YOKOHAMA AND KAWASAKI: FACTORY AND BEER TOURS, CHINESE FOOD AND RAMEN MUSEUMS

KANTO

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Tokyo Bay Bridge
KANTO is the name of the region including and around Tokyo and Yokohama. Tokyo Disneyland, Nikko, Kamakura, Hakone and Mt. Fuji are within two hours of Tokyo by bus or train. If possible try to visit these sights during the week. During the weekends the trains and sights can be really crowded. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

The Kantō region lies in the southeastern part of Honshu and is dominated by the Kanto Plain, Japan’s largest plain. The climate is generally mild, and the four seasons are sharply delineated. This region, which includes such key cities as Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Saitama, and Chiba, is the most populous region of Japan.

Kanto Region region—the Tokyo-Yokohama district—is the core of Japan’s commerce and industry. The Keihin Industrial Zone and the Keiyo Industrial Region, extending along the shore of Tokyo Bay, form the largest industrial zone of Japan. The satellite suburbs, within about a two hours’ commuting distance from downtown Tokyo, are expanding, resulting in the urbanization of a large portion of the Kanto region. Though agricultural activity has decreased in general, it is still thriving in the areas to the east and north, and contributes to the region’s economy.

Kanagawa Prefecture — where Yokohama and Kawasaki are located — covers 2,415.83 square kilometers (933 square miles), is home to about 9.1 million people and has a population density of 3,778 people per square kilometer. Yokohama is the capital and largest city. Kanagawa Prefecture is in Kanto in the Tokyo area of central Honshu island and has six districts and 33 municipalities.

Tokyo Bay

Tokyo Bay is located in the southern Kanto region Japan, and embraces the coasts of Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Chiba Prefecture. Formerly known as Edo Bay, it is connected to the Pacific Ocean by the Uraga Channel. The Tokyo Bay region is the most populous and largest industrialized area in Japan. Around it are the cities of Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Funabashi and Chiba and the prefectures of Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama. About 33 million people live around the bay, nearly a quarter of Japan’s population.

Tokyo Bay measures about 65 kilomters (40 miles) from north and to south and varies in width from about eight to 32 kilometers (five to 20 miles). It protrudes prominently into the Kantō Plain and is flanked by the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture to the east and the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture to the west. The Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line bridge-tunnel crosses Tokyo Bay between Kawasaki and Kisarazu; Tokyo-Wan Ferry also crosses the bay toward the Uraga Channel between Kurihama (in Yokosuka) and Kanaya (in Futtsu on the Chiba side).

Several million of people --- plus Tokyo Disneyland and Haneda Airport --- occupy land reclaimed from the bay.Altogether dredging and filling have claimed about a fifth of the bay, much of it since 1950. There is currently a proposal to dredge the bay and create an island in the middle of it that would occupy a third of the bay. The project has been projected to cost $620 billion---more than the United States spent on it Interstate Highway system. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

Yokohama

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Landmark Tower
Yokohama (south of Tokyo, 30 minutes by train from Tokyo) is an industrial city with 3.75 million and is main port of Japan. The sister city of Tokyo, it is built large on an area once occupied by mud flats and is home to large steelmaking, automaking, oil-refining and chemical industries. The city features several parks and historic sites related to the opening of the port to foreign trade and the early foreign community in Yokohama. Yamate is the main commercial center with a wide variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment.

Yokohama is part of the Kanto metropolitan area centered near Tokyo. It was one of the first Japanese ports to open to Western trade, and today is one of the world's busiest shipping ports. Despite being a large, industrial city, Yokohama retains a pleasant atmosphere and is relatively close to a number of sightseeing and recreation areas, such as the ancient capital of Kamakura, the hot spring resorts at Hakone, and Mount Fuji.

Yokohama has a large international population and a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Local Japanese residents tend to be very open to foreigners and there are foreigners from all over the world.. Most students and family members, even those who speak little or no Japanese, have few problems making friends.

