Urban planning can be a zero-sum game. A case in point is Yokohama. The city redeveloped the waterfront to create Minato Mirai (Port of the Future), where visitors shop in boutiques, revolve on a Ferris wheel and whoosh in one of the world's fastest elevators to the top of Japan's tallest building, the Landmark Tower.

But Port of the Future materialized at the expense of the port of the past, Yamashitacho, to the south, where the Marine Tower is shuttered and the Hikawa Maru, the passenger liner turned floating museum, only recently reopened after being salvaged from bankruptcy by the shipping company Nippon Yusen.

Yet Yamashitacho remains the place for the old salts or the water gazers, those people who feel a frisson in a sea breeze and whose pulses quicken at the sound of a ship's whistle.