As the largest stadium in Japan, International Stadium Yokohama, just outside Tokyo, will be a hive of activity during the tournament. With a 73,000 capacity, you can expect a particularly mighty roar from passionate fans here!
Not only will the stadium host football, baseball and softball during the 2020 Olympics, it’s well versed in iconic sporting events; the final FIFA World Cup game between Germany and Brazil was played here in 2002 (Brazil won, 2–0).
The first match will see two-time reigning champions New Zealand v rivals South Africa, for what promises to be a crowd pleaser (most of all for the winners…). The very next day Ireland lock horns with Scotland – guaranteed to have voices soaring on and off the pitch.
England will complete their pool series in a game with France to gain position, followed by the much anticipated Japan v Scotland match. There is no doubt that every seat will be filled with fans from across the globe. As the pool stages close, Yokohama stadium will host the semi-finals, closing proceedings with blood, sweat and tears at the final on the 2nd November 2019.
Just half an hour from Tokyo, Japan’s second-largest city is where Commodore Perry first landed in 1853, demanding Japan end its 300-year policy of self-isolation and open up to foreign trade. Yokohama soon grew into one of Asia’s major ports, and remains a popular international city today.
Many of the sights in Yokohama are based around the waterfront, giving it a sense of space that Tokyo lacks and contributing to the city’s more laid-back, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Minato Mirai, or “harbour of the future”, is the innovative and ever-changing heart of the area, featuring modern shopping malls, a fascinating maritime museum and a museum of modern art.
Up until the end of the Edo period, Yokohama was little more than a small fishing village, however this all changed in the middle of the 19th century when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Japan just south of Yokohama with his fleet of warships, demanding that Japan re-open herself for foreign trade. When the Japanese military government relented, Yokohama opened as a port in 1859 and quickly becoming Japan’s centre for foreign trade.
Unquestionably the biggest draw for Japanese tourists is Japan’s largest Chukagai (Chinatown), just south of the old centre, which after 1859 quickly became the choice of residence for the many Chinese traders flocking to Japan. Although mostly a modern district now, it has retained a picturesque, Chinese-style temple and offers a multitude of popular restaurants within its narrow and colourful streets. Visit to browse stores peddling Chinese herbs and cooking utensils, or sample some of the steaming savoury dumplings on offer.
Yokohama’s greatest foreign legacy can be found in the Yamate district, overlooking the port and providing great views towards Minato Mirai. Set on a terraced hill beside the slick shopping district of Motomachi is the rather austere old Foreigners’ Cemetery; the last resting place of some 4,500 souls from more than 40 countries, scattered with Christian crosses and elaborate mausoleums. The winding streets leading away on the hilltop beyond are still dotted with old, Western-style houses – relics of Japan’s first years of international trade.
One of the most interesting places in the city is Sankei-en Garden, a haven of peace in the big city. The landscaped grounds include a collection of historic buildings, including an elegant daimyo (feudal lord) residence, several teahouses, and the main hall and three-storeyed pagoda of Kyoto’s old Tomyo-ji Temple. A wealthy silk merchant constructed this traditional Japanese garden, with the small rivers, flowers and wonderful winding trails suggesting the hidden corners of traditional Kyoto rather than this ultramodern metropolis.
Whilst in Yokohama, don’t miss the Cup Noodle Museum – a paean to instant ramen, where you can learn about the history of this ubiquitous foodstuff and have the chance to make your own!
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