From Yamate, drop down through Motomachi-kōen and cross Motomachi shopping street to find one of the several colourful entrance gates to Chinatown (中華街). Founded in 1863, Yokohama’s Chinatown is the largest in Japan: its streets contain roughly two hundred restaurants and over three hundred shops, while some eighteen million tourists pass through its narrow byways every year to browse stores peddling Chinese herbs or cooking utensils, groceries and garish souvenirs. Few leave without tasting what’s on offer, from steaming savoury dumplings to a full-blown meal in one of the famous speciality restaurants (see Shinkō island).
The focus of community life is Kantei-byō (閑帝廟), a shrine dedicated to Guan Yu, a former general and guardian deity of Chinatown. The building is a bit cramped, but impressive nonetheless, with a colourful ornamental gateway and writhing dragons wherever you look. It’s ¥500 to enter and see the red-faced, long-haired Guan Yu, but not really worth it. The best times to visit are during the major festivities surrounding Chinese New Year (Jan or Feb), Guan Yu’s birthday (the 24th day of the sixth lunar month; June or July) and Chinese National Day (Oct 1).
From the eastern edge of Chinatown it’s a short hop down to the harbour – aim for the pink-grey Marine Tower. This 106m-high tower, built in 1961 to celebrate the port’s centenary, is supposedly the world’s tallest lighthouse, though it’s better to save your money for the Landmark Tower’s much higher observation deck. In front of the tower, Yamashita-kōen is a pleasant seafront park – more grass than trees – created as a memorial to victims of the Great Earthquake. Here you can pick up a Sea Bass ferry or take a harbour cruise (see Yokohama sightseeing cruises) from the pier beside the Hikawa-maru. This retired passenger liner, also known as the Queen of the Pacific, was built in 1930 for the NYK line Yokohama–Seattle service, though it was commandeered as a hospital ship during World War II. It now serves as a museum (日本郵船氷川丸).
At the south end of Yamashita-kōen, the Doll Museum (Ningyō no Ie; 人形の家) offers a diverting display of dolls from around the world. The vast collection ranges from American “blue-eyed friendship dolls”, sent to Japan in the 1920s at a time of increasing tension between the two countries, to Japanese folk and classical dolls.
Yokohama’s rapid growth in the late nineteenth century was underpinned by a flourishing export trade in raw silk. You can learn all about the practical aspects of silk production at the Silk Museum (シルク博物館), in the Sanbo Centre at the north end of Yamashita-kōen. Opposite the museum, the Ōsanbashi (大さん橋) pier is where cruise ships pull up to berth at Yokohama’s International Passenger Terminal. Originally dating from the late nineteenth century, the pier was rebuilt in 2002 to a beautifully fluid, low-slung design inspired by ocean waves.