Websites:Yokohama Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Official Site and Visitor’s Guide welcome.city.yokohama.jp ; Yokohama City Guide city.yokohama.jp Maps: Yokohama Visitor’s Guide yokohamajapan.com/maps; Subway Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels (click hostels for good map and description of hostels) Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Yokohama is about 45 minutes by train from central Tokyo. Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

History of Yokohama

In the mid 19th century, Yokohama was a sleepy fishing village with only 600 people. After it opened to foreign trade in 1859 it grew quickly and became the home of relatively large foreign community of Americans, Europeans and Chinese. People from Yokohama have a reputation of being more cosmopolitan, working class, trendy and fashion conscious than people from Tokyo. In 2002, Yokohama's International Stadium hosted the final in World Cup soccer tournament.

Joshua Hammer wrote in Smithsonian magazine: Before the Great Kanto Earthquake struck, Japan was full of optimism. No center symbolized the country’s dynamism more than Yokohama, known as the City of Silk. Founded as Japan’s first “Foreign Settlement” in 1859, Yokohama had grown into a cosmopolitan city of half a million. Attracting entrepreneurs, fugitives, traders, spies and drifters from every corner of the world, the port rose “like a mirage in the desert,” wrote one Japanese novelist. [Source: Joshua Hammer, Smithsonian magazine, May 2011]

“From the waterfront promenade, known as the Bund, to the Bluff, the hillside neighborhood favored by foreign residents, Yokohama was where East met West, and liberal ideas—including democracy, collective bargaining and women’s rights—transfixed those who engaged them. Nobel nominee Junicho Tanizaki, who spent two years in Yokohama writing screenplays, marveled at “a riot of loud Western colors and smells—the odor of cigars, the aroma of chocolate, the fragrance of flowers, the scent of perfume.”“

Chinatown in Yokohama

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Chinatown in Yokohama is the largest Chinatown in Japan. It is considerably larger than the other main ones in Kobe and Nagasaki. There are more than 600 restaurants in the 500-meter by 500-meter district. The architecture slightly exaggerates traditional Chinese architecture. Chukagai Odori, the 350-meter-long main street in Yokohama’s Chinatown, is pedestrian-only during the day on weekends and holidays.About 20 million people the area every year. More have come since the areas has become easily accessible by the Minatomirai subway.

Chinatown in Yokohama dates back to 1859 when Yokohama was opened as an international port and many Chinese---mainly from Guangdong’settled in a designated area. In recent years it has become more Japanized as more Japanese have moved in, more Japanese have taken over Chinese restaurants and more Japanese-owned non-Chinese restaurants have opened up. Websites: Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; Yokohama Tourism welcome.city.yokohama.jp

Sights in Yokohama

Among the sights in Yokohama are the Silk Center, Sankei-en Garden, Yokohama Pavilion, the Marine Tower, the Foreigners Cemetery. and the Yokohama Doll Museum. Yamashita Park is the oldest park in Japan to be laid out along the sea, and has a historic ship permanently docked there. The restaurants in Chinatown are famous. The Landmark Tower has observation deck on the 69th floor. The main shopping area is around Sakuragi-chi Station. In Tsuzuki Ward there is a large Ferris Wheel on top of a five-story building. The top of the wheel in 75 meters off the ground. It has 32 gondolas.

The Yamate neighborhood offers good routes for walking, jogging, or bicycling. The Honmoku area offers a number of Japanese-and Western-style restaurants. With a little searching you can find about any kind of cuisine in and around downtown Yokohama. The Negishi housing area has a library which has a large selection of English-language books for children and adults. Yokohama boasts a wide variety of museums, concert halls, theaters, and cinemas.

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Landmark Tower view
Yokohama Landmark Tower is 70-story, 971-foot-tall building with the world's fastest elevators. They move at 28mph and take passengers from the ground floor to the observation deck on the 69th floor in 40 seconds. Website: Landmark Tower site yokohama-landmark.jp

Cosmoclock 21 was the world's largest Ferris wheel until it was surpassed by the Ferris Wheel at Odaiba. Both Ferris wheels has the same dimensions but the one in Odaiba is consider bigger because it is higher off the ground. Later the Odaiba wheel was surpassed by wheels in London and Singapore. Yokohama 21is the center of a waterfront development with a large Ferris wheel meant to help revive Yokohama.

