Yokohama wants to come out of Tokyo’s shadow to be known as Japan’s top seaport

Aerial view of Yokohama's Minato Mirai seaside district

Two soon-to-open piers that will result in the largest port capacity in Japan, fast-growing cruise arrivals and an increasingly visitor-friendly seaside precinct are why Yokohama is a seaport destination to be reckoned with, the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau is eager to show.

In 2019, 190 cruise ships will arrive in Yokohama, 90 of them foreign flagged, a 25 per cent increase over 2018. Japan is the top cruise destination in Asia, and Yokohama is the most frequently visited Japanese port for English-speaking passengers.

Aerial view of Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district

Still, the Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau says the port city remains often overlooked due to its proximity to Tokyo, despite being a worthy destination in its own right. “If you have ever taken a cruise that lists Tokyo on its itinerary, unless your ship was very small, you almost certainly docked, not in Tokyo, but in the Port of Yokohama.

“Sadly, travellers unknowingly arrive at Narita or Haneda Airport a day before their cruise and immediately take an expensive taxi ride into Tokyo with all their luggage. Then, the next day take another expensive taxi ride to Yokohama. They ignore Yokohama, which is not only more convenient, it is a worthy city in and of itself,” the CVB argued in a statement.

On top of “port of the future” Minato Mirai, home to visitor attractions including museums, and the Osanbashi International Passenger Terminal, Yokohama will soon have two new cruise-receiving piers. Daikoku and Shinko piers will open in April and November 2019 respectively.

With the opening of these two piers, the CVB says the Yokohama port will be the largest in Japan in terms of capacity, able to accommodate seven ships at one time.

While Daikoku will receive mostly freight ships, it will also be open to some larger cruise ships such as the Queen Elizabeth II.

In fact, in terms of “super large ships,” 2019 arrivals will be 11 times greater than 2018, according to the CVB.

The five-story Shinko Pier, also known as Yokohama Pier 9, is currently scheduled to open in November 2019. Occupying an area of 30,290m2 on a site footprint of 17,700m2, this new port will be dedicated to passenger cruise ships.

The complex will also include dining, entertainment and a new five-star hotel to be operated by the Yokohama Grand Intercontinental.

The hotel’s first floor will house the CIQ (Customs, Immigration & Quarantine), whereas the second floor will showcase both the hotel restaurant and lobby. Shinko’s top three floors will be devoted to luxury guest rooms, all over 45m2 in size.

The land adjacent to the new Shinko Pier terminal will be developed into Hammerhead Park and Promenade. This park will incorporate the historic Shinko Pier Hammerhead Crane, Yokohama’s first quay crane, installed in 1914. The plan is for it to become a second symbol of the city, akin to the nostalgic Red Brick Warehouse.

Carnival Corporation, which includes the Princess and Costa brands active in Japan, has preferential use rights and will host over 80 vessels at Shinko annually. Other vessels will dock one or two times in spot arrivals.

Cruise lines that will dock at Shinko include: Royal Caribbean, Windstar, MSC, Azamara, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Some 400,000 cruise ship passengers are expected annually.

On April 27, 2019 alone, four large cruise ships will dock in Yokohama on this same day, bringing as many as 10,000 passengers in total:
MSC Splendida (137,936 tons; 4,363 passengers) at Daikoku Pier
Azamara Quest (30,277 tons; 694 passengers) at Daikoku Pier
Norwegian Jewel (93,502 tons; 2,376 passengers) at Yamashita Pier (an additional backup port!)
Diamond Princess (115,906 tons; 2,706 passengers) at Osanbashi Pier

In April 2019, the Skywalk section of the Bay Bridge will reopen during super large ship dockings at Daikoku pier.

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