Day 16: Yokohama

Cosmos Ferris wheel and the Intercontinental Hotel  at Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama
Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Continues from Day 15: Nakano and Akihabara

Despite the miserable rain yesterday we were greeted this morning by beautiful sunny skies; perfect weather for today's day trip to the nearby city of Yokohama (横浜 = Beside + Beach). 

With around 3.6 million people, Yokohama is second most populated city and is located only around 30km south west of Tokyo.

In fact metropolises have long since merged and contribute to the 35.7 million people living in the Greater Tokyo Area, which is the most populated metropolitan area in the world.

After waking up and having a quick breakfast we caught JR line train from Hatchobori to Tokyo station. 

As we were not waiting for anything to open today we had left much earlier than yesterday at about 7:30am and did not have any problems with congestion on the train. Once we arrived at Tokyo we made the long transfer to the main platforms and caught a JR Tōkaidō Line train to Yokohama. Our train was a little bit late in departing as there had been heavy fog in the early morning that had caused some issues however the driver managed to make up the lost time and we arrived in Yokohama on schedule.

During our last trip to Japan we had really wanted to visit Ueno Zoo in Tokyo but had somehow managed to inadvertently attempt a visit on two different Mondays, when the zoo is closed. Since returning and reading a bit about the zoo (and finding out that it’s shut on Mondays) we learnt that as an older zoo some of the conditions there are not the best and so instead decided to visit the newer and better kept Zooasia in Yokohama. As Zooasia is not located in the heart of Yokohama once we arrived we transferred to a Sotetsu line train and got off seventeen minutes later at Tsurugamine station.

Our journey was not quite over ten though as we needed to transfer to a bus to cover the final four kilometers to the Zoo. Tsurugamine was a pretty small station and there were no obvious signs pointing to the bus stop we needed, or any bus stops at all, though there was a billboard advertising the zoo. Also, I had got a bit lazy towards the end while creating the Japan Book and only had a vague "Transfer to a bus bound for the zoo" written down. Not very helpful! Upon exiting the station we did manage to find a bus stop, although after we rushed over to the bus that was about to depart I concluded that it was neither the bus nor stop that we needed.

We must’ve look pretty worried or confused as an old lady came up to us and asked in Japanese if we needed any help! I gave her a bit of a garbled response but she managed to understand that we wanted to go to Zooasia. The lady told us that there was a bus terminal located down the street a bit and we could get a bus from there. She didn’t speak any English but we were able to communicate alright, or so I thought. She was actually unsure about whether or not we’d be able to find it and took the time to lead us all the way there! Which was really friendly as it was quite a long way for her to go out of her way.

Along the way she mainly chatted to herself but asked me some questions as well, such as how long we’d been in Japan and where we were from. After about a ten minute walk we arrived at a big bus terminal that had around twelve stops and were told us how to get over to the one we needed. The thanked her profusely and went over to our stop.

When we first arrived there was no one else there waiting but before long some parents with young children started to arrive and a short while later so did our bus. We were able to use our Suica IC cards on all our transportation today and the bus was no exception. As it was our first time using the card on a bus though, we were a bit unsure about what the procedure was. In Brisbane you must also touch on when to get on and off when you get off but were not sure if that was the case here as well. When we hopped on we showed the card to the driver and he indicated that we should touch on by tapping it against the reader.

What to do when we got off though? Unfortunately our plan to watch and see what everyone else did was foiled since they all had commuter passes rather than Suica cards. In in end we didn’t touch off which worked out OK and makes me think that the bus may have had a flat fare.

We actually got off a little early as there are apparently two stops with “Zooasia” and we got off at the first one, which was called something like “Zooasia-guchi” or “Zooasia-Mae”. We were actually pretty doubtful since none of the families got off, however we didn’t want to miss the stop and could see that the zoo’s entrance was short walk away anyway. So it was no big deal.

Once we walked down and arrived at the zoo we found thousands of different primary school children sitting in groups around various teacher/guardians. The whole area in front of the zoo was absolutely covered in them! Luckily for us it didn’t look like they were going in yet and we were able to quickly purchase a ticket for 600yen and enter the zoo. As we entered we read a sign stating that we would not be able to view the dusky leaf monkey as they were taking today off. One last thing to note about the entrance was that there were a number of shrubs cut to look like different animals- which was cute!

