Fusion of traditional spirit and modern convenience

Yokohama, the host city of the Asian Development Bank’s 50th annual meeting, has successfully held a number of large international conferences, including the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in 2013 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2010.

The capital of Kanagawa Prefecture is one of the leading global cities in Japan, forging close ties with its Asian counterparts in various fields.

Development of Yokohama

Boasting around 3.72 million people, Yokohama is the second-largest metropolis and most-populous municipality in Japan.

Yokohama used to be a small hamlet with 100 houses before the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce opened the Port of Yokohama in June 1859.

Since being the convergence point for foreign products entering Japan at the time, Yokohama has continued to develop, attracting open-minded people with progressive attitudes. Yokohama has been home to many Japan firsts, which later spread to the rest of the country. Such things include gas lamps, telegraph, horse racing, beer and ice cream.

Postwar urban challenges

Yokohama was heavily damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and again in World War II, but each time it has risen, rebuilding anew.

The city came to experience problems specific to a large metropolis after Japan entered into its rapid economic growth period and the accompanying increase in population. Major issues included increased garbage, traffic congestion, environmental destruction, as well as lack of water and public land.

To address these issues, Yokohama undertook infrastructure development as a metropolis by implementing six flagship projects, which were the reinforcement of the seafront urban central area such as the Minato Mirai 21 district, landfill work off Kanazawa in Tokyo Bay, the construction of the Kohoku New Town residential community, a subway line, various highways and the Yokohama Bay Bridge.

The city also focused on reforms in living conditions. It was successful in its efforts to have the community more efficiently separate waste and, thanks to people’s cooperation, the city succeeded in cutting 30 percent of the amount of garbage produced by residents and businesses.

To share these experiences with other Asian cities that have also experienced rapid development, Yokohama has provided technical assistance in cooperation with companies based in the municipality so that the accumulated know-how could be utilized for better urban development throughout Asia. Currently, technical collaboration is being extended in Cebu City, the Philippines, Danang, Vietnam, Bangkok and Batam, Indonesia.

Draw of Yokohama

The attraction of Yokohama comes from the fact that it is filled with international flavors as the city developed as a trading center and foreign cultures and technologies were introduced instantaneously.

People can most feel the exotic mood the city offers in Yamate, the site of a former foreign residential area, as many Western houses, churches and a cemetery still stand.

Alternatively, the Minato Mirai 21 district is a modern urban area with many high-rise buildings. The area offers a unique feel as there are still some buildings and structures dotted around that were built more than 100 years ago and used for trade and shipping.

Some of these structures include the iconic Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse that today houses upscale restaurants and shops. Additionally, the Kishamichi Promenade is a boardwalk created over former steam locomotive tracks. These historic structures attract people and naturally blend into the town in a marriage of the past and the present.

Yokohama Chinatown is a popular tourist spot in the city. It is one of the largest of its kind in the world, featuring more than 600 shops, in which visitors can enjoy unique cuisine and goods from around China. Its history dates back to when the city’s port opened. The long history of Chinatown shows that Yokohama has enjoyed strong ties with foreign countries and people.

Visitors from abroad are encouraged to appreciate the Japanese aesthetic fully in Yokohama. Sankeien Garden in the Honmoku area is a vast classical Japanese garden, featuring 17 historic structures transported from around Japan, including Kyoto and Kamakura, and carefully placed within the garden to perfectly blend in with the surroundings. The garden is an excellent space to best enjoy Japanese architecture effectively.

Various seasonal flowers add beauty in Sankeien, while the Sankei Memorial hall exhibits fine arts and crafts, and visitors are able to enjoy Japanese tea there. They are sure to be satisfied and relaxed in the peaceful space that is the essence of Japan, totally free from the city’s bustle despite its location in the metropolis.

To get to know the city more intimately, visitors should not miss the Noge area near Sakuragicho Station. Popular among local residents, the streets there are lined with izakaya Japanese-style pubs. Easily accessible, Noge has a wide variety of popular items, including sake and yakitori.

Currently ongoing, the greenery and flower fair Garden Necklace Yokohama 2017 runs through June 4. A total of 1 million flowers decorate the whole city, which is sure to give visitors another reason to visit the town.

For ADB success

As the host city of the annual ADB meeting, Yokohama has committed to embody the concept of “Building Together the Prosperity of Asia” in the city’s distinctive way, in addition to supporting the safe and smooth operation of the conference.

The city has conducted events for its citizens in collaboration with the annual ADB meeting in all 18 wards about a year before the conference, offering them opportunities to experience Asian culture, food and music. These events gave Yokohama residents the chance to rediscover the city’s connections with the region and better understand their neighbors.

Additionally, the city has held seminars to promote international understanding at 42 municipal elementary and junior high schools, allowing children to learn about world cultures and international contributions.

One unique way of Yokohama’s engagement in the ADB conference is through cooperation in crafting the meeting’s official program. During the annual meeting, there will be two official seminars proposed by the city of Yokohama.

The first is a seminar on promoting the role of women titled “Women’s Leadership for Vibrant, Inclusive and Sustainable Asia.”

The ADB emphasizes the improvement of women’s status among its various activities. However, as a matter of fact, the ratio of women in management positions is low, particularly in Asia.

There will be a panel discussion featuring prominent figures. They are Shamshad Akhtar, U.N. under-secretary-general and executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Oyun Sanjaasuren, chair of the Global Water Partnership and former Mongolian minister of foreign affairs, Yutaro Shintaku, director and corporate advisor at Terumo Corp., ADB Vice President Deborah Stokes. Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi will also take part in the discussion as a panelist.

The discussion aims to take a step forward in furthering women’s empowerment in Asia by sharing the experiences from the panelists, each of whom opened up a path to that end.

The second seminar, titled “Reducing Poverty and Fostering Inclusive Economic Growth: Analysis and Practical Business Attempts by Youth in Yokohama,” is on nurturing the next generation. Students from universities in Yokohama will compile suggestions through group discussions and propose them to the ADB.

In general, Japanese students are said to be unaccustomed to discussions in English and the aim of this practical seminar is to give them the chance to make strides in becoming world-class talents through this event. Prior to this seminar, Yokohama National University and Yokohama City University conducted fieldwork in the Philippines.

During the ADB conference, in addition to a stage for various events, there are booths promoting Japan and Yokohama. The city has carefully created the exhibit space, which functions as the center of networking among the conference participants. Yokohama looks to shore up business ties in Asia by promoting its environmental policy, which is renowned at home and abroad, and the technical strength of firms based in the city.

Future conventions

Pacifico Yokohama is the main venue for the ADB annual meeting. The number of international conferences held at the facility has been the largest in Japan for over 10 years. A new facility to hold so-called MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions/ events) gatherings is scheduled to be constructed in 2020, next to Pacifico Yokohama, allowing the city to meet increasing demand.

Thanks to the city’s efforts, the door will surely be open further in the years to come, continuing Yokohama’s connection to the world that began with the opening of the port more than 150 years ago.

Download the PDF of this 50th ADB annual meeting