Yokohama’s Minato Mirai

The nightscape of Minato Mirai

Like other major cities in the world, Yokohama is divided into areas, and in my humble opinion, the Mintao Mirai area is by far the best.

It’s a popular date spot thanks to it’s tiny Cosmo World theme park, tons of shopping options (apparently dating here can sometimes mean shopping) and a recently installed cable car. There was even a wedding chapel installed within the last couple of years to really drive home the point this place is meant to be romantic.

There’s a ton of options for people who aren’t out on dates, though, so don’t let my professions of this area being romantic stop you from exploring it.

Quick note about Yokohama: This is a port city that is known for importing from other countries via ships, so expect to find more stuff from abroad in this city than in other parts of Japan.

Cosmo World has a ferris wheel that’s really popular with couples.

One of my favorite areas is right around JR Sakuragicho Station, which offers a glorious view of the bay, the theme park area and the famous Landmark Tower.

Landmark Tower

I think coming inside just to see the architecture is worth a trip to this tower, and there’s also a viewing area at the very top of the tower (expect to pay a lot for this honor, though). There’s always some interesting shops, too.

The first few floors of this massive tower are a shopping center that includes a few upscale stores and, more importantly in my opinion, restaurants from America. My favorite is Bubby’s, which has pulled pork and coleslaw. When you live in a different country long enough, you start to miss food. I don’t recommend wasting time at these import restaurants if you’re just visiting Japan for a few days, but if you’ve been here for at least a few months, they can be a godsend.

Inside Landmark Tower

I love visiting some of the cafes on the upper floors of the shopping center, too, where you can often be seated at a window looking out at the bay. Very few things in life are better than sitting there, enjoying a nice drink and watching the world go by.

The view from the ferris wheel

Cosmo World

Kids, families and couples love this tiny amusement park. The roller coaster is fairly tame, though there’s a part where you pretend to go underwater, and that’s fun. The rest is an homage to a carnival, I think. It’s a nice way to waste time, I think.

You have to pay for every ride, though entering the park is free. I sometimes like to just wander around near the ferris wheel, then cross the bridge to get to the other side of the amusement park where there are more places to win prizes and just stroll around.

The ferris wheel, of course, is the most popular part of the park for couples. Nothing like a chance to have it be just the two of you in the middle of a bustling city.

I’m not a huge fan of this park, to be honest, because I don’t like tacky things, but I do like riding the ferris wheel every now and then just for the views.

There’s always something to do at the Red Brick Warehouses

The Red Brick Warehouses

These boast quite a long history that I won’t try to put here for fear of getting things wrong, but they’ve been converted into extremely trendy boutique stores. The facade remains the same, at least, but inside you’ll see quite a few unique stores, including a music box store and one that sold (much to my shock) a lone box of American cereal for an outrageous sum. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m always on the lookout for American food.

The Red Brick Wareshouses also have, you guessed it, incredible restaurants. Some of them are from America, including a Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza restaurant. The pizzas were, quite frankly, life changing. They were well worth waiting in a long line just to be seated. I also loved the “urban warehouse” style of the restaurant.

I love you, Butcher Republic

There are quite a few more shopping centers, not to mention a quite lovely art museum nearby, but these are the main areas I usually visit when I visit the Minato Mirai area. If you ever get the chance, I hope you check them out on your next visit, too!

Naena Waterfall

I went camping during Golden Week in Nagano Prefecture, and I nearly froze to death because I mistakenly chose a campsite up in the mountains. The campsite I picked, at least, inspired me to write a short story, so the nearly sleepless nights shivering in my sleeping bag were worth it for me.

I’m a sucker for waterfalls, which seem like they’re a dime a dozen in Japan. Since they do seem to be just about anywhere you can find a mountain, I’ve decided to be both extremely picky and lazy about what waterfalls I choose to visit.

First, they have to be a relatively short hike from the parking lot.

Second, they have to be spectacular.

Naena falls fit both of my criteria, and the parking lot area even boasted a nice restaurant and a little place to get some ice cream.

There was even a place where you could go fishing.

I know the entire place was highly commercialized to the point it was clearly a tourist trap, but I have to say the hike to the waterfall was pleasant.

You start off crossing a suspension bridge in front of the first set of waterfalls, which I believe many might mistake as the actual waterfall in question. While they’re pretty to look at, and they spray a nice mist across the bridge to help you cool off on a hot day, it was a relief to me to discover these are not the main attraction.

The first set of waterfalls. If you look to the left in the picture, you can see the tower of stairs.

You continue alone the suspension bridge until you come across a tower of stairs. After a few flights, you find yourself on a dirt path in the middle of some woods, and the path grows steadily higher until you come across yet another tower of stairs.

A walk in the woods

After clambering over some rocks and just generally enjoying the cooling effects of there being a river nearby and some shade from the trees, you come across another suspension bridge that gives you a lovely view of the sharp rocks below, the rapids, and in the distance, the waterfall you’ve been waiting for.

The waterfall, rocks and some rapids

Crossing the suspension bridge, you come across the pile of boulders and rocks you can see in the picture above on the right, which allows you an even closer look of the waterfall. I mainly was busy having a heart attack watching people stretch out on some boulders just in front of the rapids. Maybe I just missed them, but there weren’t any signs warning that these types of rapids could probably kill even the best of swimmers, and nothing was roped off.

I think maybe the area was simply a test of your intelligence to see if you could discern for yourself whether sitting on boulders dangling you out into rapids is a good idea or not. It’s also entirely possible that maybe I, who knows little about anything, was overreacting, and the rapids weren’t that dangerous at all. Maybe the water was so shallow you could just stand up in it rather than get swept away. I have no idea. All I know is I was practically biting through my lip to stop from yelling at people to stay away from the white water.

Overall, though, it was a really nice hike. It was long enough that it felt like you deserved to eat a lot at the restaurant near the parking lot, but not so long that the entire day is spent going to see a waterfall. I’m just glad I brought my camera and some good walking shoes.