We went around the zoo in a clockwise direction and saw a heap of different animals! The zoo was arranged into several different zones with collections of animals found in those regions. The Asian Tropical Forest came first and we saw an Elephant, some monkeys and apes (orang-utan, leaf monkeys (sans dusky), gibbon, macaque), some cats (leopard, lion, tiger) some birds (including Rothchild’s Mynah) and a tapir. Out of this section the highlights for me were the monkeys, apes and tapir. The orang-utan looked very smart but also quite sad although I’m not sure if he was just pulling faces or not as his enclosure was pretty big and well furnished. Also, while the elephant had a decent sized area I still thought it was a little on the small side for such a large creature.

Soon after we started walking through this first area the primary school kids from outside entered and started dashing all over the place. They were all in small groups demarcated by different coloured hats they were wearing! They were really cute and I heard lots of “Sugoi” (Amazing) and “Mite!” (Look!), and various other exclamations.

From the Asian Tropical Forest we continued into the Subarctic Forest where we found some polar bears, hare, otters, red pandas, takins and a large a number of birds (including a penguin- though they’re Antarctic…). There was even a walk in bird Avery we went in as well.

Next came the Oceanian Grassland which included an “Aussie Hill” which made us feel right at home. Well, not really. Anyway, as we had seen these animals (kangaroos, emu etc.) many times before we quickly made our way to the next section, the Central Asian Highland.

Proboscis Monkey - CC Fotopedia
(We didn't take of our own photo's for some reason)
Like the Oceanian Grassland, this was quite a small section although it contained much more interesting animals such as the Mongolian wild ass, dhole and the proboscis monkey which was known to us as “the AIDS monkey”. These are hilariously looking monkeys that have a really fat elongated nose that droops down their face. 

We know them as the AIDS monkeys as we first learnt about them when travelling to Brunei in Borneo. The information on the plane stated that they’re one of the country’s main attractions and that also, by the way, they all have HIV monkey AIDS. I don’t know where that information came from though as I can’t seem to find anything on the internet to back this up which is good news as they’re cool creatures in my opinion. The wild ass was also pretty good.

Mongolian Wild Ass - CC Fotopedia
Following on from the Central Asian Highland was the Japanese Countryside section where we saw some of the animals found in Japan such as a the Japanese Badger, Raccoon Dog, Red fox, Macaque and Black Bear as well as some cranes and a stork. The black bears didn’t look too big or threatening but they apparently kill a couple of people on average every year in Japan. I guess you can’t judge based on size anyway though as the deadliest animal is the Asian giant hornet which kills 20-40 people a year. Despite being a giant hornet at 5cm long it is still much smaller than a bear and if I had to flight one I’d take the hornet any day.

After the Japanese Country Side we continued on to the Amazon Jungle and saw a more spectacled variety of bear, some bush dogs, a monkey and an Ocelot which was a really cute looking cat! It was at about this point that that the kids that had been swarming around us started to get a bit annoying! They were certainly cute at first but somehow all the yelling started to get quite shrill. It was nothing too bad though. I was also feeling a bit hungry and so bought an ice cream from a vending machine in the Amazon Centre rest area.

Okapi - CC Fotopedia
The final part of the zoo was the African Tropical Rain Forest and, due to the size of its animals, it was the most spread out and took up about 1/3 of the total area of the zoo. In this section we saw porcupines, okapi, hogs, chimps, giraffe and tortoises. 

The porcupines were interesting as I’d never seen one before and assumed they looked like echidnas and hedgehogs which was not the case at all! The porcupines had much longer spines that looked to be pointing all over the place. 

The Okapi were brilliant and looked like an embarrassing but cute cross between a donkey and a zebra. They've got the body of an ass and the ass (and legs) of a zebra, so to speak. Anyway, I also liked the chimpanzees and the giraffe were fantastic.

Once we'd seen all the animals we walked back to the entrance and exited the zoo. It was actually a fairly long way to walk and there was a free bus available that you could catch although time wise it would only be worth it if it was there waiting for you already.

After exiting we had a look to see when the next bus back to Tsurugamine Station left and found that we had a fair bit of a wait so decided to hop on a different bus that was about to leave to Nakayama Station. Although I didn’t know anything about where this station was we figured that as long as we were at a train station we’d be able to get to Yokohama and that the bus probably wouldn’t be going too far. Everything worked out well and after catching a train from Nakayama we arrived in Yokohama a short while later.

By the time we arrived though we were both absolutely starving and we got some food some place near the station. I can't quite remember what we had but after we had eaten we caught another train down to the Minato Mirai 21 district of Yokohama. The platforms for some of the trains at Yokohama were interesting as the tracks ended in the station and had a platform on each side, which allowed people to get off on one side and get on via the other.

