The Minato Mirai 21 Project

After living in Tokyo for almost 6 years, it was an afternoon in fall 2015 when I discovered my favorite place here. Well, it is not quite in the city since it resides in Japan’s second largest city - Yokohama. Yet, its location on the Minato Mirai Line makes it seem like it is part of the city of Tokyo. I am, of course, talking about Minato Mirai 21 urban area.1Forget about the whole Japan, there are not enough places to visit in Tokyo alone. For example, one popular destination that immediately comes to my mind is the Meiji Shrine right next to Harajuku and Omotesando. This location alone can provide you with the general traditional and vibrant youth experience of Japan in less than a day. There are four (4) different places to visit near Meiji Shrine. That is, if you do not add Shibuya to it, which you should given it only takes 15 minutes at the most to walk to Harajuku from Shibuya. Most of the other popular destination in and around Tokyo can do the same.2There is one more thing common in all of them; all feel busy and hectic. Minato Mirai is the exact opposite. It cannot give you a traditional experience, but I can guarantee that once you spend a day here and on your way back home at night, you will feel like you’ve spent some quality time absorbing the outside world and it feels fresh. That is the exact reason why I love this area. I have visited the likes of Ikebukuro, Harajuku, and Shibuya too many times to count. Every time I leave them, I feel exhausted, but it has been the case with Minato Mirai.3The Minato Mirai area has quite the history. It can be traced back to 1960. The Minato Mirai 21 project originally emerged when the growing population was seen as a problem by then mayo Asukata Ichio. He and city feared the population boom is bound to created uncontrolled development. From 1980s and onwards, the goal became to develop a new city center for the future. At the time this project was proposed, the city center around Yokohama station was already considered the new city center. Thus, the project had always been intended for the future; connect the three main business areas – City center along the Yokohama station, Kannai District, and the future city center of Minato Mirai 21. In fact, the name “Minato Mirai 21” roughly translates to “Port City of the Future 21st century.” It also served a greater purpose, which was to divert capital investment and business away from the capital city of Tokyo.5The Minato Mirai 21 project began mainly by moving the existing structures and reclaiming land from the sea. Interestingly, the Yokohama City government was only one of the many developers involved in this project. The government’s role was limited only to building infrastructure, providing subsidies, and developing the parts it owned. Private companies did all the rest of the developments.4Why the history lesson? Well it is important to know this before visiting Minato Mirai. You will see the connections between its history of being a port city and its current architecture. You will see why everything is laid out the way they are. It will give you a whole new perspective on how you experience Minato Mirai compared to other popular tourist Khalid SaifullahSource:Kishida, H., & Uzuki, M. (2009). Urban planning strategy and project management- the challenge of Minato Mirai 21. Yokohama: Gakugei.