Technically Cosmoclock 21 is an observation wheel that largely rotates with the help of it own weight, rather a true Ferris wheel. Cosmoclock 21 is 344½ feet high, 328 feet in diameter and has 60 eight seat gondolas. The entire wheel has a capacity of 480 people, a world record. It has laser beams, synthesized music. The arms of the wheel serve as arms for a 42-foot clock. One ride, consisting of one revolution, lasts about 15 minutes. The wheel moves very slow but never stops. People step on and off as it arrives at the landing platform.

Yamishita Park (Yokohama) contains the world's tallest inland lighthouse. The 348-foot steel tower produces power equal to 600,000 candles. The light is visible 20 miles away.

Yokohama Sankeien Garden (five-minute walk from Hommoku Sankeien-mae Bus Stop) is a strolling garden built by Hara Tomitaro (1868-1939), a business tycoon of Yokohama. It contains many historic buildings which have been brought from many parts of the country. Different flowers can be enjoyed each season; lotus, iris, plum, azalea and so on. Address: 58-1, Hommoku Sannotani, Naka-ku, Yokohama Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm Closed: December 29–31 Admission: ¥500 Website: sankeien.or.jp

Museums in Yokohama

Museums in Yokohama include the Silk Museum, the Hiraki Ukiyoe Museum and the Yokohama Maritime Museum. Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum (Yokohama) features an 80-centimeter-long, 12-kilogram, remote-controlled robotic coelacanth (an ancient fish once thought to be extinct). It swims for several minutes three times a day: 10:00am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm Website: Mitsubishi Minatomirai Museum site mhi.co.jp

Yokohama Museum of Art (Sakuragicho Station, JR Keihin-Tohoku Line and the Negishi Line and the Yokohama Subway) is housed in a Kenzo Tange-designed building that opened in 1989 in one of the pavilions built for the Yokohama Expo that had taken place earlier that year. The Tange structure stands immense, and the Grand Gallery entrance hall is particularly cavernous and overwhelming in scale. The museum is home to a large collection of Japanese and Western artworks from the 19th century up to present day. It also has a strong photography collection which upholds the city’s reputation as one the birthplaces of photography in Japan. Location: 3-4-1 Minatomirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa 220-0012, +81-45-221-0300

Japan Cup Noodle Museum was opened by Japan's Nissin Foods in Yokohama in 2011. The museum contains a section where visitors can create their own noodles: kneading flour, rolling out noodles, and steaming and frying them to make chicken ramen which is then put into bags. In another area of the museum called "My Cup Noodle Factory", visitors can design cups, put dried noodles in them and pick toppings and broth for their own versions of cupped meals. It is possible to create more than 5,000 different versions.The museum exhibits packages of Nissin instant noodles from around the world and houses restaurants that serve food such as Vietnamese pho noodles and pasta from Italy. There are giant cup noodle containers in the museum for children to play in. "We opened this place... as a factory that gives children experience and a museum for corporate activities," Nissin Foods Holdings president Koki Ando told AFP.

The museum is Nissin's second devoted to instant noodles. The other one opened in the Osaka area in 1999. The multi-storey Yokohama museum has a total floor space of 10,000 square metres (107,600 square feet) -- three times bigger than the Osaka museum. [Source: Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP, September 17, 2011]

Shinyokohama Ramen Museum

Ramen Museum(Yokohama, ((JR Tokaido Line, Shinyokohama Station)) draws five million visitors a year, more than any other museum in Japan. Opened in 1994 and officially known as the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, it contains silver earrings shaped like ramen noodles, an exhibit on the history of noodles, noodle video games, a package of the first instant noodles ever sold and a special edition cup-of-ramen with Arnold Schwarzenegger's picture on it.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is a unique museum on ramen noodles as well as a small theme park that recreates a town of the Showa period (about 50 years ago) . You can taste selected ramen restaurants from across the nation. Nine ramen shops, set-up to replicate a 1950’s street scene, serve specialty ramen dishes from across Japan — including miso, soy sauce, salt and tonkotsu pork broth among others. Visit the gallery to learn the history of how ramen noodles first came from China and later evolved into the distinctive present-day Japanese delicacy. The museum shop even gives visitors the chance to create their very own brand of ramen! The Ramen Museum is just 45 minutes from Tokyo by train.

