Situated just 30 minutes from downtown Tokyo, Yokohama is often regarded as an afterthought when planning a visit to the capital but there’s actually plenty to see and do in this port city. In fact, in April this year, Yokohama unveiled a futuristic new ropeway in the heart of the city. Because most of the country’s ropeway systems are found in rural mountainous areas, it’s pretty unusual to see a cable car in the middle of a busy modern city. Named “Yokohama Air Cabin”, this urban ropeway ferries passengers from Sakuragicho Station to Canal Park in under five minutes — a trip that would normally take about 12 minutes on foot.
If you’re planning a visit to Yokohama in the near future, here are four experiences to include in your itinerary:
During your visit, be sure to pop by Gundam Factory Yokohama along Yamashita Pier. The entertainment complex recently unveiled an 18m "life-size" moving statue of Gundam, a giant robot featured in a Japanese sci-fi animation series, Mobile Suit Gundam. This colossal robot, which has more than 20 moving parts, was built to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the broadcasting of the TV series in 2020. Head up to the observation decks to take a closer look at this anime icon (and admire the surrounding views). The robot also takes a different pose every 30 minutes and also lights up every evening.
Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum
No visit to Yokohama is complete without a visit to the world’s first food-themed amusement park. First opened in 1994, this museum houses nine traditional stalls serving ramen from across Japan. Slurp your way through delicious ramen from Rishiri, Okinawa and Kumamoto in a nostalgic street-scape designed to look like a typical Japanese alley in the 1950s. There’s also a dagashi-ya (old-fashioned sweet shop), where you can take a trip down memory lane with more than 300 classic sweets and toys from yesteryear Japan.
Cup Noodles Museum
Ramen… but make it instant. Dedicated to the country’s favourite comfort food, this interactive museum offers a glimpse into the brilliant mind of Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products and inventor of Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant ramen. Here, you can learn to make your own chicken ramen — from kneading, spreading, steaming and seasoning the wheat flour before drying it with the flash-frying method — as well as try a wide variety of international noodle flavours (the way Ando did when he was searching for the origin of noodles). Young children will love the Cup Noodles Park, where they can experience being a noodle in a huge factory and going through the entire manufacturing process.
Hara Model Railway Museum
Trainspotters, listen up. This museum is said to have the world’s largest collection of model trains, which means it definitely needs to be on your itinerary. Opened in 2012 by Nobutaro Hara — an inventor, engineer and diehard rail enthusiast — this popular attraction features almost 1,500 feet of track running through a gigantic diorama called the “Ichiban Tetsumo Park”. The exhibit includes remarkably meticulous details such as miniature people going about their lives while over 1,000 trains chug through hills and towns. Look closely to see how these trains are powered — just like their full-sized counterparts, many of these miniature trains pull power from overhead power lines and create that distinctive locomotive “click-clack” sound as they run on iron tracks with iron wheels.