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Yokohama: Revitalised Through Art Part 2

Yokohama offers responsible travellers the perfect opportunity to immerse in the local culture and leave a positive footprint. In a half-day tour, visitors can do their bit to contribute to the city’s downtown revitalisation through art, which after 20 years, is realising its goals of making Yokohama a “city of art”. 

Community Art meets Community Tourism

Current Artist specialising in knitted textiles, Azuki Kon. Image credit: Japan-san
Current Artist specialising in knitted textiles, Azuki Kon. Image credit: Japan-san

This insider guided tour led by a Yokohama resident, enables visitors to get deep access and insights into the burgeoning Yokohama arts scene through interactions with the key people and artists driving the areas’ revival. 

Contemporary Arts and Urban Culture Tour

Meet your Yokohama resident guide Danelle to take a deep dive into the community arts scene, learn about its role in revitalising the city as well as take in the best of Yokohama’s characterful downtown area situated along the cherry-tree lined Ookagawa river. Key features of the tour include:

  • BankART Project Leader Tour– Take a private tour of the exhibitions with the bi-lingual project manager of BankART, a non-profit arts organisation which repurposes historical buildings and warehouses for cultural and artistic activities. 

  • Meet the Artists of Koganecho – Explore the characterful downtown area and learn about its remarkable transformation from a notorious red-light district to a contemporary arts hub. 

  • Noge evening tour – Get a truly authentic “yokocho” experience without foreign hoards through a walking and ”izakaya” hopping tour of this photogenic and historical night-life district 

Artist Matsumoto-san at BankART Kaiko talking to a visiting art enthusiast about his piece from his TOLARIS exhibit / BankART KAIKO presents various exhibitions and events by prominent artists / Visitors meeting artists at Koganecho Studio / Visitors and artist, Kon-san, at Koganecho Studio. Image credits: Japan-san
Artist Matsumoto-san at BankART Kaiko talking to a visiting art enthusiast about his piece from his TOLARIS exhibit / BankART KAIKO presents various exhibitions and events by prominent artists / Visitors meeting artists at Koganecho Studio / Visitors and artist, Kon-san, at Koganecho Studio. Image credits: Japan-san

This tour fits perfectly into an afternoon and evening, with the option of coming back and forth from Tokyo. It is best enjoyed in combination with a full exploration of Yokohama and an overnight stay.  

Characters of the tour 

Danelle Sofuku: Your Insider Guide

Originally from Australia, Danelle speaks fluent Japanese and is thoroughly settled in Yokohama. After working in PR and interpreting she became a local guide and Japan concierge -  eager to explore Japan’s back streets, find treasures and interact with locals. She thoroughly enjoys researching, helping with language, cultural and historical information as well as sharing her favourite aspects of Japan. She loves helping to translate and experience all the wonderful things Japan has to offer !

Danelle also appreciates experiencing the beauty of art and crafts by local artisans, history and architecture, finding treasures to remember and collecting new stamps in her goshuin. 

Danelle’s Insights

About Koganecho:
“I remember being told by colleagues the area at the far end of Koganecho was one to avoid when I first came to Yokohama. It is remarkable to see the transformation now. It is one of the most interesting and colourful parts of Yokohama.”

About Noge:
“Noge is such a great night spot. It is so photogenic with all the narrow streets and quaint and quirky izakaya, restaurants and bars. It offers such an authentic and intimate experience compared to famous nightlife spots in other major cities. Always fun to explore and end the night with karaoke or to enjoy live music at one of the many jazz bars. A great opportunity to chat with locals at the tiny bars in Harmonica Alley or try the myriad of food choices at izakayas and restaurants - and all within close walking distance to Sakuragicho Station.”

Left to right: 1 & 2: Alexander O. Smith; 3 & 4 Japan-san
Left to right: 1 & 2: Alexander O. Smith; 3 & 4 Japan-san

The folk behind the BankART movement

A person and person standing in front of a screen

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Hosobuchi-san and Kio-san form the beating heart behind the BankART operation. Kio-san also happens to be bi-lingual and available to give private tours of the exhibitions. Insights from Hosobuchi-san include the following:

“Yokohama has incorporated art and culture as a companion to urban planning, and has the capacity to accept and digest art and culture, which at first glance may seem elusive. 

Here at BankART, we want people to know about Japanese and Yokohama artists and the various activities that have emerged from Yokohama's Creative City policies.

Koganecho

Image credits: Japan-san
Image credits: Japan-san

Nishikura-san (pictured right) is the head of the Koganecho Management center which oversees the activities of the area. Yamada-san (pictured center), a former artist in resident at Koganecho founded “Koganecho Base: which offers arts classes for local children. 

Their insights include:

”We see the town changing from 'a safe and secure place to live' to 'a normal town' to 'a town of art’.“ Nishikura-san.

“When I first started, I was so conscious of running around the town with the children that my muscles ached every week. It's still hard work, but I'm still in touch with the children in a way that warms their hearts and keeps them connected to me.” Yamada-san

When to visit

This tour works pretty much all year with the usual caveats. However, it is worth considering that the area makes for about the best alt-cherry blossom spot in late March and April, when the Ookagawa river turns pink with petals and its banks are lined with ”Hanami” revellers. Autumn is usually host to the annual Koganecho Bazaar, an arts festival featuring additional exhibitions and utilising the everyday spaces of the area as stages for a variety of arts and culture-related activities. In 2024 though, it will be held during the Yokohama Arts Triennale starting in Spring. 

Image credits left to right: 
1: https://trip.pref.kanagawa.jp/destination/o-okagawa-cruise/220
2: Pu Yun 《Swinging House》@ Koganecho
3. Nobuhiro Shimura: The Red Shoes @ Koganecho

Yokohama Arts Triennale 2024 – March 15th – June 9th

This international contemporary arts exhibition is held every 3 years to showcase both well-known and budding artists. Details of the Triennale can be found at the following website. During this period Yokohama will truly be a city of art. The main exhibitions will be hosted at the Yokohama Museum of Art, The Former Daiichi Bank Yokohama Branch (the origin of BankART) and BankART Kaiko, but activities will also extend to Koganecho and ZOU-NO- HANA terrace.  

Yokohama Triennale
https://www.yokohamatriennale.jp/2024/en

For more information on the tour please contact Mitate, Ltd.  info@mitate.kyoto.

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