Asia

Yokosuka, Japan – naval base city

If your spouse, better half, friend or member of your family is in US Navy at some point in there career they might end up in Yokosuka.  If you have a chance to tag along do it. It´s Japan, that is the first reason ! The second one is;  since it´s the headquarters of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, you won´t feel such a huge cultural or gastronomic shock.  Here you will find some Japanese that do speak English.  If you walk along the Dobuita street you´ll even feel the American influence on restaurants, bars, shops….

I have to mention that Japanese pronounce Yokosuka as “Yo-ko-ska“ or “Ya-kuu-ska” . Trying to find a way to get to Yokosuka wasn´t successful, but saying Ya-kuu-ska got me places ! It´s a major city in Kanagawa prefecture (Central Honshu), south of Tokyo , lets says 2 hours from Narita airport with a car. You can also use  Narita express to Tokyo station (1hour; ¥3000) and then their JR Yokosuka Line, on the lower level, which takes you to JR Yokosuka Station (75 minutes; ¥1050). If you wish to use JR, be sure to take any train bound for Yokosuka or Kurihama (and note that the front 4 cars of the train are removed at Zushi ).  If you were smart enough to get JR Rail Pass you will save a lot of money, trust me (read about it on my post http://penguinfootprints.com/travel-tips/planning-a-trip-to-japan/). You can also get a PASMO smart card. You can get it at any train station at the vending machine. In addition to using PASMO card on trains and buses, you can also use PASMO to purchase goods and services from stores. There is a deposit of 500¥ at the first purchase and then you put as much money on it as you want.

This city was my first introduction to Japan. Vau ! Driving (on the left side, be careful) on a highway through green forests , you just (definition just in case) have to notice untouched nature.  They refer to it with so much respect that it leaves you silent. I learned that Japanese worship loyalty, integrity, honor, respect, especially elderly, but seing that first hand demontrated real meaning of it. They teach their kids from early ages to be polite, work and study hard, be moral, and never dishonor themselves because it means dishonoring there family, and their country.  Something we should all learn!

Because of all the research we did before going to Japan we knew about  small hotel rooms so instead of going to Mercure Hotel Yokosuka, Hotel New Yokosuka, Hotel Yokosuka (all in the center) we decided to rent an apartment at Yokosuka Liberty Cove House. It´s a modern and fully furnished American style building with 22 apartmants for rent located only 15 min walk from the center. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, 24 hour concierge service (they speak English, and are very helpful), car parking,  bicycle parking , roof top garden. Prices for one bedroom apartmant are around (find a way around) $114 comparing to hotel prices which are around 130$. You get a nice place, privacy, even a washing machine and a dryer for a better price. I highly recommend them.

Right in front of the Liberty Cove house there is Verny Park known for its rose beds. There is a description of each type of rose on a small tile. I´ve noticed that in all Japan, on every tree or type of flower as you walk down the street, not only parks. There is a fountain in the center and monument of Verny dedicated to the French engineer who helped with Japans modernization. They mantain gardens daily, and they look gorgeous. You will find garbage cans only near vending machines (and they are on every corner; coffee, drinks, ice cream). They take garbage sorting very seriously, and expect that you´ll take your trash and throw it in the proper can at your own place. That´s why streets, gardens, parks…. are so clean and well maintained.

Downtown´s „Blue Street“ is the main street in the center of Yokosuka located between the Navy base and Yokosuka-Chuo station .  Lots of shops, restaurants, and shoping malls like More´s City and Mikasa Mall. We found a great steak restaurant on this street called Ikinari Steak House. It´s a chain restaurant , they have places all over Japan. Great selection of steaks with their own steak sauce (I bought one because they are sooooo tasty) but not to many side dishes. Their menu is based mainly on steaks. Also a great Fish restaurant (when I asked for a translation of the name they said that it only means Fish restaurant ) right at the end of Blue Street at the Yokosuka Chuo Station (the one with the most neon lights). Love the ambience, food is amazing.  Some of the food is served raw so you have to bake it on your own grill. Try their crab cream (soup). They also have an english menu and you order your meal on a tablet which is a huge help.

I would also recommend a new place called Yokosuka Pride , craft beer restaurant and caffe. Great selection of craft beers and local dishes. Grilled tuna jaw is definitely a must. You´ll recognize the place as one of the oldest houses in Yokosuka (at the beginning of Blue street). We´ve been told that Japanese prefer new over old things, so you won´t find a lot of old houses or buildings.

Mikasa Park is one of my favorites and entrance is free. It has a musical fountain show and near the waterfront you will see an 18 meter tall metal arch. It´s also known as the Peace Arch, which changes colors as the sun strikes its metal beams. The park is famous because of the Battleship Mikasa that has been docked here since 1926. It´s one of the three Great Historical Warships of the World. Mikasa was the flagship of Admiral Heihachiro Togo during the Russo-Japanese War. Entry costs 500¥. There is also a ferry leading to Monkey island (Sarushima island). Nope, no monkeys there as the name may refer. People love (apple of eye meaning) to go there for a picnic, barbecue or fishing.

If you like local food, fresh vegetables, fish, fruit, check Yokosuka Port Market. Diversity of fish will astonish you. One thing that I love about Japanese markets is that you can try fresh food at the small family run kiosks right there on the spot. I like to watch sellers  early in the morning preparing their booths with homemade, unique products for busy customers.

Since the city is mainly a Naval base for US Navy and Japanese Navy there is also Cruise of Yokosuka Naval port, but it´s only in Japanese language.

We spent 9 days in this city but I would say two is enough to see it all. You wont find a lot of temples or shrines here , not many tourist visit. After that just take the Shinkansen (bullet train), JR lines or local trains and explore places near by like Yokohama, Kamakura, Mount Fuji….