Minato Mirai 21 (みなとみらい21 = Future + Harbour + 21) is a large urban area near the ocean home to a large number of entertainment facilities and attractions including hotels, shopping centres, museums, parks, a theme park and even a massive hot spring relaxation centre.

Mini Golf on top of the world Porters shopping complex
As Kate pretty keen on visiting the Cup Noodle museum and I wanted to go on some rides at the nearby Cosmos World amusement park, once we arrived we headed over to the artificial island where these attractions were located. 

Cosmos World was actually split between the mainland and the island although the best bits were on the island side so we crossed over the bridge and headed to the giant 112m tall Cosmos Clock 21 Ferris wheel. 

This wheel was first built in 1989 and was the largest in the world until it was surpassed by the Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Osaka in 1997 (which we went on in 2011). As the lights along the face of the wheel function as a clock the Cosmos Clock 21 still retains the title, apparently, of the world’s largest clock. 

Although to be fair, the Wikipedia ‘Worlds largest clocks’ page only lists actual clocks with mechanical arms.

Anyway, after finding the entrance to the wheel, which was a little tricky, we bought a ticket and were carried to the top where we were rewarded with great views of Yokohama. Looking more directly below us we saw what looked to be a mini golf course on the top of World Porters which is a large shopping centre building. On the way back down the wheel stopped rotating and an announcement came over the speaker in Japanese. I thought about telling Kate that they said we’d be stuck for hours but as she was already freaked out enough due to the height I truthfully told her that they said we were just stopping to load a bunch of people on and normal operations will resume shortly.

Wall of noodle evolution
After the Ferris wheel I futilely tried to talk Kate into going on the rollercoaster and ended up going on it myself as Kate is scared of them. It was pretty short ride but was also really fun! During one of the drops we went down a hole in the middle of a pond of water and through an underground tunnel that was full of flashing lights. As we went through the hole some water squirted up which added to the dramatic effect. One thing I did find though was that the seat and restraint were a little too tight and uncomfortable, even though I’m only 170cm tall I felt a little like I was being crushed from above.

Next up was the Cup Noodle museum! This museum was built by the Nissin Food cup noodle company which was founded by the creator of instant noodles, Momofuku Ando. The building was pretty big and when we went in we were asked if we wanted to reserve a place to make instant ramen noodles from scratch or design a cup and add premade ingredients. As it was already getting late we opted to just design the cup and add ingredients. 

Once we had our ticket we went through the rest of the museum and learnt about the history of instant noodles. There were a variety of different exhibits including a replica of the shed the noodles were invented in as well as a room that showed the evolution of Cup Noodle packaging throughout time.

Much of the history was explained in a theatre that played a cartoon character video depiction of Ando’s quest to create and market instant noodles. As with the Earthquake museum in Kobe we were provided with an earpiece that had an English translation of the content. I decided to go sans earpiece again but unfortunately had much more trouble understanding everything as there were no Japanese subtitles.

Once the video was finished it was time to make our own noodles! After a brief wait in a line we got our blank cup from a vending machine and were directed to a table that had writing and colouring implements which we could use to decorate our cup. As I often have a lot of trouble getting cup noodle flavours without onions I decided to do for a “TamaNegi Nashi” or “No onion” design.

ラーメン = Ramen,
An apple tree and river
玉葱無し = Tama Negi Nashi

After we had finished designing our cups we took them to a counter where they were put into a machine. We then turned a crank which rotated our cup upside down, put in some noodles, and flipped it back up the right way. This idea of getting the noodles into the cup was apparently a great revelation back in the day.

Next it was then time to choose what seasoning we’d like. Since my design was “Negi nashi”, I asked if there was a seasoning available that had no onions. They people manning the seasoning section saw that I had written Negi Nashi on the container and asked if I was allergic and I said yes. They said they were not sure exactly what was in the powders and went off to get the chef!
Kate's Noodles in their special bag


When they came back we were told that they unfortunately all contained onion powdering! Ahhh! So much for negi nashi! I said I’d just get it without the seasoning in that case but they replied that while they were very sorry it was policy to include one portion of seasoning and four toppings. So they couldn’t let me have no seasoning!

They said though that I was free to choose four onion free toppings, which wasn’t very helpful as it wasn’t as if I could just remove the seasoning. Anyway, I told them that I’d give it to someone else as a present and choose curry flavoured seasoning and prawn, cheese, bacon and corn as toppings.

Solitary wind turbine
Once the ingredients were all in the cup it was sealed with a lid, given back to us and we were given a special bag to put the noodles into. In order to, I suppose, make them take up more room we were supposed to inflate the bag by blowing into a straw which would encase the cup in a plastic bubble of air. We could then hang the bag from our neck, which made it easy to identify those who had been to the museum. On further consideration, packing up the noodles in this way also served to protect them.

