• Yokohama, Kanagawa

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When Westerners arrived at what is now Yokohama in 1859, I imagine the only language they encountered was Japanese. Unfortunately, 150 years later, visitors to the “Y+150” events celebrating the opening of Yokohama will find the same situation. I have visited many of the Y+150 event areas and everything I’ve seen has been in Japanese only.

The English-language Y+150 Web site invites people to the Kurofune (Black Ship) Restaurant (located in the Y+150 Hajimarinomori area) for “A food court featuring menus and atmosphere that evoke the days when the country and the port were first opened to the world.” That statement is disappointingly accurate; you might have trouble ordering if you cannot read the Japanese-only menu or communicate with the monolingual staff. The International Cafe in front of Aka Renga Soko is similarly unaccommodating for foreign visitors.

In the Y+150 Hajimarinomori (Forest of Beginnings) area is Yokohama Monogatari (Tale of Yokohama). You can walk through a mini-museum of Yokohama history, see a short film and listen to mannequins describe life in Yokohama when Commodore Perry arrived, provided you are fluent in Japanese.

I think Yokohama should have made events celebrating the opening of Japan to the world more accessible to its international guests. At the very least, foreign visitors/residents should be warned — before they throw down ¥2,400 for a one-day entry pass — that there are no languages other than Japanese in these event spaces.

bill lonergan

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