A Historical Stroll through Naka's Hills, Yokohama

While I group Yokohama in as part of Tokyo's greater metro area, it is an independent city with its own industry and an interesting history as well. The city has provided a few self-guided walking tours through some of the more interesting neighborhoods.

The "Number 1" walk (they're numbered, though I'm not sure how they determined the numbering) takes visitors from the Motomachi shopping district, through hills full of old Western-style houses, and back around to Yamate with its long-standing nightlife.

Follow this link to view, download, or print the English PDF map and guide for this walk, provided by Yokohama city. Please let me know if this link goes bad. A list of all six walks is located at this link. These maps are almost 10 years old, but I've tried to verify as much of the information below as possible. The only change I have discovered is the opening hours of the cemetery, though the closing Wednesdays of the houses might have changed.

This is an hour-long walk, excluding time spent viewing the sights and touring inside the buildings. There are a few cafes along the way, too.

Start your hike by taking the Minatomirai Line to Motomachi-Chukagai Station, and take Exit 5. I actually walked over from nearby Chinatown after having lunch.
 Motomachi is a small shopping district with clothing stores and cafes located just on the other side of the freeway from Chinatown. Actually, walking tours 1 and 2 start here and head in opposite directions. Keep in mind that anything you buy here will be dragged along with you.
 The real beauty starts once you reach Mishiri-zaka, the slope you see here. This will be your hike up the hill; once you reach the top it's mostly flat and then downhill from there. The Yokohama Meteorological Observatory is around here.
 Mishiri-zaka follows the border of the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery, your second stop.
 Follow the slope and head up the stairs; the cemetery will be on your right the entire time.
 Various shrubs and trees grow along the fence, offering small peaks into the hills holding the departed.
 You emerge from the old trees offering wonderful shade once you reach the top, to be greeted by a modern, clean, small park. That is the observatory in the background.
 Here is your first cafe, just across the street. At the top of the hill, the cemetery slopes back down toward Chinatown on the right, with city sprawl to the left.
 The cemetery is only open 12:00-16:00 on the weekends only (closed January and February) and admission is free (200 yen donation suggested). I visited on a Monday, so I could only go as far as the small entry plaza. I've read that there's a small museum inside with old photos of the Motomachi area and some cartoons.
 If you're not deterred by tombstones, the cemetery probably offers a very beautiful and rigorous walk as you head down and up the hill.

When you continue on the road, the first path to the right after the cemetery is Kaigara-zaka. Taking this path (and stairs) will put you between the cemetery and Motomachi Park, back to Yamate-hon-dori. Kaigara refers to shells found in the soil at the cemetery.
 Stop 3 is the Yamate Museum, in this 1909 wooden house full of antiques from the early 1900s. There is an admission charge; it's open 10:00-17:00 (closed Monday).
 Soon after the museum is Yokohama Christ Church, your fourth stop on the trail. It was built in 1931 and has a beautiful castle-like stone facade.
 This vintage phone booth was a nice unexpected sight as I continued on.
 Hiding behind these trees is your fifth stop: Yamate Residence 234. It was built in 1927 and is the only remaining historical apartment created for foreign residents. Admission is free and it is open 9:30-17:00. closed one Wednesday each month.
This cake cafe is located in at Stop 6: Yamate Residence 89-6. It was designed for foreigners and seems to still serve as a residence upstairs; the first floor is a coffee shop.
 Across the street from 89-6 is Ehrismann's Residence (Stop 7). It was built in 1926 in a different location as the home of a Swiss trader. There are some goods on display from the 1920s/1930s inside as well as a tea room; it's open 9:30-17:00, closed on the fourth Wednesday.
 Ehrismann's Residence sits on the corner of Stop 9, Motomachi Park [see a little further down for stop 8]. Walking around the back of the residence you'll find a nice shady path leading back down the hill inside the park, to the large swimming pool. This path leads by the ruins of the Yamate 80-Ban Kan.
 All that remains is the the brick lower walls and flooring, preserved to show the layout of the house. It was destroyed in the 1923 earthquake.

The second side trip is here as well; the road alongside the park's path leads down the hill on the slope known as Hitai-zaka. It will take you to the former site of a roofing tile factory.

You can take this route down and return up via the third side trip, the hill known as Daikan-zaka. This is named after a former residence of a former governor of Yokohama, though the house appears to be long gone.

