Yokohama Treasures: Nippon Maru and the Maritime Museum
Walk out of Sakuragicho Station towards either Queen's Square or the ocean and you can't miss it. The Nippon Maru, in all its magnificence, a Yokohama landmark since 1984. It was built in 1930 in Kobe as a training ship for cadets, and has for 54 years until her retirement trained some 11,500 cadets.
Open to the public since 1985 as a museum ship and full-sail exhibition piece, the Nippon Maru is one of Yokohama's grandest, yet underrated, treasures. Perhaps it's because you can easily admire it from afar. I know I do, each time I go shopping in the area. On a beautiful sunny day she is an incredibly sight to behold, especially if her sails have been set out full. No wonder there is always someone, usually crowds of people, taking pictures of her.
But for only ¥600 (for adults), you can inspect the Nippon Maru for yourself, bow to stern, above and below decks. You'll learn the history of the ship as well as life aboard her; a great adventure for children - and will make children out of adults, too!
What a lot of visitors don't know, however, standing discreetly in the shadows of one Japan's most prized naval treasures, is the Yokohama Maritime Museum. It is one of my favourites places in the city to visit when I need to think, because it's never that crowded, always quiet, and filled with interesting things to spark the imagination.
The maritime museum mixed local Japanese maritime history and the science behind marine technologies. It also details Yokohama's role as a major international port. What I like best about the YMM is its numerous hands-on, interactive displays.
Everyone I've ever taken there has remarked that they didn't know it existed. Well, I'm here to tell you it does and that you should definitely visit. You'll learn a valuable lot about Yokohama that even most locals don't know.
During spring and summer, on fine weather days, a variety of events such as high school brass band concerts, flea markets, and craft making activities are held in the courtyard between the two - so if even you don't appreciate ships or the sea, there are reasons to go. Oh yeah, don't forget the beautiful park on the other side, above, the museum. It's the perfect place to relax and take in views of Yokohama bay and its many attractions!
The Nippon Maru and Yokohama Maritime Museum are located under Yokohama Landmark Tower next to Minato Mirai 21. It's about a 5 minutes walk from Minato Mirai Station on the Minato Mirai Line, and through the Queen's Square building. You can also access the two from JR Sakuragicho Station, slightly farther away, using the horizontal escalator you'll see once exiting the station.
Official Website (in Japanese)
Official Guidebook (in English)
Former Deep Japan Writer