Yokohama celebrates 155 years as a trade port


Staff Writer

It might surprise you to know that Yokohama was once a tiny village with less than 100 households living off farming and fishing. It wasn’t until the port opened to foreign trade in 1859 that it began to expand to become Japan’s second most populated city. Now it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Japan.

This year is the 155th anniversary of the opening of the port and, to celebrate, the city is holding its annual Yokohama Central Town Festival in Naka Ward, in the Yokohama Port area and its surroundings that used to be called Motomura.

Attractions start on the Friday with an opening ceremony featuring performances by Yokohama-born Crystal Kay and group Heavenese, whose Japanese taiko drumming and traditional music is performed with a modern twist.

The festival continues through Sunday and features various attractions and stage performances at six locations — Bashamichi, Kannai, Motomachi and Yamate, China Town, Yamashita Park and its surrounding area, including Yamashita Park Street.

Over the weekend, the six venues will offer music and dance performances; a highlight will be shows by official cheerleading groups of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and Yokohama F. Marinos baseball teams. Other performances emphasize the city’s importance in the spread of foreign culture, through examples of traditional Chinese and South Korean dance and music as well as belly-dancing and hula shows.

Other attractions include a glimpse into the past in the Bashamichi area, where a parade of 80 classic cars will travel down Bashamichi Road on Saturday afternoon. China Town will also hold its own celebration with parades winding their way through town and performances similar to those at Chinese New Year. Motomachi and Yamate areas, meanwhile, will offer shoppers original designer clothing and other goods, while Yokohama’s top eateries will offer food and drink at the food court at Yamashita Park.

If you want to actively get involved, organizers have also prepared a walking course stamp rally, and those who complete it will receive some token gifts.

Yokohama Central Town Festival takes place from May 30-June 2 in Yokohama. Admission is free. For more information, call 045-641-1557 or www.y151-200.com. Schedules of stage performances can be found at www.arcship.jp/y151-200.