Exploring Yokohama – Photography + Travel Guide
Yokohama is a port city and Japan’s second-most populous city. It is located on the shores of Tokyo Bay, about 45min by train south of Tokyo. The city is also the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture.
Although Yokohama is not very far from Tokyo and can easily be visited as a day trip, we still thought it would be worthwhile to stay for a couple of days. We were fortunate enough to find excellent, centrally located cheap accommodation, which also helped with the budget.
If you are looking for things to do in Yokohama as a day trip and want to maximise your time, or want to spend a couple of days here, this Location Guide will help you plan your stay and give you some great photography locations & tips as well. We hope this helps with your planning. If you have any questions feel free to comment in the section available at the end of this post.
Above: A 12mm fisheye shot of the “Moku Moku Waku Waku Yokohama YoYo” stainless steel sculpture by the Japanese artist Hisayuki Mogami. Erected in Yokosuka Plaza in 1994.
Planning & Getting Around
Getting to Yokohama is fairly straightforward from Tokyo, as it is a relatively short distance. You can either use your JR Pass, purchase a ticket, or use your Pasmo/Suica Card. If you are travelling from Kyoto or Osaka it will take about 3.5 hours. A JR Pass can be used from both. For us, it was easier to just use our Pasmo IC card from Shinjuku Station to Bashamichi Station in Yokohama. The cost was 750 yen one way.
Once in Yokohama, most places to visit can be covered by foot. Another option is to use the Akaikutsu Loop Bus that departs from Sakuragicho Station and connects with most of Yokohama’s major landmarks. The bus runs every 30 to 40 minutes. During our time in Yokohama, we used our Pasmo IC card to get us around. This could be used on the metro and buses, and also at some shops to purchase food/drinks. You can use any IC transport card (such as Pasmo, Suica, etc). We have written a comparison post about the available IC transport cards that can be purchased. Click here to read.
As we started our journey in Tokyo we chose the Pasmo card over the Suica card only because you get a full refund of any balance remaining on the card when departing including the ¥500 deposit. Suica decucts a ¥220 handling fee. Other than that they are very similar. If you are arriving & departing from Osaka then you may be best getting an ICOCA card.
On this 20 day trip to Japan, we also purchased the 14 day JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass). However, we did not activate the pass until we left Yokohama to travel to Kanazawa, this would ensure that the JR Pass would last us till our departure date. Depending on the length of your trip and places you’re visiting it may or may not be worth purchasing. You can get a 7, 14 or 21-day pass. You can use the JR Pass calculator to work out if you should purchase a pass or not.
We also pre-purchased a SIM card (data only) for our phone to assist with daily street navigation which is essential for any traveller visiting Japan. Here’s a great place to purchase both the JR Pass & SIM card in Australia (check to see if these can be purchased in your own country).
Camera & Lenses
The choice of camera and lenses you take will depend on the type of photographs you enjoy taking while travelling. We always try to travel as light as possible as we walk a lot. As professional travel photographers, we don’t shoot just landscapes or just street etc. so we need lenses that cover all types of subjects. This means that we heavily rely on zoom lenses, although we do carry a few prime (single focal length) lenses between us. We find it counter-intuitive to carry a bag full of prime lenses as we find that you can miss shots very easily. It never ceases to amaze us on our travels when we see photographers hunched-over while carrying heavy backpacks full of unnecessary equipment.
Our everyday kit for Japan was the following –
- Sony A7Riii Mirrorless camera (see right).
- Sony FE 24-105 f4 lens (see right) – the workhorse which covered around 65% of our shots in Japan
- Sony FE 16-35 f4 lens (see right bottom)
- Sony FE 70-200 f4 lens
- Laowa 15mm f2 Zero-D lens (so we would both have a wide-angle lens)
- Samyang 12mm Fisheye (for those extreme interiors)
- Samyang 35mm f2.8 (mainly for low-light street shots)
- Samyang 18mm f2.8 (new lens purchased just prior to this trip)
This is was an easy choice. The Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L bag worked so well the first time we visited that it was a no-brainer for this trip (we now also have the Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L V2). It is super comfortable to carry for the whole day and enough space to carry almost everything we needed. It was also practical for the times we were on the busy subway and in crowded areas. The sling bag is easy to swing from our back around the front to change lenses without knocking into people. We did still take one backpack with us (we use the Vanguard Alta Rise 45 backpack), but it stayed in the hotel room most of the time. We used it on the odd occasion and when we were in transit to our next destination. The Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L bag was primarily used most of the time.
Tripods can be a pain in the butt to carry around all day, however, you will regret it if you don’t have one with you at all times in Japan. We made sure we had at least one tripod between us every day. It will make it an easier decision to carry around every day if you take a lightweight compact travel tripod. We have a couple of carbon fibre travel tripods that are lightweight, compact, and have an Arca Swiss quick release plate on a ball head. Occasionally, we also venture out with a Joby Gorilla Pod. Remember, you will carrying the tripod around most of the day so we strongly suggest you invest in a sturdy but lightweight model.