The Yokohama Landmark Tower and Nippon Maru
After the cup noodle museum we walked over to nearby World Porters shopping centre as I was thirsty and there was supposedly an extensive supermarket on the food floor. While we managed to find floor with all the food there was no sign of any supermarket and I ended up getting a drink from one of the convenience stores inside instead.

Thirst quenched, we made our way along a long bridge across the water to the Yokohama Land Mark tower and the Nippon Maru which a fancy old ship that belongs to the Yokohama Port Museum. Since it was getting a bit late and there wasn't much time left before the museum closed we decided to just appreciate the ship from the free side and took some photos of the boat, Landmark Tower and the surrounding area which was looking very pretty at sunset.

Once we were done with the ship and photos we walked over to the really tall building located behind it.

Mt. Fuji Visible from Yokohama Landmark Tower
This was the Yokohama Landmark tower which, at 296m tall is the tallest building in Japan and its height is only surpassed by two actual towers (not buildings), Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree. As well as the support towers of the Akashi Kaikyo bridge! The tower's sky garden observation deck located 273m was also the highest in Japan before it was dwarfed by the 634m tall Tokyo Sky Tree's 450m high observation deck.

After buying a ticket we rode up to the top floor using the buildings elevators which are the second fastest in the world, reaching a top speed of 45.0 km/h. The observation floor was nice and fancy looking as well as spacious with big windows that provided excellent views of Tokyo, Yokohama and the surrounding area. Since it was such a clear day we were even able to see Mt. Fuji in the distance.

View of Yokohama bay and Minato Mirai area
I also managed to spy out Tokyo Tower!

After appreciating the views, but before making our way back down, Kate had a good look at the souvenir shop and ended up buying some silk covered almonds.

The elevator we caught back down dropped us off at a higher floor than the one we had got on at in order to make us walk past the shops located on the lower floors. I forgive them for doing this though as we got to see the some really interesting curved escalators connecting the floors! They spiralled down in an arc which is something I'd never seen before. The only shop I remember in the centre was called "Cold Rock" and while it was an ice cream shop it had no relation to famous Australian franchise.

Once we managed to get out of the landmark tower we walked back over to World Porters shopping centre to have a look at the roof mini golf. While you may think that finding something on a roof would be easy, as you know exactly where it is, we actually had a fair amount of trouble. We managed to climb to the highest floor all right using escalators but we were not able to ascend to the roof until we tracked down what seemed to be the only elevator going up there.

Once at the top we then had to walk around to where the mini golf course was. Unfortunately we found that it not only looked like a bad course (just simple shaped holes, no moving features or anything) it was also really expensive (upwards of 1000 yen each) , and we decided to pass on a game.

I actually thought that mini golf might be a big thing in Japan since the Japanese like golf but rarely have enough room to support a full course and seemed to be something they’d enjoy. As far as I can tell though it’s almost unheard of over there.

Since it was getting to be around dinner time once we went back down Kate decided that she'd like to eat the onion riddled cup noodles I had given to her. The fact that she didn't have any hot water to cook them in was solved with a visit to the convenience store we'd went to earlier. I actually didn't go in with her as I was embarrassed that she was stealing water. Kate escaped feelings of guilt and rationalised it within herself by buying some pooh bear flavoured pocky from the shop.

It was pretty dark once we left world porters but we still thought it would be nice to walk along the Osanbashi Pier which was located within walking distance. On the way we passed by the Red Brick Warehouses which, like in Hakodate, have been converted into trendy shopping and dining locations. While we didn't go in we did stop to take some photos of the warehouses which were lit up by lights. We also took some more photos looking back towards Minato Mirai.

Colours of Minato Mirai at night
Red Brick warehouses lit up during the evening

The Osanbashi Pier is also known as the Osanbashi International Passanger Terminal as is where international cruise ships dock while in Yokohama. It is 400 metres long and is quite elaborate! A normal car road goes halfway up it at which point the wooden floor board pedestrian path splits into two, one leading down into the pier and the other staying up above ground.
Brilliant blue path leading down into the depths of Osanbashi Pier

We took the above ground path which took us all the way to the end where there was a large open space with sections of green grass and areas of the wooden floorboard. Since we'd been doing quite a bit of walking we stopped and had a rest on one of the seats and admired the views of the ocean and Yokohama. It was a really nice temperature and feeling by the ocean. It would've been extra good to be able to lie on the grass but it was the "Keep of the grass" variety.