Note that if you decide to return via Daikan-zaka, you should visit Stop 8 before entering Motomachi Park. Berrick Hall is located across the street from the park and Erismann's Residence:
 Berrick Hall is a beautiful Spanish-style home built for B. R. Berrick, an English trader and Honorary Consul of Finland. It's the largest house on the tour and extremely beautiful inside and out!
 The downstairs has a nice entry way; around back through the living room is a very nice sun room.
 There's a large parlor and dining room for entertaining guests.
 The kitchen is quite impressive with plenty of storage. Then you head upstairs:
 Facing the front of the house, the upper-left room is a child's room with its own bathroom.
 The kid's room is much larger than my entire apartment, and there's a parlor upstairs for more intimate gatherings.
 Mr. Berrick's office follows; a separate hallway links it with the bathroom and the bedroom.
 This bedroom is even nicer than the child's room, of course. The closet has a very spacious built-in dresser! There's even a very nice sitting room, perfect for relaxing and reading a book on a summer day. The sitting room is bigger than my apartment...

Berrick Hall is open 9:30-17:00 (closed one Wednesday a month) and admission is free.

If you didn't decide to take the second and third side trips down and up the hill, Stop 10 is about 10 minutes down the same road. You'll also pass a fourth side trip, Shiokumi-zaka. This slope got its name due to the history of processing salt through here; author Atsushi Nakajimi taught at a girl's school at the bottom of the slope.
 You can't miss Stop 10. On the left side of the road, the Yamate Catholic Church towers above you. It was originally built in 1862, though the current structure was built in the 1920s after the Great Kanto Earthquake.
 From the Catholic church, you have another 10 minute walk ahead of you. There's a small cafe or restaurant along the way with a small parking area that affords a nice view of Yokohama. I wonder how different this view was 100 years ago!
 You will turn off the street you've been following after a little while; the sign above will guide you when you're supposed to go right. Bear right after this to reach Stop 11.
 This stop is titled "The Home of a Diplomat" or Gaikokan-no-ie. It technically sits inside the garden, and was home to diplomat Sadatsuchi Uchida. It was built in 1910 and is filled with period-accurate recreations. Admission is free and it has a tea room; it's open 9:30-17:00, closed one Wednesday each month.
 I enjoyed the tiny rose garden before heading inside to tour the house. I should note that every one of these structures have a no-shoe policy; shoe shelves and slippers are provided as is customary in Japan.
 This house is smaller than Berrick Hall, but the dark wood and furnishings give it warmth and elegance.
 There is an octagonal corner to this house; the downstairs floor holds a small table for playing cards or eating breakfast.
 There are a few rooms on the downstairs floor, offering smaller more intimate areas for conversations and gatherings instead of the one large grand hall at Berrick.
 The upstairs rooms serve as meeting rooms, guest rooms, and an office:

 There is one bedroom here, with the octogonal room serving as a private sitting room and nursery.
 The window provides a view of the park and the rest of Yokohama.
 I'm not a fan of darker wood finishes, but I wouldn't complain if someone gave me this house!
 The Italian garden (stop 12) itself is nice too, with sharply-trimmed hedges and a small pond. The area (Italia-yama) gets its name because the Italian Consulate was located here in the 1880s.
 Located on the other side of the park is Bluff Residence 18 (stop 13), moved here from another location. It was built in the Taisho period (1912-1926).
 It has a garden with plenty of shade and a few roses that were very pretty.
 This house is also open to the public as a museum 9:30-17:00 (closed one Wednesday). The downstairs rooms are furnished with tables and sofas as a museum.
 Upstairs is more space for sitting and a couple exhibits, plus a small library.
 The garden has a nice view overlooking Yokohama and the bridge.
 Keep your eye out for the dome house, too! I don't know what this is or exactly where it is, but it was a surprise to see!

From Bluff Residence 18, follow the garden around to the stairs heading down toward the buildings you see in the photos below.
 This is Stop 14, the hill called Omarudani-zaka. There are plenty of interesting structures here, as you head down hill toward the train station.
 The buildings here aren't historical, but as you head down the hill enjoy the architectural hodge-podge and the tiny shrine hidden behind the hill.
At the bottom of the hill, you get to an area with plenty of nightlife, which has been an area where sailors gathered to "enjoy" themselves since before Yokohama became a city.

JR Ishikawa-cho Station is on the street heading down Omarudani-zaka, and you should easily see the entrance soon after passing the Stagecoach bar you see above.

There are restrooms available at Motomachi-chukagai Station, at Motomachi Park (around stops 4 and 5), and at Italian Hill (at stop 11). Information boards with maps are posted at the observatory just before stop 2, in front of stop 7, and along the road to stop 10.

Harbor View Park, just west of the cemetery, has two additional historic houses (Bluff No. 111 and the British House). The Museum of Tennis is also just off the trail, in Yamate Park.

There are some vending machines along the way, but no convenience stores.

Finally, most museums/historic residences are open until 6:00 pm July through October (the cemetery and Yamate Museum do not extend their hours in the summer).

While there are multiple walks to experience in Yokohama, this was the most appealing in my mind and rightfully deserves to be the "Number 1" walk.


  1. Yokohama, from a tourist's perspective, is very modern and similar to any other Japanese city. But the Naka Ward's hills have all these wonderful historic houses that gives it a unique feel.