You can also see 230 ramen bowls collected from shops around Japan and uniforms worn by workers at famous shops. The museum shop sells things like ramen-bowl key chains and books on ramen history. Long lines form at museum's nine ramen restaurants, each with its own kind of noodles. Season passes are available. Location: 46 2-14-21 Shinyokohama, Kohoku-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa. Admission: Adult (13 or older) 310yen Child (6 to 12) and seniors(60over) 100yen. Free. for children younger than 6 years old. Hours Open: Business Hours: 11:00am-9:00pm. Ramen shops take orders until 30 minutes before closing time. From 10:30 on Sundays and holidays, longer hours on some days). It is open most everyday. Occasionally closed for maintenance. Getting There: From Yokohama (15 minutes): Directions: Yokohama to Shinyokohama (Yokohama City Subway). Leave the subway station from Exit 8 and walk for several minutes.. From Tokyo (50 minutes):Tokyo→Yokohama (JR Tokaido Line)→Shinyokohama (Yokohama City Subway). From Shinjuku (50 minutes): Shinjuku→Shibuya (JR Yamanote Line)→Kikuna Tokyu Toyoko Line →Shinyokohama (JR Yokohama Line)→Shinyokohama. Websites: Official museum site: raumen.co.jp; Tokyo Food Page bento.com ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com

Kirin Beer Factory Tour and Tasting

Kirin Yokohama Beer Village (northern Yokohama, Nama-mugi Station on the Keihin-Kyuko line) is one of nine factories of the Japan Kirin Group (Chitose, Sendai, Toride, Yokohama, Nagoya, Shiga, Kobe, Okayama, and Fukuoka) . Each factory offers free tours that last around 80 minutes. The Kirin Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. It was founded in Yokohama, a city that played a major role in Japan's adopting beer from the West and spreading it the rest of Japan. [Source: yokohamajapan.com]

According to Japan-Guide: “Kirin has a long history that is closely tied to the history of beer in Japan. After the opening of the country to foreign trade, beer began to thrive in Japan in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), and particularly so in the international port city of Yokohama. The Kirin Brewery Company itself was established in 1907, when two of the country's first breweries decided to unite their operations.”

The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Kirin and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds! According to the guide, 2000 cans of beer are filled and packed each and every minute. Near the end of the tour, a series of panels of Kirin’s history are on display. Tours are usually conducted in Japanese, but an English guide may also be available.

Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside 129 huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.

As the tour nears completion you arrive at the “tasting bar”. Here, you receive tickets that you exchange for three glasses of fresh beer—your choice. The selections on tap are “Ichiban-shibori”, “Lager”, and “Stout” (black beer). There is also a small restaurant. Beforehand you go on the tour, to make sure you get a spot, it is recommended to make reservations by phone (045-503-8250) .

Location: Kirin Brewery Co. Yokohama Factory, 1-17-1, Namamugi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, 230-8628, Tel: 045-503-8250; Hours Open: Closed: Monday (open if holiday), year end and new year holidays The tours are given to groups of between two to 100 people every 30 minutes, starting at 10:00am and finishing at 4:30pm. Admission: Free Getting There: Kirin Beer Village in Yokohama is a seven-minute walk south from Nama-mugi Station on the Keihin-Kyuko line. Closest Railway Stations: Shinkoyasu Station: JR Keihin Tohoku Line. Namamugi Station: Keihin Kyuko Line. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs 280 yen from Shinagawa or 13 minutes, 160 yen from Yokohama . The factory can also be reached by a 15 minute walk from JR Shin-Koyasu Station on the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line. Website: kirin.co.jp/entertainment

Kawasaki

Kawasaki (near Tokyo) is a sprawling industrial city built partly on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. Difficult to separate from Tokyo and Yokohama, it is home to 1.48 million people and a large industrial area. Sights include the Kawasaki Daishi Temple and Nihon Ninka-en Garden, an exhibit garden of typical Japanese folk houses. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Kawasaki City site city.kawasaki.jp

Kawasaki is one of Japan’s 10 largest cities and part of the greater Tokyo area. Lying on the west coast of Tokyo Bay, it is comprised of a major industrial center surrounded by an extensive farming area. The city was severely damaged during World War II. Both Kawasaki Daishi and Nihon Ninka-en Garden are widely visited by tourists.

