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The Yamate Foreigners' Cemetery in the hills of Yokohama

For most of the 250 years of the Edo Period (1603-1867), the rulers of Japan prohibited almost all interactions with foreign countries. When the period of isolation finally ended in the 1850s, Yokohama was one of only a few port towns where foreign traders, looking to profit from the newly opened country, were permitted to reside. While the Chinese made themselves a Chinatown, Westerners took up in the hills of the Yamate area, which was also called "The Bluff".

The Yamate area retains a number of sites relating to its history as the main residential district of Westerners in Yokohama. However, because of the Great Kanto Earthquake, few of them predate 1923. Present day Yamate is still for the most part a hilly residential area with some pleasant parks. As visitors travel between Yamate's sightseeing spots, they will see by the international schools and churches that the presence of Western residents continues to this day.

Inside Bluff No. 111

Yamate has a number of parks within walking distance from each other. The largest is the Harbor View Park, which is named after the view that the park affords onto the water and the Yokohama Bay Bridge. On the park grounds one can find some of the area's preserved western buildings. Mostly former residences, the buildings are open to the public and most have been furnished in their original style.

Below the hills of Yamate is the Motomachi shopping street, which runs parallel to the Nakamura River. The street served the needs of the first foreign residents of Yokohama, and introduced many products to Japan. Nowadays the street does not differ drastically from other shopping streets, but it still has a certain European feel. There is a large number of higher end fashion shops, as well as cafes and restaurants. The street runs 500 meters and is pedestrian-only on weekends and national holidays from 12:00 to 18:00.

Motomachi Shopping Street

The Foreigners' Cemetery dates back to 1854, when Commodore Perry (the American navy officer who forced Japan to open its ports) buried one of his sailors on a hill overlooking the water. A few months later, a couple of Russian sailors were buried as well.

In 1861, it was designated as a cemetery for foreigners. Today, a small section of the 4200 graves can be visited, and the inscriptions often offer an interesting glimpse into the life of the interred. A small, informative museum is located beside the entrance. The cemetery is only open in the afternoons on weekends and national holidays from March to December.

British House

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Minimal
This building, constructed in 1937, used to serve as the residence of the British Consul General. There are guest rooms and a dining room, as well as private quarters.

Bluff No. 111

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
The residence of an American named J. E. Laffin. The house was built in a Spanish style in 1926 by the American architect J.H. Morgan, who also designed Berrick Hall and the original Marunouchi Building in Tokyo.

Bluff No. 234

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: None
This building was built a few years after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and is interesting for being designed for multiple tenants. There are four apartments of identical floor plans located in the two story building.

Ehrismann Residence

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Minimal
The building was built in 1926 by the Czech architect Antonin Raymond as a residence for the Swiss businessman Fritz Ehrismann. The house has a dining room, drawing room, bed rooms, and a sun room, and was relocated to its present location in 1990.

Berrick Hall

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
Berrick Hall is the largest Western residence in Yamate, and was built in 1930 for the British trader B.R. Berrick. It was designed in a Spanish style by the American architect J.H. Morgan, who also designed Yamate No. 111 and the original Marunouchi Building in Tokyo.

Museum of Tennis

Hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed: 3rd Monday of the month (or following day if that Monday is a national holiday), New Year holidays
Admission: Free
English Information: Good
Tennis was first introduced to Japan by the foreign residents of Yamate. The museum displays the equipment used and explains the early history of tennis in the country. The tennis club located beside the museum is considered the birthplace of tennis in Japan.

Bluff No. 18

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 2nd Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
The building used to serve as the residence of the priest of Yamate's Catholic Church, and was built in the mid 1920s. It was taken down and then reconstructed in its present location in 1991.

Diplomat's House

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 18:00 in July and August)
Closed: 4th Wednesday of the month (or following day if that Wednesday is a national holiday), December 29 to January 3
Admission: Free
English Information: Moderate
The building served as the residence of Uchida Sadatsuchi, who held various important positions such as Ambassador to Turkey and Consulate General in New York. The house was built by the American architect James Gardiner in the American Victorian Style.

Access

Motomachi-Chukagai Station (8 minutes, 210 yen from Yokohama Station) on the Minato Mirai Line is located just beside the northern end of the Motomachi Shopping Street and the Harbor View Park. Alternatively, Ishikawacho Station (7 minutes, 160 yen from Yokohama Station) on the JR Negishi Line is located near the southern end of the Motomachi Shopping Street.

The Akaikutsu Loop Bus connects the northern end of the Yamate district with other sightseeing spots in central Yokohama. One ride costs 100 yen per ride.

How to get to and around Yokohama

Hours & Fees

Foreigners' Cemetery (small public area and museum)

Hours

12:00 to 16:00 on weekends and national holidays

Closed

Weekdays and January and February

Admission

By donation (200 yen is suggested)

Hotels around Yokohama

Recommended Hotels
Intercontinental Yokohama Hotel
Located attractively along the Minato Mirai waterfront in an iconic, sail shaped building.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Pan Pacific Yokohama Bay
Attractively located in the heart of Minato Mirai.
Book:
Japanican
Shin Yokohama Prince Hotel
Very good value just a short walk from the shinkansen station.
Book:
Agoda Booking
Page last updated: April 19, 2016