A fun-packed day awaits at Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
With its long seafaring history and location close to the mouth of Tokyo Bay, it’s only natural that Yokohama is home to one of the most impressive aquariums in Japan and the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise water theme park.
Built on a man-made island south of the city center, Hakkeijima is undoubtedly a theme park—but it has been put together with far more thought than other examples. There is plenty of open space between the attractions, shops, and the aquarium complex, while the cool breezes that blow in off the sea are the perfect antidote to a hot summer day.
With more than 500 species of fish and over 100,000 sea creatures, the state-of-the-art Aqua Museum aquarium is one of the largest in Japan. It includes an enormous pool that’s home to a school of sardines and a viewing tunnel that gives visitors the impression they are swimming alongside the colorful residents, among them rays and sharks. And while other aquariums may keep the sea life and the visitors apart, the Fureai Lagoon here is designed to allow people to interact with friendly sea creatures. The aquarium also puts on frequent shows featuring agile dolphins and beluga whales.
The complex has a wide range of shops and restaurants—many of them, unsurprisingly, nautically themed—as well as a number of thrilling attractions. Hakkeijima is home to the first roller coaster in Japan to take riders out over the ocean, while the Blue Fall drops thrill-seekers from a height of 107 meters in no time at all. Not one for the faint of heart. The illuminated merry-go-round might be a better choice for small children.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 9am-8pm. Opening hours vary for special events, such as the annual fireworks displays in August. One-day ticket: ¥4,900 (high school and over), ¥3,500 (junior high/elementary), ¥2,000 (children over 4 years old). Nearest stn: Hakkeijima (Kanazawa Seaside line). www.seaparadise.co.jp/english
Delve into Yokohama’s past—and see some exotic animals—in Kanazawa ward
anazawa ward is often overlooked by visitors to Yokohama, but it is home to some intriguing attractions.
Shomyoji Temple can trace its foundation back to the 13th century, when the Kanazawa district was the eastern gateway to the city of Kamakura. The temple’s founders dedicated themselves to learning and collecting important academic documents and books. Shomyoji reached the peak of its prosperity in the early decades of the 14th century, although it declined in importance following the violent end of the Kamakura Period. Its relative distance from the city of Kamakura has helped preserve the temple and its artifacts, many of which have since found their way into the Kanazawa Bunko.
This public museum next to the temple started out in 1275 as a library dedicated to historically important texts. That remit has since been expanded to include an art collection encompassing portraits dating from the Kamakura Period painted on silk, as well as calligraphy, sculptures, classics from both ancient Japan and China, and Buddhist sutras.
The fact that it has survived natural disasters, fire, domestic upheavals and a world war is remarkable in itself. The collection is unique, but the eleven-headed Kannon statue is worth lingering over, as are other images designated as Important Cultural Properties. Kanazawa Bunko holds seasonal exhibitions: until June 27, learn about the introduction of tea culture with “Samurai City, Kamakura Tea,” then catch the “Kanazawa-Bunko Story” from July 1 until August 29.
Of more interest to younger visitors will be the Kanazawa Zoological Gardens, within the sprawling grounds of the Kanazawa Natural Park on the outskirts of Kita-Kamakura. Overlooking Tokyo Bay and the Boso Peninsula, the zoo has been divided into zones representing the continents of America, Eurasia, Oceania and Africa, and focuses on presenting herbivorous animals such as koalas, elephants, giraffes and rhinoceroses.
The zoo is dedicated to researching and breeding increasingly rare herbivores, as well as educating visitors on the importance of habitat protection. Opened in 1989, it is designed to reduce stress on the animals by placing them in an environment closer to what they would experience in the wild.
• Kanazawa Zoological Gardens: Open Tue-Sun 9:30am-4:30pm, closed Mon (Tue if Mon is a hol), Dec 29-Jan 1. Admission ¥500 (adults), ¥300 (high school), ¥200 (junior high and under). 5-15-1 Kamariya-Higashi, Kanazawa-ku. Tel: 045-783-9101. www.kanazawa-zoo.org/foreign
• Kanazawa Bunko Museum: Open Tue-Sun 9am-4pm, closed Mon. Admission ¥250. 142 Kanazawa-cho, Kanazawa-ku. Tel: 045-701-9069.
• Shomyoji Temple: Open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. Admission free. 212-1 Kanazawa-cho, Kanazwa-ku. Tel: 0467 45 1774. Nearest stn: Kanazawa Bunko (Keikyu line).
Summer is the season for fireworks in Japan, and two of the most spectacular displays are staged in Yokohama every August.
The Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks at Minato Mirai 21 Rinko Park on Sunday, August 1 will see an impressive 8,000 fireworks light up the night sky, including the much-anticipated Starmines—expect plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahs” when those detonate. The second big event is the Kanazawa Fireworks Festival, which takes place at the end of the month, on Saturday 28, at Umi no Koen in Kanazawa, with around 3,200 explosions.
➜6/5-13 Sankeien Firefly evenings (Sankeien Garden)
➜6/6 Yokohama Port Cutter Race (on the sea in front of Yamashita Park)
➜7/10, 11, 17-19, 24, 25 Early morning Lotus viewing (Sankeien Garden)
➜7/16-19 Aloha YOKOHAMA 2010 Osanbashi (Yokohama Inter-National Passenger Terminal)
➜7/17-19 Yokohama International Marine Entertainment Show (around Red Brick Warehouse)
➜7/28-8/1 Morning Glory exhibition (Sankeien Garden)
➜8/1 Asahi Jazz Festival (Kodomo Shizen Park Baseball Ground)
➜8/21 Tsurumi River Fireworks Show (Tsukuno Park)