The buying and selling of imports and exports is what transformed Yokohama from a sleepy fishing village into one of Asia’s busiest seaports late in the 19th century. And that commercial spirit is alive and well in the new millennium thanks to these retail hotspots.
Yokohama’s old shipyards have been turned into Minatomirai, literally the harbour of the future, replete with upscale malls and modish boutiques. The area surrounding the railway station throbs with commuters and shoppers. Japan’s largest Chinatown is crowded with street food and specialty stores selling souvenirs. Read on to reveal the best shopping in Yokohama, Japan.
Yokohama’s maritime history is cemented into the bricks of these twin buildings on Shinko Island. The two red-brick warehouses were built as customs houses in the 1910s, but have been reinvented in the 21st century as a retail and dining precinct. The first building houses artisans selling glass art, silks and Yokohama-yaki pottery, while the second (and larger) space contains 40 stores and a food court, including Australian-style brunch spot Bills and contemporary tea room Chano-ma. Seasonal events entertain shoppers year-round – there’s a beer festival in autumn, an ice-skating rink in winter and outdoor concerts over summer. Plus, the Red Brick Warehouse is a particularly good spot to hunt for souvenirs in the many Japanese knick-knack stores – akai kutsu (red shoe) chocolates from Akarenga Depot are especially adorable.
Sitting right on the Minato Mirai waterfront just across the park from the Red Brick Warehouses, this open-air mall is much breezier than Japan’s often chaotic indoor shopping centres. Marine & Walk Yokohama brings together two levels of on-trend independent boutiques – locally made bags from MSPC Product Sort live alongside international labels like English jeans maker Denham – as well as a drool-worthy selection of casual eateries set against the Tokyo Bay. The al fresco vibe means this mall is pet-friendly, so visitors are sure to make some new four-legged friends on their shopping spree.
After Yokohama’s port threw its doors open to the world in the 1850s, foreigners gravitated toward this leafy district in the hills of the Yamate area, building western-style architecture with the shops to match. A century ago, this is where exotic clothes, homewares, bakeries and cafés were introduced to the Japanese population. Today, Motomachi remains a retail hotspot for its five-blocks-long shopping street, which is car-free on weekends between the two phoenix-topped archways at either end of the 500-metre (1,640-foot) strip. Motomachi pioneered hama-tra (Yokohama traditional fashion) — a preppy North American look embodied by historic boutiques like Kitamura, which sells handbags; Mihama, which sells shoes; and Star Jewelry, which sells accessories and is also a swanky café and chocolatier.
Located directly above Minatomirai station, this modern mall is one of the most convenient places to shop in Yokohama, even if it doesn’t ooze quite as much character as the warehouses of Minatomirai or the pavement of Motomachi. Sitting beneath three wave-shaped towers next door to the wriggling roller coasters of the Cosmo World amusement park, Queen’s Square contains hundreds of stores straddling every category. But the big-name global brands are found in Tokyu Square, formerly known as Queen’s East, which is home to labels like LEGO, Diesel, Fred Perry, Tommy Hilfiger, L’Occitane and Swatch.
A stroll around the waterfront past the Nippon Maru tall ship leads to Landmark Plaza, a mall at the foot of Yokohama’s tallest building. This galleria-style shopping centre covers seven levels of the 296-metre-tall (971-foot-tall) Landmark Tower, as glam international brands like H&M, GAP and Banana Republic are drenched in sunshine through the airy glass ceiling, while the eight-metre (26-foot) Swarovski crystal tree sparkles in the moonlight every Christmas. Don’t skip the chance to hop in the elevator to admire the 360-degree panorama from the observation deck on the 69th floor – it’s easily the best vantage point anywhere in Yokohama.
This massive modern mall is another Minatomirai institution, sandwiched between the towering Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris wheel and the must-visit Cup Noodles Museum on Shinko Island. World Porters boasts 200 stores spread across six storeys – find casual Japanese fashion on the second and third floors plus homewares on the fourth. But the biggest reason to pop in is the ground-floor Hawaiian-themed food court, the fifth-level AEON Cinema complex and the rooftop minigolf course and ice-skating rink. Oh, and the epic Hamleys toy store is a thrill for kids as well as adults who never really grew up.
MARK IS Minato Mirai bills itself as a “life entertainment hall”, meaning there’s more to Minatomirai’s newest mall than just its 190 stores. Covering 10 levels – four underground and six above the street – this uber-stylish shopping centre sprinkles 30 designated rest areas among its swanky storefronts, including a rooftop fruit orchard and vegetable garden to relax in as well as a nature experience museum housing 50 animals on the top floor. Direct access to the Minatomirai station, the 450-seat food court, the tranquil Starbucks Book & Café and a number of international brands’ only Japanese location are other big draws.
Chinatown is more of a must-visit for foodies rather than shopaholics, but there are plenty of retailers dotted between the street-food hawkers. After entering one of the four lavish gates south of the city centre, marvelling at the intricate Kanteibyo temple then tucking into moon cakes, beef buns and mābōdōfu (spicy tofu), sniff out a bargain at one of the hundreds of Chinese specialty stores. These colourful gift shops sell everything from qipao dresses and panda statues to traditional medicines and bottles of baijiu liquor, forming the largest Chinatown anywhere in the country.
Yokohama’s railway station serves more than 760 million passengers each year, and it feels like there are a similar number of retailers trying to sell them something once they hop off the train. The downtown station is surrounded by Yokohama’s mega malls, which aren’t as unique as some of the other shopping centres on this list but can’t be ignored, if only for their size. Takashimaya and Sogo are Japanese institutions, More’s is a stylish glass-fronted shopping centre full of fashion and accessories, while the cruise-liner-shaped Bay Quarter enjoys views over the water. Clothes, cosmetics, electronics, furniture, food, games, interiors – there’s not a box the station precinct does not tick.