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Explore Our Neighborhood

Jordan A. Y. Smith, an American poet and art connoisseur who divides his time between Los Angeles and Tokyo, introduced us to some of his favorite places to wander in the vicinity after a visit to the Yokohama Museum of Art. This route allows you to take in the sea breeze and enjoy the unique scenery of Minato Yokohama. Please join us on this little adventure with Jordan.

Yokohama Museum of Art – Plus the Scenic Route Home

Among many excellent arts outings in striking distance from Tokyo, Yokohama Museum of Art stands out for the way it combines the allure of its art collection with the courtesy of accessibility. Its world class, totally unique collection boasts both European and Japanese modern masters, and contemporary artists of the post-WWII period as well as an impressive collection of photography, building on Yokohama’s status as the port of entry and first home to the medium itself.

The Museum’s architecture, by the eminent Kenzo Tange, transforms a day of viewing art into a complete experience – wherever your eyes roam or your body rests, the views are gorgeous and the space is restorative. Wherever I roam for art excursions, I aim to balance out the intense moments of gazing into and through the art works, into the thoughts and souls of the artists and the worlds that inspired their creations. The viewer’s senses also need time to rest and to process the many powerful stimuli.

With the Yokohama Museum of Art, pleasurable moments of pause inside the Museum are easy to find – a rhythm of viewing and resting. And I particularly relish the larger context provided by a casual stroll through the surrounding areas. Museum visitors are presented with many options for exploring, each with its own series of kaleidoscopic views of the pristine yet historically-varied Minato Mirai district.

Coming and going by train, one can choose the nearest station – Minatomirai – or can build in an easy and scenic detour from nearby stations. And those with the stamina for a fuller day will be rewarded by taking the adventure route back to Yokohama Station. Here are a few of the points worth strolling through after filling your mind with art and photography at Yokohama Museum of Art …

Start by crossing over the tree-lined pedestrian walkways named “Grand Mall Park” in front of the Museum into the stores lining Mark Is Minatomirai to power up with a coffee, tea, or snacks, then wind up and along the park, passing underneath Mogami Hisayuki’s stainless steel sculpture titled “MokuMoku WakuWaku Yokohama Yoyo”, inspired by drifting clouds, but seemingly manifesting the path of an adroit trickster’s yoyo or a physics-defying roller coaster.


The sculpture’s dynamism propels one toward the water, where the area’s nautical history suddenly soars into view – with the incredible Nippon Maru, docked just down the street. For over a half-century, the grand ship sailed the seas (a distance over 45 times the circumference of the earth!) before coming to rest in Yokohama, still in tip top condition. On special occasions, they raise the sails for a grand spectacle – also in white canvas.


The Nippon Maru Memorial Park and Yokohama Port Museum highlight the maritime history of Yokohama. The port city’s role in bringing new art, culture, and technology to Japan is a big part of the reason Yokohama Museum of Art treasures international exchange as a core value.

Whether viewed from the walkways surrounding the ship or whether you go aboard and experience it close-up, the merchant marines’ training vessel launched in 1930 is encounter with deeply impressive architecture, engineering and design.

Yokohama Air Cabin
Yokohama Air Cabin

A few steps on toward Sakuragicho Station, you’ll find a little tower from which the Yokohama Air Cabins depart high above the water over to Unga Park (The ticket counter is upstairs just before you step out to the departure deck, and no reservations are needed.)

Yokohama Air Cabin

The ride is as brief as the view is grand, so be alert and keep eyes open, neck swiveling, and camera ready for some epic shots. The ambience of the view from the Air Cabins shifts depending on the time of the day or night, types of weather, the seasons, and even depending on what seat you choose. This means multiple trips and photo shoots from your seat on the Yokohama Air Cabin can bring out the creator in passengers, inspiring creative play on editing software.

Arriving on the other side, you’ll find that the destination called Shinko District is more of an artificial island, housing several small parks, shopping areas, and the legendary Cupnoodles Museum. As befits the Minato Mirai name (which might be translated as “future port”), Yokohama’s gaze seems turned toward the future, and this Museum shows how instant ramen went to outer space. But the wide openness of the area invites you to inhale the sea air as you roam between the two main spaces.

Yokohama Hammerhead

The first you’ll come to is the iconic “Yokohama Hammerhead”, named for the hammerhead-shaped crane which used to be used for loading and unloading ship cargo. In the shopping center next to it, you can first load up on sweets, made in front of your eyes in the open kitchen of a sweets factory, before hitting the viewing deck to marvel at the Hammerhead itself. This corner of Shinko holds two other treasure troves: Japan Ramen Food Hall (not the instant kind, but the real deal) and a 7-Eleven featuring over 500 kinds of microbrew beer, and so many local snack specialties that on its own is worth the trip to Yokohama for.

Red Brick Warehouse Park
Photo:Mori Hideo

Crossing the Red Brick Warehouse Park you’ll arrive at one of the historic jewels of the district, the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse (Aka-Renga Soko), whose simply descriptive name belies the depth of historicity in the architecture and the charm of the vibe. The night view here is also stunning, with the golden glow of incandescent lamps on the brick facade set off by layered shadows. Originally used as a bonded warehouse for goods arriving to Japan via the Port of Yokohama from around a century ago, the buildings now are home to updated shops with artsy offerings, cafes and snacks, as well as unique event spaces.


And across the spacious plaza just beyond the red brick walls awaits the SEA BASS! This sleek single story ship cuts its way across the water toward Yokohama Station, the easiest station for direct transport back to many areas around Tokyo and even beyond. The ride itself is a longer chance for reflection, journaling, catching the final photos of the day, capturing the whirl of the harbor sights through the inlet off  the port of Yokohama. There is even time to post a few pics or videos to share the adventure while the mix of Yokohama Museum of Art’s rich collection with the historical and futuristic layers is fresh in your soul. I even found time for writing in an actual notebook, an increasingly rare treat among rushed days.

Minato Mirai areas

That may be the coolest thing about the journey to Yokohama Museum of Art and then around the Minato Mirai areas: the feeling of encountering a collective experience inspires one to pause, focus, and make memories. This is thanks to the myriad creative minds whose vision co-created this unique area and its diverse points of interest, and to the generations of locals and visitors who continue to make it such a splendid place to soak up art, culture, history, and the future.

Japan is so often talked about as a place where tradition and modernity intersect – it’s well beyond cliche to note it. Yokohama Museum of Art anchors our understanding that even within what we might call modernity and the reaction to it in various modes of modernism, there are now many layers of history worth both studying and experiencing. Japan’s so-called modern period as defined by the opening to trade through the port cities of Yokohama has undergone a diversity of art styles and shifting modes of awareness about Japan’s relation to the larger world, to the seas humans cross, to the skies above and the ongoing historical narrative Yokohama Museum of Art and Minato Mirai invite you to take part in.

Jordan A. Y. Smith served as professor of Japanese arts, literature, and film for 17 years, and currently concentrates on film & documentary production, curation, poetry and translation.

Photo:Ohno Ryusuke

Welcome to the renewed Yokohama Museum of Art

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