Did you get orders to Yokosuka, Japan? Lucky you! I can honestly say I’ve adored my 2.5 years living in Yokosuka. You’re in for a very special treat. 🤩
As much fun as I had exploring the area, I know there are still many more things I would have loved to try. My list is far from complete. And of course, everyone will naturally have their own unique list based on personal interests. Below are a few of my favorites. I’d love to hear yours!
Yokosuka Food Experiences
- Discover your favorite Konbini (convenience store). Japan is famous for the high quality, variety, and freshness of their convenience store food. Fresh salads? Sushi? Decadent desserts? They’ve got it! You know someone has some knowledge with Japan when they can immediately debate the merits of Japan’s most popular konbini. Yokosuka has plenty of Lawsons, Family Marts, and 7-Elevens for you to choose from.
2. Try some Yokosuka Sailor food. As a Sailor town for both the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and U.S. Navy, Yokosuka takes great pride in two Sailor specialties: Kaigun (Navy) curry, and Navy burgers. I kid you not; people travel across Japan to taste these delectable dishes.
3. Go on a strawberry hunt. Try your hand at Ichigo Gari (strawberry hunting). Every spring, local greenhouses offer guests the chance to pick their own strawberries. These aren’t just any strawberries, mind you – they are the most perfect and flavorful strawberries you are likely to find ANYWHERE. Your half hour hunting in the greenhouse will be heaven.
4. Experiment with shirasu. Okay, this might not be for everyone. Shirasu (whitebait fish) is a regional specialty. At nearby Kamakura and Enoshima, you can try these versatile teeny tiny fishes (they’re smaller than a pinkie nail) a variety of ways: raw, boiled, baked, in burgers, atop pizza, and even atop ice cream!
5. Ring in the New Year with an Osechi Ryori box. These boxes are perfectly packed and are a loving work of art. It’s the perfect way to sample Japanese delicacies that are closely tied to the New Year; from egg “scrolls” that represent scholarship to sweet chestnuts that symbolize wealth.
Check Out The Professional Sports
6. Japanese baseball. Baseball might be “America’s pastime”, but it is so fun to see how the Japanese do it! The closest professional team to Yokosuka are the deNA Bay Stars at Yokohama. Expect a squeaky clean stadium, rather upscale food, and for the stadium to transform into a rock concert post-game. It’s an utterly wholesome experience, and it’s impossible to leave without reflecting on just how NICE everyone is. Word to the wise: make certain you wear the proper team colors based on where you are seated.
7. Cheer at a soccer game. Soccer is also a sport unlike anything in the U.S. As with baseball, it’s smart to wear the appropriate color scheme and to copy what the fans in the section are doing when it comes to clapping rhythms. Suffice it to say, every team has their own distinct pattern.
Go Climb a Mountain
They say that if you don’t climb Mount Fuji, you’re destined to come back to Japan. (I know of a few Sailors who love being in Yokosuka so much they intentionally don’t climb Fuji – with the hope the detailer will send them orders back.) 😆 And while Mount Fuji is considered the gold standard, there are several other nearby mountains that are worthy of your consideration.
8. Climb Mount Takao. Mount Takao is a popular favorite with Tokyo dwellers seeking nature. From Yokosuka, it’s about a 100 minute journey by train from Yokosuka. Takao is 1,966 feet high and offers several routes and options based on interests and fitness levels. The thing that makes Mount Takao so special are the amazing religious and cultural sights you’ll see on the way up. This is “forest bathing” at its very finest.
9. Explore Hakone. Hakone is less a mountain than it is an active volcano. It’s an easy day trip from Yokosuka. From the cable car, you’ll have jaw-dropping views of both Mount Fuji and the sulfuric activity happening below. It’s most famous for its black eggs, which are rumored to add an extra seven years to your life. Not to worry – once you peel the shell, these black eggs taste very much like normal eggs.
