Saturday, 9 August 2014

Our time in Yokohama Minato Mirai

Minato Mirai 21, is the port area around Yokohama that is made of a number of islands it is the central business area for Yokohama. Nissan HQ is based here for example. 

Minato Mirai 21 actually means port of the future in the 21st century and was an area where redvelopment began in 1993. Yokohama was the first port to open to foreign trade back in 1859 which doubtless was a reason for it's growth. It is also noteworthy for being the first place in Japan to brew beer and make ice cream! This is likely due to it being a port town and thus being open to what then were outside influences from foreign shores. 

It was also destroyed by an earthquake in 1923 and then suffered due to US bombing raids in the war, causing the city to be replanned in 1956 which is why there is very much a grid system to the layout in place. 

Yokohama is the second biggest city in Japan after Tokyo and whilst it's less than half an hour away by train, one can't help but feel that Tokyo and Yokohama almost blur together at their edges. However, Minato Mirai (MM) is a much quieter place than Tokyo is and has a feeling of greater space with all the waterways around it. It was this that I particularly liked about it. 

If you go to Yokohama station which is two stops on the subway from MM, the hustle and bustle is clearly there. 

We spent six nights at the Intercontinental Grand hotel which overlooks the bay and from our room into the city. 

After a long drive over from Lake Yamanaka, Hakone Skyline and the Toyo Tires Turnpike, we arrived in good time for a check in around 2pm. We were given the offer of upgrading to a 'renewal' room which worked out at an extra 3000 Yen a night. This is an extra £17.34 a night and moved us up ten floors to the 23rd floor. 

We opened the curtains and wow, what a view! Looking straight at the Cosmo 21 which is the world's biggest clock. We opted for a quick breather before heading out to Super Autobacs which I've already blogged. 

Following the fun and spending spree at Super Autobacs we headed into the Queens Square which is comprised of two buildings interlinked by a vast mall with many levels. It even has a subway at the bottom some four levels underground. 

We were hungry so time to try something new and one thing Mark and I hadn't tried yet was ramen noodles. I went for the extra spicy option and within five minutes and watered by ice cold beer I had dinner in front of me. 

It was very nice until an escaping noodle managed to splash some of the extra spicy sauce straight into my eye! Cue an emergency, 'toilet, toilet' noise coming from me as the sauce burned into my eyeball! Thankfully I was helped and sprinted to the loo where I could wash out my eye. 

Delicious food though, but beware of splashes!  :)

A look down the many levels of Queens Square. You can see the subway train at the bottom. In front of me is the rear of the big escalator that goes from the higher level all the way down. 

We strolled outside to have a look at Cosmo 21 from a different angle. Wow, the humidity and heat even at 9pm at night is still stifling, it doesn't seem to cool down much when the sun goes down. 

Cosmo 21 is a pretty cool clock and cycles through a variety of colour combinations. 

We walked through the children's area and into the park itself. I persuaded Mark to take a ride on the Cosmo 21. This is surrounded by the roller coaster and log flume. 

 Looking into the wheel spokes of Cosmo 21. 

View to our hotel from Cosmo 21. Our room is one of those facing us! 

Inside the Queens Square. It was a lovely place to stroll through as it never got overly busy and was light and airy and importantly air conditioned. 

A look in the other direction. It's a big place alright. 

Near the foot of the Landmark Tower which is another plaza that starts where Queens Square ends there is some street art. 

Looking up through teh structure to the top of the Landmark Tower which has 69 floors. 

We went up the Landmark Tower which comprises shops, offices and a five star hotel. At 296m and at the Sky Garden there is a 360 degree view of Yokohama. You can see Mount Fuji on a clear day. Naturally our day was not clear enough! 

Looking north west our hotel to the left and Cosmo 21 in the centre. 

View towards Tokyo, not that you can really see it in the haze. 

How the MM area looked back in 1993 before it was redeveloped. 

Here you can get an idea of the different levels. The green covered roadway is an express route exit that goes underground. 

Not the best picture but this is in the lift which can get from the third floor to the 69th in 40 seconds reaching speeds of up to 28mph/45 km/h. 

Back in the Landmark Plaza there was a Pokemon event going on in the Pokemon store. We went in, it was busy! 

Now you might not think much about a curved escalator, but think about it, it's impossible. What you can't see is that the escalator goes round in a circle with a corresponding escalator on the other side. 

I expect this was probably a left over from the last Fast and Furious film. 

We took the Sea Bass (yet it really is called that though I get the impression it's a play on English words) back to the hotel offering a different view than taking the subway back to the hotel. 

I'm not sure why people who asked where we were going on holiday seemed to be under the part urban myth that everyone slept in 'pods', but this is definitely not the case. Here is our 'renewal room in Yokohama. It was a good size room with a nice king sized bed. I had heard from others that the beds are harder in Japan, but I didn't really notice. I would say that is true of Ryokan hotels but obviously that is different. 

More hotel room views this time at night. Yokohama MM really comes alive at night. 

Sometimes it was all too much. Here Mark grabs a quick nap! 

We didn't use the hotel for breakfast simply based on it's price. It would cost around £20 each for breakfast here, so we had to resort to Starbucks at times. Whilst Japanese food is so much better, there aren't many breakfast places really that we could use, so Starbucks it was. 

This really became the usual morning planning meeting. 

 Mark on the bridge between our hotel and Queens Square. 

Our last day in Japan and lunch is Soba noodles this time with pork. Very nice! 

On the last day, we had to drop off the 86 back to Yokohama. It was kind of sad in a way, but what can you do? Driving this car has made me appreciate just how much better my own car is to drive! 

Slightly out of order but here is the 'Sea Bass'. 

View of our hotel from the Sea Bass. It literally docked at our hotel. Wherever you are in MM you can nearly always see the Intercontinental Grand. 

For our last night in Japan, we wanted (well I did!) something a bit special and we opted for Kalbi beef. This is a Korean restaurant where you cook your food over a gauze covering hot coals in the middle of the table. I must admit I do like a bit of DIY cooking. :)

The first platter of meat with beef, pork and tongue with some very nice mushrooms too. 

Doing a bit of cooking! 

Another platter of meat, I did begin to wonder how we would possibly manage all this! 


Some scallops for me. 

Then some wicked rice because we weren't full at all this point. It was starting to become a struggle! 

Miso soup. Always good, you almost tend to treat it like a drink. 

Tucking in! 

An early start on our last morning getting up at 5am. In time for the sunrise. The Landmark Tower is to the right. 

One of my favourite topics and I know my work colleagues may laugh, but oh how I'm going to miss Japanese toilets, just feast your eyes on the options here. Variable heat control for the seat, pressure and temperature options for the spray, lovely. :) 

When we do buy a new house, I'll be considering one of these! 

Overall I really liked Yokohama Minato Mirai. It's a place that feels so relaxed, light and airy away from the madness and hustle and bustle of Tokyo, yet it's well connected and is only half an hour from Tokyo and all it's delights by train. There was something nice about being on the coast too and the very occasional cool sea breeze that you get. It's certainly somewhere that I'd recommend as a good place to stay. :)

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