Keihin Industrial Area (Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture) is one of the largest industrial areas in Japan. In recent years it has become a tourist attraction, especially at night when the factories and towers are light up with lights. Factory lights reflect off the water at Chidoricho in Kawasaki. Chidori Bridge crosses a canal from the mainland to the industrial island that is Chidoricho. Factory designers seem to have gone pipe-crazy at one plant that is covered with silvery-white pipes at Chidoricho.

Fujiko F. Fujio Museum

Fujiko F. Fujio Museum (in Kawasaki, shuttle bus from Noborito Station on the Odakyu or JR Nanbu lines) is a museum showcasing the work of Fujiko F. Fujio, the late manga artist who created such characters as Doraemon, Perman and Obake no Q-taro. Opened in September 2011, it features about 50,000 original drawings, a desk and other items used by the artist, whose real name was Hiroshi Fujimoto, until his death in 1996. The three-story museum was constructed on the former site of the Mukogaoka Yuen amusement park in the city's Tama Ward. The park closed in 2002.

Kenichi Sato wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Original color drawings are shown in the first-floor exhibition area, featuring an entrance modeled after the “dokodemo door” in Doraemon cartoons. The second floor holds the artist's original drawings in a room softly lit to preserve the works, and visitors are sure to be enchanted by the vivid pictures of the manga stories they loved as children. His workspace is recreated faithfully, with his books and toys filling the shelves in the high-ceilinged room. These mementos show the artist's diverse and wide-ranging interests.

Visitors can also enjoy a Doraemon-shaped vending machine dispensing character goods or eat French toast shaped like "ankipan," one of Doraemon's secret items. Ankipan is bread on which a note can be written and when it is eaten, you automatically memorize the contents of the note.

Hours Open: 10:00am-6:00pm Closed on Tuesday, December 30 to January 3 and other scheduled dates. Each day, the entrance time is divided into a quarterly time-schedule, and visitors must enter the museum no later than one half-hour after the reservation time. Admission: Reservations are required. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults, 700 yen for middle and high school students and 500 yen for younger children four and over (those under 4 are free). You must purchase a reserved ticket which specifies the appointed date of the reservation in advance at Lawson in Japan. Tel: 0570-055245. Getting There: The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum, about 10 minutes by shuttle bus from Noborito Station on the Odakyu or JR Nanbu lines, Website: fujiko-museum.com

Train and Bus Museum

Train and Bus Museum (underneath the Tokyu Denentoshi Line’s elevated track at Miyazakidai in Kawasaki is a thrilling place for rail fans. Four kinds of simulators allow visitors to feel like a real train driver, ranging from one for kids to full-fledged equipment based on software for real crew members.

Yasunori Kuroha wrote in the Japan News: “The 8090-series’ simulator-at 300 yen ($2.60 US) per use-features a real master controller and speedometer used in a Tokyu 8090-series train. Visitors can choose from different types of train service, such as a local train or special express, as well as routes such as the Shibuya-Jiyugaoka leg on the Toyoko Line and the Nagatsuta-Azamino leg on the Denentoshi Line. [Source: Yasunori Kuroha, Japan News, January 27, 2017]

“The scenery visible from the driver’s cab and in-train announcements are also accurately replicated. Aimed at advanced-level visitors, the expert mode simulator re-creates morning rush-hour operations without audio guidance. Users must deftly adjust the train’s speed so it will arrive on time. A train may shoot past a station if the brakes are not applied at the right time.

“The kids’ simulator section for children is easy to handle. Visitors can drive a 5000-series train painted with their favorite color in computer graphics. They also can design a paper craft and purchase it for 200 yen The wooden building that formerly served as Takatsu Station stands out. The building was moved to the museum when it opened near the station in 1982.