10. Head to Nokogiriyama. From Yokosuka, take a ferry ride to Chiba to visit Nokogiriyama (“sawtooth mountain”). The 1,081 foot mountain feels like an Indiana Jones treasure hunt, replete with a stone-carved 18th century Buddha and stone arhats (enlightened beings). I strongly suggest taking the cable car up, and enjoying a hike on the way down.
11. Climb Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest and most iconic mountain. On a clear day, you can actually see the 12,388 foot mountain from many points in Yokosuka. For some, it’s enough to simply look at her beauty. If you’re keen on bragging rights and a fun challenge, try climbing. Whether you tackle it as a day trip, or an overnight climb to observe the sunrise, the memory is guaranteed to stay with you forever. Although Fuji is only two hours from Yokosuka, for your comfort consider finding a hotel nearby if you’re planning a summit.
Appreciate Religious Events
I really appreciate how tolerant the Japanese are when it comes to religion. Regardless of what religion you practice, or if you are atheist or agnostic, all are totally welcome to participate! Japan’s shrines and temples can range from your intimate neighborhood shrine to a grandiose and ornate temple. At shrines, the correct sequence when tossing your offertory coin into the donation box is bow-bow-clap-clap-bow. Not to worry: there are often signs with diagrams.
12. Wash your money for prosperity. On a purely technical level, I guess I’m guilty of money laundering! The Japanese consider it lucky to put money on a woven plate and gently swish their coins and bills in the sacred water. Once you spend the money you’ve cleaned, it is said it will return to you many times over.
13. Perform Hatsumode. Visit your favorite shrine or temple during the wee hours of the morning on New Year’s Day. After you’ve said your prayers, race to the highest accessible point you can find to see the first sun rise of the new year.
14. Get a Daruma doll. Many Japanese purchase these figurines when they set a fresh goal. Granted, a Daruma doll does not remotely resemble a Western-style doll. The round figure resembles a man, with blank eyes, and no arms. According to legend, the doll was inspired by a 5th century Chinese Buddhist monk, whose focus and dedication to his objective was so intense that he severed his own eyelids to allow uninterrupted focus. When you purchase a doll at a temple, it’s customary to color in one eye as you announce your aspiration. After the goal is achieved, color in the other eye.
15. Cleanse your soul. Visit a temple during the summer months and purify yourself by walking through a chinowa kuguri (enormous grass hoop) in a figure eight pattern. There are usually diagrams set off to the side to show you how it’s done.
16. Listen to the wind chimes. Brace yourself for what comes after the rainy season. Yokosuka gets ultra hot in the summer. To cool off the old-fashioned way, head to a temple and listen to the tinkling sounds of hundreds of wind chimes moving with the breeze. Does it actually make you feel cooler? If not, there’s a ready supply of cold beverages and soft cream to do the trick.
17. Do a mini-pilgrimage. The Japanese love collecting stamps. Most well-known local pilgrimage involves visiting the shrines and temples and getting unique stamps atop your commemorative board. My favorite mini-pilgrimage was to search out the Seven Lucky Gods of Kamakura. The trek will take you to both famous and small, intimate shrines throughout Enoshima and Kamakura.
Keep It Local
One of the coolest things about Yokosuka is its proximity to so many nearby towns and cities. Here are just a few that are within an easy 30 minute train ride.
18. Kamakura. Kamakura is an absolute must. As a former capital of Japan, it is bursting with temples and shrines. The city is home to the iconic Big Buddha of Kamakura and has a number of challenging hiking trails with stunning views of the coast, and of course it has a vibrant food scene.
19. Zushi. Looking for a good local beach to surf, kayak, paddle board, or sunbathe? Chances are high you’ll love Zushi. The beaches are especially popular with the urban Tokyo and Yokohama. The area is very clean…just watch out for the jellyfish in the summer. Fun fact: not only are the Zushi sunsets stunningly gorgeous, on a clear day you’ll see Mt. Fuji silhouetted.
20. Enoshima. For such a small island – it has a circumference of 2.5 miles – Enoshima packs a mighty punch. Aside from caves with ancient artifacts and several notable shrines and temples, it has a romantic backstory regarding a beautiful goddess and a dragon. Walking around the island is a phenomenal workout, which is one of the reasons many cheerfully pay to use the tiered escalators. I think the physicality is a good thing – there are so many tasty foods from street stalls, and you have to work the food off somehow!
