 21, a modern commercial and residential development on reclaimed land. The area includes residential properties, commercial offices, hotels, museums, convention halls, concert halls, art galleries, restaurants, shopping centers, a hot spring bath and an amusement park next door. Built right next to the sea, Minato Mirai’s modern design provides open spaces and a welcome relief from the overly crowded downtown areas of Yokohama.
The Minato Mirai area has modern western-style high rise apartments with the latest features. Many of the apartments offer excellent views of the harbor adding to the feeling of spaciousness.