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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK

Yokohama - Fun and frolics

Tokyo may represent all things work-related, but its neighbour Yokohama is definitely the fun capital of Japan.

This is the one of the few ways to distinguish the two cities, which are situated so close to each other that it is difficult to tell where one starts and the other finishes.

But to the millions of visitors every year, Yokohama is about food, entertainment, scenic views and dating.

Do not be surprised to see Japan's youth arriving en masse at the weekends with partner in tow or in search of a date.

Herds of young guys can often be seen trying out their latest chat-up lines on girls walking past as they practice what is known as "nanpa" in the native language.

Area facts

  • Population: 3.3m
  • Location: South of Tokyo on central Island Honshu
  • Local team: Yokohama Marinos
  • Sights: Landmark Tower, Bay Bridge, Chinatown and a giant Ferris wheel
  • Popular hobby: Dating
  • Certainly there is a variety of weird and wonderful characters frequenting the streets of Japan's second largest city.

    With so many beaches nearby, expect to see packs of bleached-hair surf dudes with tans so deep that they could have been painted on.

    Also, Yokohama is a familiar haunt for Japan's colourful Yakuza-like characters - though there is little to be afraid of these mafia men who very much keep to themselves.

    Often recognised by their permed hair, loud shirts and tattoos, these guys can be a bizarre sight as they go about their daily business.

    Of course, there is plenty else to see in the famous harbour, where big is beautiful.

    A visit to the top of Japan's tallest building, Landmark Tower, via the globe's fastest elevator, can give you a chance to survey the local terrain.

    From there, you will be able to see the functional, rather than magnificent, Bay Bridge which connects Yokohama with Tokyo.

    Farther afield, you might be able to spot Kamakura, a throwback to Japan's feudal roots, which is well worth donning your yukatta (traditional Japanese outfit) for.

    Of course, no trip to the capital of Kanagawa is complete without a visit to Chinatown.

    Yes, it is true that nearly every major city in the world boasts one of these places, but Yokohama's is one of the biggest outside, er, China.

    Certainly the exciting smells and grand gates that mark Chinatown's boundaries are enough to attract any passers-by.

    Then there is the football, which is hard to ignore as it takes place in the nation's largest stadium.

    J-League giants Yokohama Marinos may have trouble filling all 70,000 seats, but it is undoubtedly the perfect venue for the World Cup final.


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