Our NiSi 100mm filter kit got a fair bit of use in Yokohama, as did the NiSi Natural Night Filter. Our *GOBE CPL (polarizer) and a couple of *GOBE ND screw-in filters went everywhere with us as well. If you don’t own a square filter system then you may want to consider getting a *GOBE ND Variable filter. This filter will help you to obtain slower shutter speeds on sunny days. As we had planned some tripod-mounted landscape type shots (sunrise and sunset) we knew we would be using the square filter system in Yokohama and therefore carried them on a daily basis. *Use coupon code ‘widescenes’ to get 15% discount off all GOBE products.
We had a short stay in Yokohama of only 2 nights. As mentioned above, we were able to get some very cheap accommodation at the APA Hotel & Resort Yokohama Bay Tower as it had only recently opened. This hotel was smack-bang in the middle of it all and our room had a great view of the city and harbour. The banner photo for this post was taken from our room. Being an APA Hotel the rooms are a little small (around 10sqm), which is pretty normal for this chain of hotel, but they are clean and have all the facilities you would need (it’s actually quite amazing how they fit so much into such a small space!!). It was also only a couple of minutes walk from the station.
We tend to do a lot of walking in cities as this allows us to capture more images rather than seeing potential images through bus windows. You will do a fair amount of walking in Yokohama, especially around Chinatown as it is a great place for street photography. Incidentally, Yokohama has the largest Chinatown in Japan so a lot of walking is to be expected. Fortunately, unlike Tokyo, most of the sights are easily accessible by foot (check out the map at the bottom of this post). Below you can find more information about the places we visited and photographed during our brief stay.
A nighttime view of Yokohama
At first glance the foreshore area of Minato Mirai 21 in Yokohama looks a little like a theme park, however, we found that it contained some great architectural opportunities to photograph. This was right up our alley. Even the Samyang 12mm fisheye had some fun here. It was, however, at night, that the city really dazzled with all the colour and lights. A couple of great spots to check out and photograph are;
The sailing ship Nippon Maru dates from 1930 and was built as a training ship for Japanese naval cadets. The vessel is now permanently docked at Minato Mirai 21 and is open to the public. The vantage point (below image) is, in our opinion, probably the best place to photograph the area during sunset & blue hour. If there is no wind you will get a great reflection in the water of the ship and surrounding buildings. Adjacent to the ship is the Yokohama Port Museum, that contains ‘History’ and ‘Rediscovery’ zones that illustrate the Yokohamas’ port history and broader marine topics. Entrance fee for Nippon Maru sailing ship and Yokohama Port Museum is 600 yen. Open from 10am-5pm (closed Mondays).
We suggest you use a wide-angle lens at this location (16-35mm or similar). Try shooting in both portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) orientation. Naturally, for a nighttime shot, you will require a tripod.
Not far from the Nippon Maru and Yokahama Port Museum is the Kishamichi Promenade. This narrow promenade over the water was originally a railway line but has been redeveloped into a wonderful promenade with 3 bridges. It connects the Nihonmaru Memorial Park to the Shinko area. This is a great vantage point to take shots of Yokohama’s skyline, especially at blue hour and night (see below). Another similar vantage point is the Bankoku Bridge which is right next to the APA Hotel & Resort Yokohama Bay Tower .
We suggest you use a wide-angle lens at this location (16-35mm or similar). Naturally, for a nighttime shot, you will require a tripod. If shooting during the day, try using a 6 or 10stop ND filter to smooth out the water and blur the clouds (if any).
After you cross the Kishamichi Promenade you will arrive at Unga Park. On the far side of the park, you will see the Navios Yokohama Hotel. The hotel straddles the old railway line making it an interesting photo.
We suggest you use a wide-angle lens at this location (16-35mm or similar). Use the railway lines as leading lines into the hotel. Also, try shooting at f/11 or f/16 to produce some nice starburst on streetlights. Once again, this is a great blue hour/nighttime shot.
These historical Red Brick Warehouses are one of the main landmarks in Yokohama. Originally part of the shipping yards, they are now a vibrant area with shops and restaurants. You will also find markets held regularly in the square between the buildings. They are a short distance from Landmark Tower in the Minato Mirai 21 area. Entrance is free.
These are great to shoot during just after sunset (blue hour). You may want to consider shooting the warehouses as a panorama. Again, a wide-angle lens would be advantageous to use in this location. By using a long exposure (on a tripod) you may avoid getting too many people in your shots.
