Yokohama’s Heritage

On our first day, we spent a good part of our day hours exploring the heritage of Yokohama, or where it get the vibe that it has today.
Yamate400_27
Pleasant Walk though the Yamate Bluff
During the Edo Period (1603- 1867), Japan was a closed nation, they prohibited trade and interaction from the outside. When this period of isolation ended in the 1850’s, Yokohama not only was the port that opened the door, it became the region where foreigners resided. The Chinese, made what they normally do, which is build a Chinatown. The Westerners made their home in the Yamate area.Yamate in Spring

Ballroom For Functions
Ballroom For Functions

If you have ever been to the Newport mansions in the east coast of the States, the Yamate Diplomatic Houses has a somewhat similar feel, though in a much smaller scale. They are alike in a way because the houses are preserved and used to belong to the elite of the society during the mid 19th century.

Decors change with the seasons
Decors change with the seasons

Think of it as a miniature Downton abbey, of the stiff upperclass of those times. There are hallways for parties, servant quarters, master bedrooms with a Victorian Flair. Visiting these places require a bit of the drama to play in your heads.

However, in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake, most of the structures are no longer around, except a few areas that retains a number of sites relating to its history as the main residential district of Westerners in Yokohama. Present day Yamate is a pleasant walk in the hilly residential areas, where visitors are welcome to peek into what people considered as mansions during that time.

shutterstock_211092172Yamate’s largest park is the Harbor View Park, which is named after the view that the park affords onto the water and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. On the park grounds one can find some of the area’s preserved western buildings. Mostly former residences, the buildings are open to the public and most have been furnished in their original style.

While walking around this area, having some tea and snacks in the cafes facing the port area is a not only recommended, it makes the experience memorable and helps you imagine the life of a trader that gave Yokohama its identity.

Yamate PhotosWesterners coming to Yokohama in the 1860’s preferred to living on the hill of Yamate. Yamate’s scenery has changed in the last 100 years.  However, the area still retains the exotic atmosphere of the old good days.   Houses built and owned by westerners on Yamate hill are called “Yo-kan” in Japanese.

This area is called the Yamate Bluffs. The houses of note include Berrick Hall, the Ehrismann Residence (built from 1925 to 1926), and Bluff No. 234. The foreigners cemetery, many Western restaurants and international schools can also be seen here, though we visited mainly the residences.

Here are a few more information from Japan Guide

The Akaikutsu Loop Bus connects the northern end of the Yamate district with other sightseeing spots in central Yokohama. One ride costs 100 yen per ride.

 

British House
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Minimal
This building, constructed in 1937, used to serve as the residence of the British Consul General. There are guest rooms and a dining room, as well as private quarters.

 

Bluff No. 111
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
The residence of an American named J. E. Laffin. The house was built in a Spanish style in 1926 by the American architect J.H. Morgan, who also designed Berrick Hall and the original Marunouchi Building in Tokyo.

 

Bluff No. 234
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: None
This building was built a few years after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and is interesting for being designed for multiple tenants. There are four apartments of identical floor plans located in the two story building.

 

Ehrismann Residence
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Minimal
The building was built in 1926 by the Czech architect Antonin Raymond as a residence for the Swiss businessman Fritz Ehrismann. The house has a dining room, drawing room, bed rooms, and a sun room, and was relocated to its present location in 1990.

 

Berrick Hall
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is anational holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
Berrick Hall is the largest Western residence in Yamate, and was built in 1930 for the British trader B.R. Berrick. It was designed in a Spanish style by the American architect J.H. Morgan, who also designed Yamate No. 111 and the original Marunouchi Building in Tokyo.

 

Museum of Tennis
Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: 3rd Monday of the month (or following day if that Monday is a national holiday), New Year holidays
Admission: Free
English Information: Good
Tennis was first introduced to Japan by the foreign residents of Yamate. The museum displays the equipment used and explains the early history of tennis in the country. The tennis club located beside the museum is considered the birthplace of tennis in Japan.

 

Bluff No. 18
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
The building used to serve as the residence of the priest of Yamate’s Catholic Church, and was built in the mid 1920s. It was taken down and then reconstructed in its present location in 1991.

 

Diplomat’s House
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
The building served as the residence of Uchida Sadatsuchi, who held various important positions such as Ambassador to Turkey and Consulate General in New York. The house was built by the American architect James Gardiner in the American Victorian Style.

 

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