”The building still looks the same, even after the museum’s relocation to its current site in 2003 due to the quadrupling of rail tracks near the station. The pillars of the building-constructed in 1927-have turned brown and look well-seasoned. Retro trains and buses dating to the Showa era (1926-1989) are also on display at the museum, bringing a nostalgic feeling. Kyoko Nakanishi, a 33-year-old woman from Yokohama, came with her 3-year-old son. “There are various kinds of trains, and my child never gets bored. My parents’ generation feels nostalgic about the station buildings and train cars. Next time I want to bring my parents,” Nakanishi said.”“ Location: The museum is run by Tokyu Corp. and consists of two buildings. Building A houses simulators for 8090-series trains and model trains, as well as the former Takatsu Station building. Attractions for children are in Building B. On the evening of February 24, an event will be held where visitors can enjoy the museum while drinking alcohol. Participants must be aged 20 or older. Hours Open: 10:00amto 4:30pm Closed Thursdays (closed on Friday if Thursday is a national holiday) and during the year-end and New Year period. Admission: ¥200 for high school students or older; ¥100 for children from the age of 3 to junior high school students.

Kawasaki Factory Night Bus Tours

According to unmissablejapan: On a Kawasaki Factory Night View Tour you get to visit carefully selected viewing spots by bus, including some areas that are not normally open to the public. These include the Nemoto Shipyard, from where you can get an excellent view of the surrounding factories. The tour also includes a stop for a ‘Factory Night View Curry’ at the Sky Restaurant Frontier, so ensuring that the tour provides stimulation for all of your senses. Tours run on the first and third Friday of every month, and depart from Kawasaki Station. The cost is ¥4,300, and bookings can be made through Tabi Plus One online, or by phone on 03-6436-0395. You can also make enquiries by email to 28syogyo@city.kawasaki.jp. The departure time varies from 5:00pm to 6:30pm depending on the time of year, and the tour lasts for about three hours and fifteen minutes. [Source: unmissablejapan]

Hato Bus run an alternative tour, called the Kawasaki Factory Night View Tour, which departs from Tokyo Station. It runs on Saturdays, plus some Fridays in summer, and it also promises to take you to Kawasaki’s best factory-viewing spots, including areas around the waterfront that are otherwise off-limits. The tour begins with a stop at Kawasaki’s Korea Town for yakiniku, and then spends two hours touring viewing spots around Kawasaki. The tours leave from Tokyo Station’s Marunouchi South Exit at 4:20pm. (Turn left after leaving the station to find the Hato Bus stops, and the Hato Bus office.) It arrives back at Tokyo Station at 9:30pm, and costs ¥5,980 including food. You can book on line by going to Hato Bus’s website, and entering the tour’s code, R294, into the search box. Alternatively you can book by phone on 03-3201-2725, at the Hato Bus office at Tokyo Station, or through many travel agents.

Yasuko Onda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “It’s 4:20pm sharp. I'm about to board a bus packed with 41 other passengers in front of JR Tokyo Station. Once aboard, we're heading down to Kawasaki, to discover the best viewing spots for seeing the area’s factories by night. I'd wanted to take this factory viewing tour since first hearing about it two years ago. It all started when I saw the 2010 Japanese film Running on Empty. I was fascinated by a magnificent night scene in which a factory complex ablaze with lights dwarfed the film’s characters running in the foreground. [Source: Yasuko Onda, Yomiuri Shimbun, March 25, 2012]

“First, food. We fill our stomachs with yakiniku at Kawasaki’s Korea Town before reboarding the bus. We then pass through the waterfront area along Tokyo Bay before arriving at the factory complex. Supported by the factories, the tours have operated regularly since spring 2010.They are immensely popular and are almost always booked out.

“The tour begins after our sumptuous yakiniku feast. Two popular volunteer tour guides--Nobue Wakai and Haruko Kuni--board the bus. "Are you fascinated by ducting?" begins Wakai, as row of pipes in the factory district come into view. "The scenery here is more than factory fans could ever hope for," Wakai said. "The area is surprisingly neat and relaxing." This artificial aesthetic seems to be one of the reasons for the area’s popularity. We then head to Kawasaki Mari-en, specifically its observatory on the 10th floor. The sprawling industrial zone lies before us, a myriad of lights shimmering in the night. "These lights aren't simply for show--they're lit up because the factories are in operation," Wakai said.

“After visiting Mari-en, the bus moves from one viewing spot to another. Among them, the view in front of the municipal pier is fantastic--the factories' lights are reflected along in-house railway lines and smoke rising from various chimneys recedes into the shadows. Looking around, I see a flare stack, its red flames soaring high into the sky.

