Yokohama is the city next-door to us, Japan’s first modern International city. It’s called “Japan’s front door” and for good reason — it grew from a fishing village of 800 people to the second largest city in Japan in around 200 years because it became the international port for all of Kanto (a.k.a Greater Tokyo).
Yokohama was the acceptable place for foreigners to live, and as such it became Japan’s first truly international city. It is home to the largest Chinatown in all of Japan, and perhaps the world. On the bluffs of Yokohama are some truly western homes, schools, churches and communities.
Yokohama’s Minato Mirai area has a very similar feel to Chicago’s downtown to me — it is an open area along the waterfront full of towering skyscrapers, renovated districts for shopping, museums and attractions as well as tons of restaurants and dining. But if you move further away from there, you are greeted by a densely populated urban sprawl resembling many other parts of Japan. The city layout is in a more typical grid layout found in cities around the world.
This week’s episode of Life in Japan is focused on the city of Yokohama. There is so much in a city of this size that it’s just impossible to cover it all in one episode, let alone hundreds of episodes. But we hit some of the highlights on our family trip and I can’t get over how much it reminds me of Chicago! Please enjoy!
Chicago’s Sister City?
Officially Chicago’s sister city is Osaka, Japan, and I think that’s a good fit. But to me Yokohama is just as good of a fit, if not better. But that may be for personal reasons. You see, I went to college near Chicago, and the impressive city was just next door to me (about the same distance as Yokohama is to us in Kawasaki now). But I rarely went into downtown Chicago itself. It’s not that I didn’t like it or that it wasn’t fun — I liked it a lot and it was always fun! I just didn’t realize the uniqueness of what was right next to me until I lost it. Once I moved away, I found myself wishing I had taken more advantage of the fact that I lived right next to Chicago.
Too often we fantasize about what is out of reach instead of enjoying what is within our grasp. We dream about a life somewhere else (maybe you dream of a life in Japan!). We imagine what life would be like if we had a different family or other relationships. We can too easily overlook the huge blessings God has put in our lives, within our reach.
Yokohama could easily be that way here too. Especially in the Greater Tokyo area, there are so many amazing places to go and things to see that one could easily overlook that which is right under your nose. The pandemic has forced us to look locally for our fun, and that’s no bad thing, especially when there are amazing places like Yokohama right next to us.
What’s right next to you? Are you overlooking something that you may regret later? It may be a relationship. It could be a different way of life that is richer and more satisfying. Yes, it’s good to imagine a better life and make proactive steps towards it. But happiness is not found when you reach that location, but in healthy journey that gets you there. And in the weeks to come, we want to look more into what makes a healthy life journey.