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Yokohama 横浜

Minato Mirai 21 みなとみらい21

Yokohama harbour at night from the Landmark Tower
Minato Mirai 21 at night, Yokohama

In 1983, Yokohama started a redeveloment project on its harbour front that was supposed to bring the city into the 21st century. A new futuristic city within the city was built on a stretch of old dockyards and land reclaimed on the harbour covering 186 ha (460 acres). It took nearly a decade to complete and was named Minato Mirai 21, meaning "Harbour of the future" (21 being a reference to the 21st century).

The centerpiece of Minato Mirai is the adequately named Landmark Tower (276m), which has been the tallest building in Japan since 1993. This multi-purpose skyscraper contains a shopping centre on its 6 lower levels, offices in the middle floors, and the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel occupying the 49th to 70th floors. A few famous office tenants include NTT, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Estate Co., Mitsubishi Electric, and Coca-Cola. All the major TV broadcasters also keep a relay station on the upper floors of the tower.

The main interest for visitors is the Sky Garden on the 69th floor, Japan's highest observation deck. Part of the fun is to ride the world's second fastest lift/elevator (after the one in Taipei 101), which will get you to the 69th floor in a mere 40 seconds, at a speed of 12.5 m per second. Once on top you will have a 360-degree view over Yokohama and the Tokyo Bay. Mount Fuji surges majestically over the horizon on clear days (usually not in summer due to the high humidity). Admission to the Sky Garden is ¥1000. If you prefer contemplating the view over dinner (perhaps at sunset), you can do so in one of restaurants of the Royal Park Hotel on the 68th floor, or at the Sirius Sky Lounge on the 70th floor.

At the foot of the Landmark Tower is the Yokohama Maritime Museum featuring the Nippon Maru, a splendid sail training ship built in 1930.

The second "landmark" (more of a beacon, actually) of MM21 is the giant Ferris Wheel at the Yokohama Cosmo World Amusement Park on Shinkō Island (新港, "Newport"). Named Cosmo Clock 21, the wheel was built for the YES '89 Yokohama Exposition. It then became the world's largest ferris wheel, with a height of 107.5 metres (353 ft), before being overtaken by Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Osaka in 1997, and by quite a few others since then (including 8 in China that are currently taller, as of June 2010). Cosmo Clock 21 is illuminated with changing colours at night, brightening the city's coastline like no other building.

Nipponmaru at night, Yokohama
Night view of Akarenga, Yokohama

Still on Shinkō Island is the Manyō Club (万葉倶楽部), the perfect place to relax after a hard day of work or sightseeing. The Japanese passion for onsen (hot springs spa) is manifested here on this huge five-floor spa, that uses actual hot spring water brought in daily with tank lorries from Yugawara and Atami in the Izu Peninsula, 50 km (30 mi) down the coast. Like any good Japanese spa, it comes with saunas, professional massages, esthetic treatments, relaxation rooms and fine dining. There is a circular footbath on the rooftop with spectacular views on Minato Mirai, especially at night. Admission to the Manyō Club is ¥2620. You can choose between a public indoor or open-air bath, a family bath or private bath. Overnight stays are of course possible.

At the far end of Shinkō Island, almost in Kannai really, is the Akarenga ("Redbrick") Shopping Centre. It isn't the only shopping centre on the island or in MM21 (let's also cite the nearby World Porters), but this one has the particularity of being inside Meiji-era warehouses. The bricks give it a northern European feel, further enhanced by the presence of a beer garden. Its seaside location make it a great place to relax.

The other attractions of Minato Mirai are the Yokohama Museum of Art (20th-century European and Japanese painters), and for the kids the Pukari floating pier, the Mitsubishi Minato Mirai Industrial Museum, and the Anpanman Museum.

Suitably for a harbour complex, the Grand InterContinental Hotel attracts the attention with its sail-shaped building. Next to it is the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, one of the largest convention complexes in the world, and the Minato Mirai Hall, home to the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra.

Map of attractions in Yokohama

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