“The scenery around me is both exotic and overwhelming. "Hydrogen vapor is clearly visible in winter. This vapor completely transforms the landscape--when it appears, the atmosphere becomes more uplifting," Kuni explained. Despite the freezing temperatures, I'm glad I signed up this tour during winter. From that moment, time passes by in a flash. Gazing out at Haneda Airport from the bus windows, we enjoy watching the flare stacks that illuminate airplanes taking off and landing from the airport nearby. The sprawling factory complex looks like a castle of lights. As we make our way back to Tokyo via the metropolitan expressway, we are spellbound by the factory lights snaking along the route. At the end of the tour, our guides teach us traditional waterfront greetings. Instead of using "hi" and "bye," workers say "Goanzen ni" (Be safe). The Hato Bus tour "Kawasaki factory night" operates every Saturday, departing from Tokyo Station. It last for five hours. For more information and reservations, call (03) 3761-1100.

Yokohama Factory Night Cruises

According to unmissablejapan: “On the Yokohama Factory Night Scenery Cruise you follow a course along the shoreline of Tokyo Bay on a small boat that carries up to 25 people, passing major industrial zones in Yokohama and the neighbouring city of Kawasaki. You enter a system of canals that give the giant plants direct access to the sea, so that at some points you’re surrounded by industrial activity on all sides. The cruise takes around ninety minutes, and runs year-round, but it must be booked in advance. It costs ¥3,500 and leaves from Yokohama at 7:00pm every Friday to Sunday, and at 8:00pm on Thursdays. To reserve your place call 045-263-9360 as soon as possible, as it often sells out, and be sure to confirm the departure point and time as they are subject to variation. Cruises usually leave from Yokohama Paradise, which is next to the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental Hotel, just five minutes walk from Minatomirai Station. To get there from Tokyo, first travel to Yokohama Station. Either take the Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station (26 minutes, ¥450) or the Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku Station (33 minutes, ¥540) . From Yokohama Station, Minatomirai Station is just three minutes away on the Minatomirai Line (¥180). [Source: unmissablejapan]

“Yokohama Cruise offer the Factory Night View Jungle Cruise, covering approximately the same route, for ¥4,500. It also takes an hour and a half, but their boat is bigger, accommodating ninety passengers. It runs on Saturdays and Sundays, with the departure time depending on the season, ranging from 4:30pm in December to 7:00pm in June. Again you must book a place in advance, this time by calling 045-290-8377, or by using the online booking system. The cruises depart from the Aka-renga Pier in Yokohama. To get there, travel to Yokohama Station as described above, then take the Minatomirai Line to Bashamichi Station (five minutes, ¥180) . If both of these cruises are booked up, several other tours covering similar routes are listed on this website, but if you don’t read Japanese you’ll probably have to get someone to help you make sense of it.

Minoru Akita wrote in Japan News: “Orange dots of working lights shimmer in the darkness, illuminating white puffs from chimneys. This is the scene visible from a ship that takes a cruise around chemical plants and iron mills at night.” It was 7:00pm in July. “A sightseeing ship carrying about 20 passengers left Yokohama Port for the Factory Night View Jungle Cruise. There soon appeared iron plants, chemical factories and refineries on both sides of the ship. The intertwined duct work and numerous lights from working lamps reflected on the sea surface created a fantastic landscape. It was just like a futuristic city from a movie.

“Nightime factory cruises present views of industrial facilities that cannot be seen on shore. “I often hear people say ‘beautiful’ when they describe a night view. But people make various comments about night views at factories. Some say the duct work reminds them of blood vessels, while others say they thought of the vigor of high economic growth,” said Motoo Marumaru, a night-view critic. [Source: Minoru Akita, Japan News, August 4, 2016]

“Cruising tours like this have proliferated since about 2010 in areas housing industrial establishments near ports such as Kawasaki and Muroran in Hokkaido. The tours are usually planned and operated jointly by ship companies, local tourism associations and municipalities and are organised on weekends. Many cruises take about 1-1½ hours, and participation fees vary from 2,000 yen ($19) to 6,500 yen ($63) for adults. Yasuyuki Kameyama of the Kawasaki City Tourist Association said, “The cruising tour also follows the path of the industry’s efforts to overcome pollution through a series of technical developments.” A flare stack, for example, is a flame soaring from a chimney that appears when excess gas from petrochemical plants is burned to be detoxified.