This is probably not a place most people would visit unless they were travelling on a ship however the 400-metre pier with walkways and green spaces is an interesting spot for photography (see below) as well as a good spot for shots of the Yokohama skyline. It is where international cruise ships dock when they visit Yokohama and is located between Minato Mirai 21 and Yamashita Park. Entrance is free.
There are lots of lines and patterns here so consider some minimalist and abstract shots (see above). Use light and shadows to your advantage if shooting here during the day. Any lens would be useful here.
Located at the foot of Yokohama’ Landmark Tower is a reconstruction of a ship dock, based on the ‘No.2 Dock of the Former Yokohama Dock Company’. This place is a cool spot for photography, especially if you visit during Autumn and Winter when the dock is illuminated (see below). When you have had enough, you can take one of the entrances at the bottom for something to eat at one of the many restaurants. Interestingly enough, the original docks were located on the site of the Landmark Tower (prior to the land expansion). Entrance is free.
Once again, this is a great spot to be shot at night especially with the illuminations (seasonal). A 24-70mm lens should be fine here however keep that wide-angle lens handy as well!!
Harbor View Park: The park was opened in 1962 at the former site of the British soldiers’ barracks. The lookout and benches facing the ocean offer a panoramic view of Yokohama port. A perfect place for viewing the Yokohama Bay Bridge at night. Entrance is free.
Yamashita Park: This public park stretches about 750 meters along Yokohama’s waterfront. The park is about a hundred meters wide and consists mostly of open green space. Entrance is free.
Located in central Yokohama, this is Japan’s largest Chinatown. Funnily enough, these days very few Chinese actually live here. As is the case with most Chinatowns around the world, you will obviously find a large number of Chinese stores and restaurants. This is a great spot for street photography with plenty of narrow alleyways, street food vendors, and colourful streets. Depending on the time of year, various events and festivals are held, notably, Chinese New Year celebrations. It is about a 20min walk from downtown, or if visiting by train the closest station is Motomachi-Chukagai Station.
With diminished light in the alleyways and streets of Yokohama Chinatown you may consider using a fast prime lens in order to keep your ISO low. We used our Samyang AF 18mm f2.8 FE and Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE lenses for many of our shots while wandering the streets. If you have a similar lens with a f1.4 or f1.8 aperture, even better!
If you have spent any time in Japan you would have definitely eaten a ramen or two (probably a lot more ). This attraction is a museum / food-court that is dedicated to everything about yummy ramen. On the first floor, you will find the full history of ramen noodles. On display are all the different varieties of noodles, soups, toppings, and bowls that you can find being used across Japan. They also hold demonstrations on how noodles are made. Where it gets really interesting, especially if you like food, is the lower two floors, where they have re-created a 1:1 scale of street scenes, alleyways, houses, and restaurants where you can order any type of ramen you like (see above & below). The re-creation is modelled on the 1950s era of Tokyo’s Shitamachi area. The Museum is located 5-10 minutes walk from Shin-Yokohama Station. Entrance fee is 380 yen. Open 11am-11pm
Other places of interest
We did have a couple of other places on our list to visit during our time in Yokohama, alas, we ran out of time. Thought we would include them here for you to consider –
Great Buddha of Kamakura: About 40min by train to the south of Yokohama is the town of Kamakura. The bronze statue of Amida Buddha, located on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple, is 11.4 meters high making it the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. It is located a 5-10min walk from Hase Station on the Enoden railway line. The Enoden is a streetcar-like train that connects Kamakura with Enoshima and Fujisawa. Open 8am-5.30pm. Entrance fee is 200 yen.
Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden: As we had a pretty decent view from our hotel room (see banner image at the top of this post), we gave this one a miss. From the observation deck, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the city, extending all the way to Tokyo and even Mt. Fuji on a clear day. You can reach the observation deck via the country’s fastest elevator which whisks you up to the 69th floor in just under 40 seconds. The view at night is supposedly very good. Open 10am-9pm. Entrance fee is 1,000 yen. If you have to shoot through glass, then we suggest you consider taking a Lenskirt to avoid reflections.
Sankeien Gardens: These spacious Japanese gardens are located in southern Yokohama. There are replicas of a number of historic buildings from across Japan, a pond, small rivers, flowers, and walking trails. You can catch bus number 8 or 148 from Yokohama Station (30-35min, 220 yen). Open 9am-5pm. Entrance fee is 700 yen.
APA Hotel & Resort Yokohama Bay Tower
Our accommodation in Yokohama for 2 nights.
Nippon Maru and Yokohama Port Museum
Osanbashi International Passenger Terminal
Harbor View Park
The Shinyokohama Ramen Museum
Great Buddha of Kamakura
Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden
“Moku Moku Waku Waku Yokohama YoYo” sculpture
Navios Yokohama Hotel
We hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you lots of options for your visit to Yokohama. If you have found your own little gem in Yokohama, leave us a message and we’ll try to include it in an update of the post.
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