By Paul Mcinnes - OCT 31, 2017

Yokohama is a genuine melting pot of histories, people and cultures. A living and evolving smorgasbord. In 1968, Japanese chanteuse Ayumi Ishida released a (now) classic Japanese song titled “Blue Light Yokohama,” which perfectly encapsulates Yokohama as a romantic port town. By using an English title, she also gives a nod to the Americanization of the city during and after the war. Here’s how the song goes:

The lights of the city are so pretty
Yokohama, Blue Light Yokohama
I'm happy with you

Please let me hear
Yokohama, Blue Light Yokohama
Those words of love from you

I walk and walk, swaying
Like a small boat in your arms

I hear your footsteps coming
Yokohama, Blue Light Yokohama
Give me one more tender kiss

I walk and walk, swaying
Like a small boat in your arms

The scent of your favorite cigarettes
Yokohama, Blue Light Yokohama
This will always be our world

There’s something about these lyrics that perfectly conveys the atmosphere of Honmoku shōtengai in Yokohama’s Naka ward. Honmoku has been around for centuries, but the main shopping street only got its start after the war around 1958, and was later rebranded as Honmoku Ribbon Fun Street. The one kilometer street is open to traffic and the roughly 40 stores are situated on both sides of the road.

It’s another important area in terms of Yokohama’s history as Honmuku used to be the location of a huge American military base. In fact, the base area is still named “America-zaka entrance” to this day. Like many other districts of Yokohama, Honmoku was segregated into two parts: American military and local Japanese. Many of the locals who were around at that time remember peering in fascination at the American base through fences and over walls.

Perhaps to outsiders it’s difficult to understand the intricate and complex relationships between Japanese and Americans. Mr. Hanyuda, the chairman of the Honmoku Ribbon Fun Street Stores Association, explains that locals who grew up here after the war were fascinated by American culture. “We loved rock and roll and jazz and American cars and motorbikes. We were introduced to American culture in those days and it remains intact today.” Ribbon Fun Street features restaurants such as IG Italian Garden which serves up specialty Honmoku pizza – a homage to the Italian-American GIs. It also has an American atmosphere with old-style cars, jazz and rock and roll music. It’s a beautiful step back into a more innocent time in the post-war era.

If you’re wondering about the name Honmoku Ribbon Fun Street: the ribbon is a symbol of intertwining and harmony between residents and visitors. It’s not the largest or busiest shopping street by any means but it does have a certain local charm. It has plenty of eateries ranging from Chinese cuisine and American hamburgers to Japanese soba and udon noodles. Added to this are plenty of fashion and lifestyle outlets such as kimono, sunglasses and T-shirt stores, as well as a healthy number of bars. There are also more essential services such as drugstores, dentists, real estate firms, and massage and acupuncture clinics.

Honmoku also has its very own Hilltop Park which boasts a terrace and a lovely view. At the other end of the street you’ll find Homoku Gasu Yama Park which has historical brick buildings and funny slides and games for kids. Similary to other, older shōtengai, Honmoku has a purpose-built community area – Nakahonmoku Community House is an area dedicated to recreation: it holds a library and a playground for kids, and is also the location for culture courses and unique events for local and foreign guests.

Mr. Hanyuda believes that Honmoku Ribbon Fun Street represents an old-school attitude to customer relations. “The store owners here look you in the eye,” he says. “They care about you. The personal touch is important around here. We are a community with children and older people, and we want to show kindness to everyone who comes here. That’s what the shōtengai represents in Japanese society.”

Honmoku, in essence, is a slice of living history. It used to be a fishermen’s village in the old days and apparently had beautiful beaches too. Although the war changed everything, the local community still holds tight to each other and engenders a wonderfully warm and cozy atmosphere. The walls are gone both in reality and imagination, and the good people of Honmoku are still as interested in foreign cultures as they are in their own. Perhaps it’s because Yokohama is a port, but the people here are still looking outwards to the great blue expanse of the ocean in hope of fresh opportunities, alliances and friendships.

Shopping & Dining Recommendations

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Events & Festivals

  • Early August
    Ritual of Honmoku Jinja Shrine (Ouma-nagashi)
  • Late October
    Honmoku Halloween


Bus Stop "Honmoku Icchome", "Honmoku Nichome", "Hongoucho": Municipal Bus(No.105) from "Yokohama Station"
Bus Stop "Kominato": Municipal Bus(No.99, 101, 105, 106) from "Ishikawacho Station"
Bus Stop "Gasuyama-Toori Iriguchi", "Honmoku-Nakadai": Municipal Bus(No.222) from "Yamate Station"


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