The Story of Yokosuka, Japan's Naval Base City

It’s easy to get a little bit confused with the names of each city in Japan; how, individually, each one of them holds innumerable stories, interesting characteristics, special experiences to offer to those who visit. An easy way to remember their names is to understand how they are categorized based on their locations in Japan, so one can appreciate the idea of exactly where they are in the country they are visiting.

Where is Yokosuka?

Yokosuka is a core city that is part of the Kanagawa Prefecture, by the middle easternmost coast of Japan. Kanagawa Prefecture falls under the Kanto Region, which is located on the main island of Japan; Honshu.

Zooming back into the city: Yokosuka city is found on a peninsula called “Miura peninsula”. To the west of this peninsula the Pacific Ocean, and to its east is Tokyo Bay. Surrounding Yokosuka are municipalities, namely Miuria, Hayama, Kanazawa-ku Yokohama, and Hayama.

More Information About Yokosuka

Yokosuka city ranks in 12th place in terms of being the most populated in the Kanto region, and 11th when it comes to Greater Tokyo. As of the first of June 2012, Yokosuka was estimated to have a population of 414,960 people, with a density of 4,120 people per square kilometer. The total size of its area measures at 100.7 square kilometers.

The tree that represents Yokosuka is the Prunus speciosa, its symbolic flower is the Crinum asiaticum, and its representative bird is the Common gull. Its current mayor is Katsuaki Ueji.

The History of Yokosuka, Japan

As with many of the other parts of Japan, the area of modern-day Yokosuka was once inhabited by people thousands of years ago, as early as the Paleolithic period (~14,000 B.C.). Archaeologists could prove this from excavating shell middens from this age and found further evidence of the Jomon and Kofun eras from the indicating ceramic shards.

Fast forward a little less than a thousand years later to the Heian period, when trades between countries were becoming more frequent and the exchange of religions and cultures were at their peak. At this point, the feudal warlord or “daimyo” Muroka Tamemichi began to build his kingdom around Yokosuka which would continue for the next few centuries to govern the eastern Sagami Province. Muroka Tamemichi established the beginnings of the Miura clan.

The Nonstop Warring States

The Kamakura period, which occurred between 1185 A.D. to 1333 A.D.. The next periods leading up all the way to when Tokugawa Ieyasu was placed in power, were violent times for the different kingdoms of Japan. Due to the constant bloodshed from sieges, battles, and plots for Kingdom domination. Yokosuka was not spared from this. The Hojo and Miura clans would war neck and neck until Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s firm orders to keep Tokugawa Ieyasu in control over all the region of Kanto.

Being located at the vulnerable eastern coast of Japan and also being in proximity to Tokyo Bay, Yokosuka’s coast was turned into a post named “Uraga Bugyo” by the ruling Shogunate. This would mean that any vessel that was headed to Edo for any reason would first have to make a pit stop here to be inspected. They strengthened their military powers around that area because of the many foreign ships had come by in attempts to coax Japan into opening their doors.

The Opening Of Doors – or Rather, Ports

Eventually, Commodore Perry would come to convince (or rather, intimidate) Japan with his advanced machinery and weaponry to open its doors to exchange with foreigners. This would lead to Bakumatsu period, and eventually, the Meiji period, where Japan’s feudal warlord system and Tokugawa Shogunate was overturned.

War in Japan: The History Behind the Naval Base in Yokosuka

The Bakumatsu period is when Yokosuka was elected to be the site of a naval base. The layout and content of this naval base were engineered by Frenchman Leonce Verny, who included facilities that would construct ships, and everything needed to supply those facilities, such as an Iron Foundry. To prove that Japan was moving forward with the times, they built a Naval Arsenal, which would be known as the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. As the years would pass, other industrial developments (more foundries, the Hashirimizu waterway, and brick factories) would emerge around the naval base.

The entire Japan went through many drastic changes during the Meiji Period. The Imperial Japanese Navy had complete control of Japan, thus naval districts were strategically fortified, with its headquarters being in Yokosuka, in the Yokosuka Naval District. By 1889, Yokosuka was referred to as Dai-ichi kaigunku, or the “First Naval District”. Warships would dock here, and more establishments would propagate the development as the base, such as the creations of military schools, and the equipment and storage of arsenal for battle.

Yokosuka, during the second world war, saw many bombings placed by the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Navy. Many of its equipment and bases would be later taken over by the allied forces, once the Americans started occupying Japan. Because the United States had infiltrated their naval district and called it theirs in 1945, today, it is called “Shirei-kan kantai katsudo Yokosuka” or “United States Fleet Activities: Yokosuka”.

The U.S. Naval forces Japan still uses Commander Fleet Activities/United States Fleet Activities: Yokosuka as its base in partnership and support of the Naval Forces Japan. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force still uses a part of the Yokosuka Naval District, however not the entire base.

