Japan Railway & Transport Review No. 39 (pp.2 & 56–59)


Yokohama and Railways

Opening of Yokohama Minatomirai Railway

The opening of Yokohama Minatomirai Railway in February 2004 brought great improvements to public transport in Yokohama's redeveloped former docklands and old city centre, including the famous Chinatown, which had hitherto been rather isolated from efficient mass-transit systems. The 4.1-km underground line is connected to Tokyu Corporation's Toyoko Line at Yokohama Station, enabling direct access to the west side of central Tokyo. Passengers can also change easily for JR East and other private lines at Yokohama Station. Despite rather high fares that reflect the high construction costs, the line is crowded, especially by weekend tourists visiting Yokohama, which is changing from an industrial port to a new centre of tourism and culture.

Photo: Yokohama Minatomirai Railway's Series Y500 at depot
(Yokohama Minatomirai Railway)
Photo: Nihon-odori Station
(Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency)
Photo: Motomachi-Chukagai Station
(Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency)
Map: Yokohama Minatomirai Railway and Surrounding Area
Photo: Shin Takashima Station
(Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency)
Photo: Minatomirai Station
(Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency)
Photo: Bashamichi Station
(Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency)

Railway Memories in Yokohama

Yokohama was just a small fishing village until US Commodore Mathew Calbraith Perry arrived in port with his warships in 1854. Yokohama subsequently became one of the first ports in Japan that was open to foreign ships, and the nation's first railway was opened in October 1872 to link Yokohama's foreign settlement with Tokyo. Alongside the city's growth as Japan's largest port and a centre of the heavy engineering and chemical industries, the rail network continued to develop with the extension of the government railways' Tokaido main line and a few private lines. In the prewar days from 1920 to 1941, the government railways ran a boat train from Tokyo to Yokohama Port serving a passenger liner sailing for Europe or North America. This service was revived in 1957, but lasted only 3 years due to the growth of international air traffic. Yokohama was also the proud owner of a good tram network for nearly 70 years from 1904 to 1972.
The city also has some bitter memories, including the devastating 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, heavy aerial bombing during WWII, and two infamous postwar railway accidents at Sakuragicho and Tsurumi.

Photo: First Yokohama Station (now Sakuragicho) opened in 1872
(Transportation Museum)
Photo: Second Yokohama Station built in 1914 near present location
(Transportation Museum)
Photo: Tokyu's Sakuragicho Terminus in 1953
Photo: Third Yokohama Station (built in 1928 at present location) and Keikyu Yokohama Station in 1960s
Photo: Fourth Yokohama Station with a big shopping centre built in 1980
(JR East)
Photos: Tram and first Yokohama Station (now Sakuragicho) in early 1900s (left) and tram running near today's Kannai Station
(Yokohama Archives of History)
Photo: City tram's Series 300 before WWII
(Yokohama Archives of History)
Photo: City tram in 1970
(Museum of Yokohama Urban History)
Map: Railway Network around Yokohama
Photo: JNR train fire at Sakuragicho Station in 1951 claimed 106 lives.
(JNR Centennial Photo History)
Photo: JNR train collision near Tsurumi Station in 1963 killed 161 people.
(Transportation News)

From Industrial Port to Centre of Culture and Tourism

After suffering severe damage in WWII and postwar requisition by US forces, Yokohama port saw rapid growth with building of new wharfs outside the old dock area. As Japan's economy shifted gradually to a post-industrial society, the old docklands including shipyards, factories and rail-freight terminals were closed and redevelopment of the area started in the early 1980s. Nicknamed ‘Minatomirai 21,’ the vast area has been reborn as a huge business, commercial and cultural complex, including offices, hotels and convention centres, shopping centres, etc., that attract a large number of visitors.

Photo: Aerial view of old docklands in 1955
(City of Yokohama)
Photo: Aerial view of Minatomirai district in 1984
(City of Yokohama)
Photo: Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's shipyard in 1954
(Yokohama Archives of History)
Photo: Aerial view of redeveloped Minatomirai 21 area in 2003
(City of Yokohama)
Photo: Osambashi pier in early 20th century
(Yokohama Archive of History)
Photo: Chinatown around 1890
(Yokohama Archive of History)
Photo: Chinatown in 1959
(Yokohama Archive of History)
Photo: Redeveloped Minatomirai 21 area seen from sea
(City of Yokohama)
Photo: A red-brick former warehouse refurbished as a shopping centre
(Yokohama Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Photo: Gate to Yokohama Chinatown
(Yokohama Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Photo: Yamashita Park with moored Hikawamaru, an ocean liner that survived WWII and retired in 1960
(Yokohama Convention and Visitors Bureau)