21. Jogashima and Misakiguchi. If you love tuna, you’ll definitely want to check out Misakiguchi, which has the freshest and most delicious tuna I’ve ever tasted. A nearby island, Jogashima, is easily accessible either via bridge or small boat and offers phenomenal seaside hiking.
22. Yokohama. After Tokyo, Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan. Once you get over what may be a terrifying first experience in the bustle of Yokohama’s train station, there’s a lot to see and appreciate. Thanks to its history as an international port, it definitely has a very cosmopolitan and international flair. If you love Chinese culture, you’ll have a blast exploring Yokohama’s Chinatown. If you’re a ramen lover, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Cup of Noodles museum, which honors the history and evolution of Japan’s instant-noodle. You can even design and craft your own bespoke cup!
23. Find Your Favorite Flowers in Yokosuka
The Japanese are incredible when it comes to growing and caring for flowers. In the spring, Verny Park erupts with thousands of brilliant rose blooms in every shade from creams to sorbets to the most passionate shades of red. It’s free to visit, and a great place to promenade. There’s something very special about seeing so many beautiful blooms set so close to the waterfront and Japanese submarines.
If you prefer poppies, hydrangeas, and cosmos, then I suggest Kurihama Flower Park. Kurihama Flower Park is best known for two things: its luxurious flower fields, and its enormous 3-story Godzilla slide. In the spring you’ll see millions of bright poppies. Come autumn, there will be a visual feast with millions of cosmos in bloom. The flower park is free to enter.
The Yokosuka Iris Garden has over 400 varieties of iris that bloom every May and June. Although it’s one of the most famous destinations in Japan for iris, it’s also a brilliant place to go if you adore wisteria.
Because you’re in Japan, no list would be complete without mentioning cherry and plum blossoms. During cherry blossom season, prices throughout Japan soar as passionate photographers debate the perfect place to grab an iconic cherry blossom photo. The great thing about living in Yokosuka is you have access to places most tourists won’t have heard of.
In search of divine cherry blossoms? Head to Tsukayama (an hour’s walk), where the Japanese happily picnic under cherry trees.
Experience How the Japanese Disney
Speaking bluntly, I have no interest in visiting a Disney park in the U.S. right now. The prices are just too high. The reason I suggest a visit to Japan’s Disney parks is because they are owned by the Oriental Land Company. As such, Disney tickets are anywhere from a third to a half of the cost of a ticket in the U.S. You’re still getting an authentic Disney experience…you’re just saving a lot of money.
24. See Tokyo Disneyland. It’ll take about two hours to get to Tokyo Disneyland. Aside from reasonable prices, I love the sweet sincerity with which Japanese dress up. My favorite are the adults wearing professional attire, with perfectly shined shoes, and rocking a Disney headpiece.
25. See Tokyo DisneySea. Aside from being the only Disney park of its kind, it allows you to travel across seas – either by bridge or boat – to faraway lands. This is more suitable for adults and older children.
Other Recommended “Musts”
26. Ride the Shinkansen (bullet train). Japan’s public transportation system is exquisite. Treat yourself to a seat on the Shinkansen and admire the landscape as you whistle by.
27. Bathe at an onsen. Granted, if you have tattoos, it may be a challenge to use a public onsen. There are some that will let you in if you can cover the tattoo. If that’s not possible, perhaps book a private onsen. It’s a great way to relax tired muscles.
28. Attend a random street festival. The Japanese love a good party. From curry to coffee to strawberries to Oktoberfests, everyone is out for a good time.
29. Most importantly, get to know the Japanese. The relationships you build here are ones you will treasure forever!
Enjoy Your Time in Yokosuka!
There’s inevitably a big adjustment period every time you move. Be gentle with yourself, and remember that sincerity, respect, and effort go a long way in Japan.
Here’s wishing you MANY safe and happy adventures!