Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse
Find some of the coolest bars, restaurants and seasonal events and relive over 100 years of Yokohama history.
Five minutes away from World Porters Shopping Mall, in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai 21 district is a bit of history that changed Japan forever. It’s called Aka Renga Soko, or Red Brick Warehouse, and it’s worth a walk around its open grounds to relive a bit of the past. Plus, in modern day it has a ton of neat shops, high-end restaurants and seasonal events.
In the early 1850’s, Yokohama was a simple fishing village. Then, in July of 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s Susquehanna sailed into Tokyo Bay, delivering a letter of kindness from American President Millard Fillmore, and a far stronger letter from Perry himself. Eventually, the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed in March 1854, and if you walk around the Red Brick Warehouse grounds, you’ll be setting foot on the beginning of an American presence in Japan.
By the end of the 19th century, Yokohama was considered an international city, attracting sailors like American author Jack London, who drank in various Yokohama bars as a 17-year old and even went for a drunken swim in the bay. Due to rising trade demands, government officials built warehouses as they extended the Shinko Pier dock to improve its ship reception.
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Twenty years after the earthquake, Japan adapted the warehouses into a military storage unit. Upon Japan’s surrender in 1945, the Red Brick Warehouse was occupied by the United States, and for the next ten years used by American military for various business matters. Through the second half of the 20th century, the warehouses survived a fluctuating period of usage, and even a large dose of graffiti before finally being taken control of by Yokohama City.
The local government hoped to restore the site and make it a part of Minato Mirai 21’s futuristic plans. Between the years 1994 and 2002, the warehouses went through a massive structural upgrade–graffiti removed, a new steel frame added along with major roof repairs. As they transformed these historic warehouses, the construction crews attempted to preserve as many links to history as it could, such as retaining the old look found along the staircases. On April 12, 2002, the warehouses were reopened and became an immediate sensation. In fifteen years, over 65 million visitors have discovered Aka Renga Soko.
A hipster’s paradise, one could say.
Predominantly in Warehouse No. 2., there are now unique shops and cafes—even restaurants with live music (try Motion Blue Yokohama). A hipster’s paradise, one could say. On the seaside end of the first floor of Warehouse No. 2, there is Bill’s restaurant. If you happen to see that your wallet is overflowing with yen, go ahead and head into Bill’s and grab a seat where you can look out at the water. Order the Wagyu and Swiss Burger and Kamikatz Pale Ale. Yes, you’ll be ¥3,500 lighter, but it just might be worth a trip into present-day history.