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Modern Yokohama might be second in Japan in terms of population but, historically, it has long been a city of firsts.

In the mid-19th century, after U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry forced the Japanese government to open its ports to the world, Yokohama was one of the first places in the country to take in foreign ships and with them an influx of Western culture and innovation. In 1861, it became the place where Albert W. Hansard started Japan’s first English-language weekly paper, the Japan Herald, which in 1863 became Japan’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Japan Herald. Then in 1870, Norwegian-American William Copeland opened Japan’s first commercially successful brewery, the Spring Valley Brewery, in Yamate, Yokohama. Over the next few years, Yokohama’s affluent Bashamichi area in particular became the center for Western influences in Japan, emerging as the first place in the country that saw gas lamps, an ice-cream parlor and a photography studio.

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