At 4:57 on the morning of Feb. 1, a navy-blue and yellow train pulled out of Motomachi-Chukagai Station bound for Yokohama Station, connecting with through services from there to Shibuya via the Tokyu Toyoko Line.

With that, services on the Minatomirai 21 Line, Japan's newest subway, had begun, and that afternoon a parade through Yokohama's Chinatown reflected great expectations riding on a 4.1-km route seen as holding the key to the future (mirai) of the port (minato) its name embodies.

It's no coincidence, of course, that the line shares the name of the mega port-redevelopment project between Kannai and the Yokohama Station area. The Minato Mirai 21 district, which was conceived during the years of the bubble economy to revitalize Yokohama by diversifying its economy. But then the bubble popped.