Looking for a nice place to chill out and take in the sights of Yokohama’s waterfront? Look no further than Osanbashi which is sure to give you a breathtaking and unobstructed view of the area while offering various entertainment and dining options for people of all ages!
The name Osanbashi actually refers to the Osanbashi International Passenger Terminal (大さん橋国際客船ターミナル) where international cruise ships dock at upon arrival in Yokohama. However, it has become a popular place both for locals and tourists even if they are there not to board or alight from a cruise ship. Due to its location of being sandwiched between Minato Mirai (みなとみらい）and Yamashita Park (山下公園), Osanbashi offers a 360-degree view of the Yokohama waterfront and showcases the area’s different facets in the day and night.
Osanbashi consists of three floors and is modeled to look like a whale (kujira) so there are nicknames for two of its floors to represent the different parts of the whale. The first floor is where the carpark and administrative office are located.
The second floor which is at ground level is nicknamed ‘kujira no onaka’ (きじらのおなか) which means the stomach of a whale. This space is said to be very unique due to the absence of pillars within thus making it look bigger than it is. Besides the departure and arrival halls, the areas open for public access here offer a variety of entertainment and dining options:
- Santousen Ema Hiroba (三塔船絵馬広場) allows people to write their wishes on specially-designed wooden plates (ema) which are exclusively available here, which they can then hang on the tree in this open space. There is usually a ceremony in January to burn all the ema collected from the tree in a bid to send these wishes to the gods.
- Restaurants and cafes such as SUBZERO and HARBOR’S CAFE with full-length glass windows allowing the customers to see the surrounding scenery as if they are floating on top of the sea while enjoying their meals
- Retail shops selling merchandise with a marine theme or related to Yokohama such as clothes, accessories, snacks and equipment used by ship crew
- The only Japanese samurai armour suits shop in Yokohama called Samurai Store which sells originals and replicas of full armour suits and peripherals of various Japanese samurai warriors. If you are a Japanese history fan or would like to know more about your favourite historical heroes, this is a place not to miss. Apparently, the shop also sells its merchandise online to overseas customers as well so do check out their website too!
- Gallery space available for rental by individuals and organisations which hold exhibitions, trade fairs and bazaars for visitors. As shown in the photo above, there was a model of an ancient ship displayed in the hall while a bazaar was going on at the same time.
- Guided tours every Sunday for 20 people only on a first-come-first-served basis for the price of 500 yen each but may be cancelled in the event of extreme weather You can get an Osanbashi passport as a memento and choose to take the certification test lasting for 10 minutes after the tour. If you manage to pass it, you can earn an accreditation stamp in the passport as proof of your knowledge about Osanbashi.
The roof level which is nicknamed ‘kujira no senaka’ (くじらのせなか) i.e. the back of a whale, should be considered the biggest selling point of Osanbashi. With its wood flooring panels and natural grass fields, this place has proven to be popular with many people such as families with babies in prams, young children running around freely, dating couples enjoying a romantic moment, elderly couples taking a leisurely stroll, friends chatting happily and newly-weds taking their wedding photos with the beautiful scenery as their background.
For those who would like to see the huge cruise ships up close, do check out the arrival schedules on Osanbashi’s website when scheduling your visit. Even if there aren’t any arriving at the terminal, you can still rejoice in enjoying the clear and unobstructed view of the vicinity as shown in my photo above. There is a live webcam of Osanbashi online so you can view this from the comfort of your home if you are interested.
As mentioned on Osanbashi’s website, there are five viewpoints on the roof level allowing you to see various landmarks in the waterfront area so this is a perfect place for photographers to get clicking away. I would recommend standing at:
- Points 1 and 2 to get a good sunset shot with the Minato Mirai area in the foreground. It is said that on a clear day, you may even see Mount Fuji appearing in between the two Aka Renga Souko (赤レンガ倉庫) i.e. Red Brick Warehouses if you look towards Minato Mirai from point 2.
- If you stand at point 3 and look towards the shore, you can see some key government buildings such as the Kanagawa Prefectural Government building and Yokohama’s historical landmarks like the Zonohana Park.
- From point 4, you can see the cruise ships entering and leaving Yokohama with the towering Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge and Bay Bridge in the background.
- Last but not least, point 5 is the best place for seeing the sunrise over the Marine Tower and Yamashita Park area. As seen from Osanbashi’s ability to showcase the highlights of Yokohama’s waterfront from one single spot, this is probably why people linger around for a long time here just to take in the beautiful sights around them.
If you are keen to head to Osanbashi, you can take the Minatomirai Line from Yokohama Station and get off at Nihon-Odori Station followed by another 5-minute walk. If you are taking the JR Negishi Line, get off at Kannai Station and walk for 15 minutes. In my case, I had dinner at a ramen place in the Kannai area and walked to Osanbashi which was slightly less than 15 minutes away. If you are taking the Akaikutsu Loop Bus, it stops directly in front of Osanbashi’s bus stop so this should be the best option for those who are concerned about getting lost when walking from the train stations or wish to save some energy from walking.
One note of caution, though, Osanbashi looks pretty close to the Minato Mirai area on maps but the truth is that it is actually further than it seems. Be sure to put on comfortable walking shoes if you are exploring the area on foot. In addition, if you are visiting during the colder seasons, beware of the strong sea breezes, or should I say wind gusts that might blow you off your feet and send you shivering for cover.
Despite me visiting in early spring when the temperature in the evening was supposedly slightly above 10 degrees Celsius, the sea breeze probably made the temperature much lower so stay warm especially when you are at the roof level of Osanbashi or making your way to Minato Mirai from here.
Have fun at Osanbashi!