Kawasaki and Yokohama Factories by Train

According to unmissablejapan: “OK – so some people are allergic to organized tours. If that describes you, there’s no need to worry – you can explore the western parts of the Kawasaki and Yokohama industrial areas yourself using the Tsurumi train line. [Source: unmissablejapan]

The Tsurumi Line begins at Tsurumi Station, and divides into three separate branches, all of which end at dead-end stations surrounded by factories. Tsurumi Station is half an hour from Tokyo Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line (¥380) . You can see the train line and the surrounding area on Google Maps here. Trains are much less frequent than on other Tokyo-area lines, and finish early at weekends, so you’d be well advised to check the train times before you go, and to go on a weekday. The weekday timetable for trains from Tsurumi (in Japanese) is here. Trains run back to Tsurumi from the Termini a few minutes after arriving.

The longest part of the Tsurumi Line from Tsurumi to Ogimachi is only 7km long, and the journey from end to end takes 17 minutes. It’s served by one or two trains an hour in the evenings, with the last train for Ogimachi leaving Tsurumi at 11:15pm, and returning at 11:35pm on both weekdays and weekends. The branch to Okawa is served by about one train an hour on weekday evenings, with the last outward train from Tsurumi at 8:10pm, returning from Okawa at 8:27pm. On weekends there are only three trains in the entire day! On the branch to Umi-Shibaura, there is about one train an hour in the evenings, the last train leaving Tsurumi at 10:10pm on weekdays or 8:30pm on weekends. The last trains back to Tsurumi are at 10:29pm on weekdays, or 8:55pm on weekends. While the trains aren’t very frequent, as the distances aren’t great, it’s not a big problem to walk between some of the stations, and there are local bus services that complement the trains.

As well as passengers, the line also carries a lot of freight to and from factories in the area, but perhaps the line’s most interesting feature is the Umi-Shibaura Terminus. It’s located within the grounds of a Toshiba factory, so you’re not allowed outside of the station unless you’re a Toshiba employee. This unusual situation has made the station famous as ‘the station you can never leave’, and it’s become quite popular as a sightseeing destination. Toshiba have created a small park along the waterfront. It’s attached to the station, so you can get great views of the surrounding area from the park, before hopping back on a train to get out again.

Kanagawa Asahi Brewery

Asahi Beer Factory (three kilometers north of Daiyuzan Station) offers free tours that last around 90 minutes. The Asahi Brewery Company is one of Japan's four leading beer breweries. The brewery tours pass through a gallery with displays regarding the history of beer and Asahi and winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process. As you watch, thousands of cans and bottles of beer go shooting through factory machines at incredibly high speeds!

Beer Production involves boiling down barley to make mash and removing the chaff so the wort can be squeezed out. The bitterness and fragrance of the beer comes from adding hops to the wort and boiling it down again. The entire process takes place in a preparation chamber installed with nine boiling kettles, each 12 meters in diameter. Top quality beer are often made using only the first press of the wort. Fermenting takes place inside huge tanks for a period of one or two months. Visitors can try the first and second press of the wort for comparisons as well as up to three glasses of draft beer drawn straight from the fermenting tanks.

Guides give a tour of the facility, with an easy-to-understand explanation of the manufacturing processes that employ the latest technology based on rigorous quality control. After the tour, visitors are served freshly-brewed draft beer for 20 minutes, and unlimited refills are offered. Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages are provided for minors and those who drove to the site. Language Support: Written displays are in English, Korean, and Chinese.

Tour: Reservations required. The tour takes about 90 minutes, including the beer tasting at the end of the tour. Location: 1223 Nuda, Minami Ashigara, Kanagawa; Tour Hours 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Closed Year end and New Year’s Day, plus designated holidays; Reservations and inquiries: +81-465-72-6270; Phone hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please reserve by phone to book tours with an English-speaking guide. Website: asahibeer.co.jp/brewery

Image Sources: 1) 2) 3) 4) Twin isles

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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