Once it was time to head back we made sure to take a path that led us down into the pier. The tunnel was lit up by a brilliant krypton blue light and eventually led us down to a big sort of conference or exhibition centre.

There wasn't really anyone else in there when we went in but it looked like it was open to the public. The exhibition hall was a big room and there were a heap of seats set up when we had a look. At one end there was a display that had a bunch of model buildings in it, I’m not sure what it was about specifically but it looked like some sort of new development proposal.

After the exhibition centre we walked back to the mainland and thought we'd head off over to the waterfront Yamashita Park. Once we got there though we decided we were too tired to walk the whole 1.5km down to the end of it and back, so we just had a really quick look at the top north western end.

Following this we somehow ended up near up at a mega pharmacy 'health' store located near the Yokohama Silk Museum. While we'd have liked to visit the museum it was unfortunately shut. However, since we have so much stuff left to do in Yokohama we’ll definitely visit during another trip to Japan and the silk museum will be a feature.

As for the health store, well, there were heaps of cigarettes for sale so it certainly didn't seem like a healthy sort of shop to use. There were though, a large variety of CalorieMate's for sale. These are some sort of food like substance sold in bright yellow boxes with a heap of text but no picture written on the front. It looks like they’re marketed as a meal substitute for people too busy to eat. I assume they're really popular as we've seen them absolutely everywhere in Japan and I finally decided to give in to my curiosity and give one a try.

There were a large amount of different flavours available including, Cheese, Chocolate, Fruit, Vegetable, Cheesecake, Potato and Maple. I was originally leaning towards the potato one as I thought it might taste like chips but Kate steered me away from that and I ended up with the fruit flavoured one. It tasted like... Chalk. Gross fruit flavoured chalk. I don't know if I just choose a particularly bad flavour but the texture certainty wasn't the best and I ended up throwing it out as I didn't want to get fat on the gross cardboardy substance.

After the health store we thought about walking over to the Yokohama Chinatown, which is the largest in Japan, but as it was late and we were dead tired we decided to call it a night and save it for our next trip. As we were not keen on walking all the way back to Minato Mirai station I had a look on my phone and found that Nihonodori station was located nearby.

After walking the short distance to that station we caught a train to Yokohama Station where we transferred to another train that took us back to Tokyo and ultimately our hotel in Hatchobori. Since we’d had such a big day we pretty much collapsed into bed when we got back.

Tomorrow was our last full day in Japan and we spent it on a day trip out to the historic ocean side town of Kamakura!

Look forward to the penultimate day’s description!

Continue reading Day 17: Kamakura


  1. I've read all your articles today. Your articles are great and you have an interesting view. Please keep on enjoying your research of Japan.

  2. Thank you so much for reading all the posts!

    It's a lot to read, I'm glad someone has taken the time to read them all!

    Thank you again!

  3. On two previous visits to Japan we have stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Yokohama...they often have high up city view rooms on their website for about $140/night...always worth checking out. It's a great experience to stay there.There is lots to explore around the area.

    1. That sounds like a pretty good deal- we usually end up with something pretty basic in Tokyo.

      Staying at Yokohama sounds good, we still need to check out the china town there and there's more stuff to see nearby in Kamakura and Enoshima as well.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Hi Eric

    Your Japan Book is amazing. I also typed pages of daily itinerary for my trips, but it was just a little different from your format. I had only 33 pages for my 1st Japan trip, which details, starting from Day 1, where we're going and the train trips and timing (cut and paste from Hyperdia, which I also showed to JR staff when booking the train tickets), where we're staying, and the things to see and do that day, down to the very last day of our trip. But these 33 pages were simply stapled together, haha. I had them printed only on one side of the A4 paper, because I used the blank side to scribble stuff and notes as we travelled like what and where we ate for lunch/dinner, and the cost, and basically anything I wanted to jot down for that day.

    As for the detailed info on each place we visited, say Beppu, I would have a separate couple of sheets for each place, again stapled. So if I'm visiting Beppu, I just take Beppu notes out of my folder in my main bag in the hotel. My system's really much more rudimentary and simple. I think your version is AMAZING! Sugoi!


    1. Hi Rin!

      Thank you very much for your comment!

      I think we probably spend too much time making the itenerary, and should probably just cut and paste a lot of information- rather than reformatting it.

      Blank pages would also be good for those rubber stamps seen everywhere in Japan! We often wanted to stamp our book but couldn't find any spare space!

      Having notes for each location sounds pretty good, that way you're not carrying around a big book each time. And... We (Kate- it was kate!) actually lost our book during our last trip!

      I think we might just use a digital copy on our phones in the future perhaps...