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Yokohama 横浜

Attractions in the suburbs of Yokohama

Okurayama Memorial Hall, Yokohama (photo by Wiiii - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
So-ji Temple, Yokohama (photo by Wiiii - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
Former Negishi Horse Racetrack, Yokohama (photo by Wiiii - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Okurayama Memorial Hall 大倉山記念館

Located in the Kōhoku Ward, 4 stops north of Yokohama Station on the Tōkyū Tōyoko Line, the neighbourhood of Okurayama is home to the city's grandest Western-style edifice, the Okurayama Memorial Hall. Completed in 1932, this Hellenistic meeting hall was designed by Osamu Nagano and was intended as a place of fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. It is a multi-purpose public building with a concert hall, conference rooms. It also houses the Okurayama Spiritual and Cultural Research Library.

Sōji-ji Temple 總持寺

Sōji-ji is one of two head temples of the Sōtō school of Zen Buddhism, along with Eihei-ji in Fukui prefecture. Although Eihei-ji is more famous, the vast majority of the 14,000 Sōtō Zen temples are affiliated to Sōji-ji. Founded in 740, the Sōji Temple was originally located in the Nōtō peninsula (in Ishikawa prefecture), and became a member of the Shingon sect during the Heian period. Keizan Jōkin (1268-1325), the second of the great founders of the Sōtō Zen sect, broke off with the cloistered monastic tradition of the Eihei Temple and set off to spread Sōtō Buddhism around Japan. In 1321, the Sōji Temple was converted to his cause and became the head temple of the new branch. As most of the Sōtō Zen temples were founded by Keizan and his followers, the Sōji-ji accumulated a much wider influence than the original head temple of Eihei-ji.

The Sōji-ji burnt to the ground in 1898. It was decided to rebuild it in its present location at Tsurumi, Yokohama. Reconstruction was complete in 1911, after 7 years of work. Tsurumi University was established in 1953 around the temple. Its founding principles, 大覚円成 報恩行持 ("Daigaku-Enjō Hōon Gyōji", meaning "Great Awakening", "Gratitude" and "Continued Practice") are directly inherited from Keizan's teachings. Sōji-ji is just opposite Tsurumi Station, a 10-minute ride from Yokohama Station on the Keihin-Tōhoku line (¥160) or Keikyū main line (¥190).

Former Negishi Horse Racetrack 横濱競馬場

Between Yamate Station and Negishi Station is the Horse-Racing Memorial Park. It was once here that Westerners came to bet on horses, and that the Japanese acquired a taste for horse racing, a hobby that has become quite popular nationwide since then.

The former Negishi Horse Racetrack was built in 1866, soon after the establishment of the Western Settlement in Yamate. The first Japanese member joined in 1875, and three years later the Jockey Club of Yokohama was established, to be renamed Japan Racing Club in 1880. Many leading Meiji-era political figures joined the club. Among them were the future Prime Ministers Matsukata Masayoshi, Ito Hirobumi and Okuma Shigenobu, Admiral Enomoto Takeaki (co-founder of the Imperial Japanese Navy), Iwasaki Yanosuke (brother of the founder of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu), and local MP Ozaki Yukio.

The first betting slips appeared in 1880. By 1895 horses were imported from Australia. In 1905 the Meiji Emperor started awarding the Emperor's Cup, which has continued to this day under the name of Imperial Prize (天皇賞) since 1938, after the dissolution of the Japan Racing Club the year before. The Second World War brought an end to the races at Negishi. The tracks were officially closed on 10th June 1943. Attempts were made to revive the Negishi Horse Racetrack after the war, under the US Occupation. However the racecourse had become impossible to use and a new location was chosen instead.

The premises were converted into a Horse-Racing Memorial Park. In 1977, the Equine Museum of Japan was inaugurated to commemorate Japan's first horse racetrack. It has an adjoining Pony Center where children can learn to ride.

Shōmyō-ji Temple 称名寺

Set in the Kanazawa Ward, at the confine of Yokosuka City, the Shōmyō Temple is one of the oldest temples in the Kanto region. Accordidng to the legend, it was founded around 1258 by Kanezawa Sanetoki, who also founded the Kanazawa Bunko, a library that contains over 30,000 Japanese and Chinese books dating mostly from the medieval era, and now a museum. The temple's main feature is its garden, laid around a pond shaped in the Sanskrit letter "A", the Buddhist symbol for the duality between life and death.

The Shōmyōji is located halfway (roughly 300 m) between Kanazawa-Bunko Station (on the Keikyū main line, 16 min from Yokohama Station) and Uminokōen-shibaguchi Station (on the Kanazawa Seaside Line, only convenient if you are coming from or going to the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise).

Hakkeijima Sea Paradise 八景島シーパラダイス

Not far from Shōmyō-ji Temple, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise is an leisure park occupying a 16-hectare (40-acre) island facing Yokosuka City. It is a popular recreation spot for families or as a dating venue for Japanese couples. There are shops and restaurants, a hotel, a marina, flower gardens, and an amusement park featuring among others a surf coaster that swings out over the water. But the main attraction is the three-story aquarium, one of Japan's largest, with 100,000 marine specimens, including 500 different species of fish, and the inevitable dolphin shows.

To get there, take the Keikyū main line from Yokohama Station until Kanazawa-Hakkei (20 min), then transfer to the Kanazawa Seaside Line for 4 stops until Hakkeijima Station.

Map of attractions in Yokohama

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