On the waterfront at Yokohama: Minato Mirai, the port of the future

By Vicki L Beyer

This article continues the exploration of Yokohama's port area begun last month here.

YES '89 (Yokohama Exotic Showcase), was an international exposition held in 1989, to commemorate the centenary of Yokohama's opening as an international port city. The exposition was held on landfill around the site of former Mitsubishi shipyards at the top end of Yokohama harbor. The city had big plans for the site even after the exposition, including concert venues, exhibition halls, residential towers, wide tree-lined streets, multi-purpose office and shopping complexes, museums and amusement facilities.

Today, nearly 20 years later, most of these plans have come to fruition and the development continues. The site is called Minato Mirai 21, the 21st century port of the future and it's a great place to spend a family day out. There are many kinds of entertainment that, while enjoyable for adults, are ideal if you've got children to entertain.

Minato Mirai is accessible from Yokahama Station via the Minatomirai subway line, but for something a little different, why not approach from the water? The Sea Bass plies the waters of Yokohama Bay from Bay Quarter near Yokohama Station to Yamashita Park, stopping at Pukari Sanbashi in Minato Mirai and the Red Brick Warehouse in the Shinko district (be careful not to catch one of the boats that go directly to Yamashita park). Bay Quarter is about a 7-minute walk from the east exit of Yokohama Station (through the Sogo Department Store) with morning departures for Minato Mirai every half hour beginning at 10:10. The ride is less than 15 minutes but will give you some idea of the size of the Minato Mirai site, as well as a view of the cityscape from the water.

Get off the Sea Bass at Pukari Sanbashi pier at the foot of the Pacifico Yokohama building, with its distinctive quarter-circle shape that people relate to everything from a slice of cheese to an unfurled sail.

Your first stop of the day is the Cup Noodles Museum, across the canal from Pacifico Yokohama. Besides the displays of instant ramen packaging and the history of the development of instant ramen, you have two "hands-on" opportunities here -- the Chicken Ramen Factory, where you can actually make ramen noodles and dry them for rehydration later at home (500 yen), and the CUPNOODLES Factory, where you can decorate your own Cup Noodles cup and then select freeze-dried ingredients for your own personalized Cup Noodles, packaged and sealed right before your eyes (300 yen). Your Cup Noodles are then placed in a special bubble packet to keep them intact as you carry them through the rest of your day.

You'll be glad for that special bubble packet when you visit Cosmo World, the amusement park across the parkway from the Cup Noodles Museum. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (closed Thursdays), you'll find lots of fun rides and amusements here. My personal favorites are the roller coaster, the flume ride and the Cosmo Clock ferris wheel. There is no admission fee to enter the park; just pay as you ride. Note that two of the park's three "zones", including one with rides and attractions particularly good for small children, are back across the canal in Minato Mirai proper.

If you haven't had lunch by now, the lower levels of nearby Queen's Square (B1, 1 and 2) are a mall of boutique shops and restaurants. Don't miss the roller coaster-like stainless steel sculpture, "Moku Moku Waku Waku Yokohama Yo Yo", by Japanese artist Hisayuki Mogami that sits outdoors between Queen's Tower and Landmark Plaza.

For your afternoon's entertainment, check these out:


Developed jointly by Sega and BBC Earth, Orbi (a combination of the words "orb" and "orbit") is an electronic amusement park dedicated to the natural abundance of Mother Earth. Films in various small theaters give visitors 10-15 minute experiences of landscapes around the world as well as the lives of African elephants and Mountain Gorillas.

Theatre 23.4 (so named for the tilt of the earth on its axis) shows various nature documentaries on its 40-meter wide screen, with wind, aromas, and even temperature changes to put the audience "in the picture".

Other electronic interactive displays look at the beauty of nature's colors (you choose the color), the behavior of sea creatures, and the movement of the world's fastest creatures. Photo galleries allow you to create photos of yourself with various animals, or even give yourself animal attributes.

Located on the 5th floor of MARK IS, Orbi is a bit pricey: 2,600 yen for adults, 1,300 yen for children. If you enter after 5:30, the price is 1,500 yen (adults), 800 yen (children). The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m.); closed on Tuesdays.

Yokohama Museum of Art

One of Japan's largest art museums, one could easily spend an entire day just exploring the exhibitions here. At the same time, this destination is less suited to small children.

The museum's own collection, which focuses largely on modern and contemporary art, is so large that only about 1/3 of it is on display at any given time. Additionally, the museum regularly features special exhibitions, the current one (through April 3) featuring the private art collection of contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Open Friday through Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is 500 yen (adults), 300 yen (high school/university students); 200 yen (junior high school students). Separate admission may apply to special exhibits.

Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum

This hands-on museum exposes kids (big ones, too) to science and its practical applications through technology. A voice guide (in Japanese, English and other languages) is available for 100 yen.

Among the experiences available to visitors are driving a simulator streetcar in the Transportation Zone, deep sea diving (via video) in the Ocean Zone and simulated space flight in the Aerospace Zone. The Daily Life Discovery Zone demonstrates technology used in the production and supply chain as well as environmentally friendly innovations for homes.

There is a separate Environment/Energy Zone that explains the various alternative energy forms currently emerging today, even showing how much energy each form produces in different countries around the world. It was interesting to note that Japan and Italy produce roughly the same amounts of solar energy and that amount is roughly twice what is produced in the United States.

In Trial Square, hands-on goes to another level, as participants can participate in an on-screen project to design and operate a lunar mining craft (feels like being inside a video game), get a 3D printed version of the design product, or experience operating a helicopter,

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Tuesdays). Admission is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for junior high/high school students, and 200 yen for primary school students. Separate fees apply to participate in the various Trial Square programs.

Note the time for the sunset and plan to ascend to Landmark Tower's Sky Garden in time to watch the sun set behind Mt Fuji. Relax with a drink while watching the silhouette of the majestic volcanic cone against the deepening sunset colors, and then enjoy the twinkling lights of the city and port below you.

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The best way to explore Minato Mirai is on a bike. Yokohama now has an excellent bike share system. Sign up online before you come, or go directly to the BayBike office between Queens East and Landmark Tower.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Thanks for the tip "yokohamarides." I always do my visits to these places on foot. Nice to know bicycles are available. Like cycling around places anywhere in Japan ... When I went to YES '89 I saw the plans for Minato Mirai. And, yes, the place today is as Imagined it would be from way back when ...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I also prefer to explore the area on foot. Walking to Chinatown from Minato Mirai is a good tour of the area, or you can ride to it by train from the station if you are feeling tired.

I wouldn't go renting a bicycle as that would be quite a hassle to navigate the often crowded and already narrow streets and sidewalks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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