Traveling in Japan: The Journey from Tokyo to Yokosuka

Because Tokyo and Yokosuka are both in the Kanto region, traveling back and forth to and from both locations won’t be such a difficult thing. Travel times vary depending on whether you use a car or a train, or combination train and bus.

If you choose to take the train, travel time should be around 1 hour and 24 minutes (for this route) and will cost you 980 yen. Start off on Platform 1 of Tochomae Station, take the Oedo Line that leads to Tocho-Mae, via Roppongi/Daimon. Once you hit Daimon Station, take the Asakusa Line that’s headed for Misakiguchi. Get off at Yokosukachuo Station – and you’ve successfully arrived in Yokosuka.

This is not the only way to get to Yokosuka from Tokyo. There are other combinations (some cheaper but more time-consuming and complicated) that will get you from Tokyo to Yokosuka; it all depends on how quickly you need to get there, and what places you don’t mind stopping by on the way.

The quickest way to get from either place to the other is by car – but the time difference between using a car and the rail system is on a small minute basis. The taxi is going to probably cost you more, as the journey is 62 kilometers long and takes 1 hour and 21 minutes to get to.

The Traveler’s Quick Guide to Yokosuka Japan

Most of what’s available for tourists to visit are museums and memorials of the history of Yokosuka’s naval bases, its ships, and the leftover items from its past engagements in warfare – not necessarily just that of world war 2. Memorial Ship MIKASA is number one on tourist’s lists of activity hotspots. It highlights memorabilia from the Japan-Russo war, detailing its historical accounts within the actual flag ship itself.

Next is Verny Park, a tribute to the French engineer who had helped construct the Yokosuka base. It’s a serene park that’s great for people to picnic, filled with flowers, overlooking a beautiful view of the naval base.

Tourists who visit Yokosuka also enjoy making a trip to Sarushima Island, also known as Monkey Island. If you’re tired of the crowded city, this can be a great place to escape and have a picnic, as well as learn more about how the island was used to aid the naval base during times of war.

As for places to eat in, the number one restaurant rated by most reviewers is an Italian restaurant called Acquamare. The restaurant not only has great pizza and succulent main dishes such as roast duck, it also has a spectacular view of Tokyo Bay.

The Top Two Hotels in Yokosuka, Japan

In Yokosuka, two hotels stand out in terms of reviews: Mercure Hotel Yokosuka and Kannonzaki Keikyu Hotel. With Kannonzaki Keikyu Hotel being quite a bit more expensive than Mercure Hotel (it costs, give or take, around 30,000 yen a night compared to the 9,000-11,000-yen range per room of Mercure Hotel Yokosuka), it’s ranked as third place in Best Value when it comes to the 17 hotels found in Yokosuka – though both hotels have the same rating; 4/5.

Mercure Hotel Yokosuka’s rooms are spacious for their price, and the staff is deemed friendly and helpful. It is also found right beside Shiori station. As for Kannonzaki Hotel, its rooms have a great view of the ships from the fleet passing through the ocean. The hotel also has a spa and a pool for guests to use.

Japan Standard Time: More About the Time Zone in Yokosuka

Yokosuka is in the same time zone as the rest of Japan, which is called Japan Standard Time. In Japanese, this is translated to as “Nihon Hyojunji”. In relation to coordinated universal time (UTC) – which is what is used to set the time of the rest of the countries in relation to each other, JST is ahead by 9 hours. While it may be referred to as Japan Standard Time now, it used to be called Tokyo Standard Time during and before World War 2.

Keep A Map of Yokosuka Handy with You

Yokosuka is a relatively small city and having a map of it is handy if you want to navigate the city by car or by walk around and discover the area with map as a guide. You can download a map of Yokosuka from Google Maps or you can rely on applications on your smartphone to help you.

How to Find Foreigner Friendly Housing in Yokosuka, Japan

If you’re a foreigner in Japan looking for a place to stay short-term (but not too short), you’ll know that renting the way everyone else does in Japan just won’t cut it. That’s why you need to look for foreigner friendly housing specifically when you search for a place to stay online. Many real estate sites such as "gajinpot" and "" can help you find exactly what you need in Yokosuka.

Either way, it’s still important to familiarize yourself with the terms that the Japanese use in real estate and prepare yourself with the right documents and money to make the necessary payments and registrations for a swift transaction.

Find Great Apartments to Rent in Yokosuka, Japan with Airbnb

For those who plan to stay for a week or two, Airbnb may be the best option you have, next to renting a hotel. The perks that come with Airbnb are that you don’t have to worry about the hassle that comes with the responsibilities, payments, and contracting that comes with formally renting an apartment. At the same time, it feels homier than a hotel, because it’s an actual apartment that has details and amenities that you may be particular with having; such as the property type of the Airbnb, number of bedrooms, the allowance of bringing in pets, etcetera.

Whether you’re a fan of war stories and memorabilia, or just a local/tourist who wants to learn more about Japan, Yokosuka is a monumental and important place to visit for educating oneself about Japan’s roots to its medieval past, and war history.