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Photo: Darren GoreKoganecho-Hinodecho Arts District
Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways2/6
Photo: Site-A Gallery Beneath the RailwaysSite-A Gallery Beneath the Railways
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Photo: Darren GoreKoganecho-Hinodecho Arts District
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Photo: Darren GoreKoganecho-Hinodecho Arts District
BankART Station5/6
Photo: BankART1929BankART Station
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Photo: Koganecho-Hinodecho Arts DistrictKoganecho-Hinodecho Arts District

The best of Yokohama art scene

The top galleries, art venues and exhibitions spaces you should not miss in Yokohama. By Darren Gore

By Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Yokohama has a long artistic history: when the port city first opened to Western traders in 1859, local artists created Yokohama-e, a woodblock print genre depicting the foreign arrivals with their strange faces and exotic clothing. These days, the city’s growing creative scene even rivals Tokyo’s.

Beyond the well-established art museums, artists and community groups are turning previously neglected areas into creative hubs. Koganecho-Hinodecho is now an unmissable arts and culture district which hosts the Koganecho Bazaar art festival in autumn. Amongst all this, cafés and bars draw in art lovers with a vibe that’s both creative and resolutely relaxed. Here are the best places to go to get involved in the Yokohama art scene.

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Koganecho Art District
Koganecho Art District
Photo: Darren Gore

Koganecho-Hinodecho Arts District

Saunter down the two narrow streets running either side of the elevated railway line between Yokohama’s Koganecho and Hinodecho stations, and you’ll find around 80 bijou artists’ studios interspersed with a handful of hip galleries, bars and eateries. The shops lining these streets were, for decades, part of an illicit red light district, which gave the area a bad name. After the last of the brothels was shut down by police in 2005, art-loving citizens formed a not-for-profit group called Koganecho Area Management Center and proposed to fill the now-deserted buildings with studios and galleries.

Exhibition spaces include Gallery Made in Koganecho and MZ arts, while the artists’ studios are a spectacle too: many have windows onto the street, allowing glimpses of their occupants in the process of creating. Additionally, several studios dedicated to the Koganecho Artist in Residence (AIR) Program are periodically opened up for full public access. Autumn is the best time to visit, when the district hosts the Koganecho Bazaar art festival.

Gallery Made in Koganecho
Gallery Made in Koganecho
Photo: Darren Gore

Gallery Made in Koganecho

Art Koganecho

This art gallery is one of several run by the group responsible for transforming the Koganecho-Hinodecho Arts District into a buzzing focal point for contemporary art. As the first gallery you encounter when coming from Hinodecho Station, Gallery Made in Koganecho is dedicated to showing works by creators who have either local connections, or participated in the Koganecho Artist in Residence (AIR) Program. The richness and diversity of Yokohama’s art scene mean you might encounter anything from hanging paintings to installations, and when video is the focus, a sizable part of the floorspace is filled with floor cushions to form a cosy temporary cinema.

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MZ Arts
MZ Arts
Photo: Darren Gore

MZ arts

Art Koganecho

This small independent gallery has a more rarefied air than the other exhibition spaces and studios tucked beneath the railway line, bringing a dose of refinement to the neighbourhood’s funky, youthful arts scene. Previously an art-loving civil servant, affable owner-director Masaharu Nakahara took the radical regeneration of the Koganecho-Hinodecho area as an opportunity to quit the salaryman life and open his own gallery. Exhibitions, often by artists with local connections, run the gamut from contemporary arts including painting, photography and objets to timeless-looking glassware and ceramics.

Laugh Park
Laugh Park
Photo: Laugh Park

Laugh Park

Art Koganecho

At this compact café-bar, covered in street art and nestled amongst dozens of studios beneath the railway line, the relaxed vibe – as well as some well-worn furniture – spills out into the narrow street. Laugh Park is very much part of the art scene that has revitalised an area previously dominated by establishments of dubious legality. Besides its funkily decorated facade, the venue regularly hosts exhibitions and ‘live painting’ sessions – often with DJ accompaniment – and is the watering hole of choice for local creatives. Speaking of drinks, there’s a strong emphasis on vodka, with 15 varieties on offer alongside beer, umeshu (plum wine), sake and more, while food includes Japanese staples like omurice (rice wrapped in an omelette).

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Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways
Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways
Photo: Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways

Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways

Art Koganecho

Site-A Gallery is another venue opened by Koganecho Area Management Center, the community group that transformed Koganecho and the adjacent Hinodecho, turning what was once one of Yokohama’s less desirable districts into a thriving artistic hub. This considerably sized, high-ceiling space is bright and airy enough to make one forget that the premises are directly underneath the Keikyu Line tracks – until the whole place shudders gently when a train passes overhead. Renovated as studio space in 2011 then opened as a gallery in 2015, it has since focused on introducing contemporary art created by artists young and old.

Tinys Living Hub
Tinys Living Hub
Photo: Darren Gore

Tinys Living Hub

Art Koganecho

Tinys Living Hub, a cafe and bar lounge amongst the Koganecho-Hinodecho art studios, offers a pretty special dining experience in the cooler months of the year. The open-fronted wooden terrace looking out to the Ooka River keeps the chill away with a handful of kotatsu. These electrically-heated tables are fitted with a blanket, so you can sit on the floor with your legs tucked underneath and get toasty. Tinys can also take care of your hunger with lunchtime sets (around ¥1,000) such as gapao rice, chicken tikka and burgers. Come evening, the menu’s focus shifts to barbecued meats including prime beef sourced from Iwate Prefecture, along with nabe hotpots (reservations are recommended for dinner). If you’re after a drink, Tinys proudly serves its original craft beer, the locally brewed Yukidoke.

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BankART Station
BankART Station
Photo: BankART1929

BankART Station

Art Minato Mirai

This cavernous, concrete bunker-like space, directly connected to Yokohama’s Shin-Takashima Station, is the new home of BankArt 1929, a not-for-profit that has spent the past decade-and-a-half working to reinvent the city’s waterfront as a hub for creativity and the arts. Built as a train bypass, but for decades used as a subterranean warehouse, the 1,000sqm space has been renovated to serve as a flagship multi-purpose venue for the organisation, following the closure of its much-missed BankArt Studio NYK. Besides the vast main space itself – with an event program encompassing exhibitions, workshops, symposiums and more – BankArt Station has transformed an adjoining underground passageway into a public art space. This disused pedestrian underpass now wows visitors with videos, photos and installations along the entire length of the passageway.

Launch Pad Gallery
Launch Pad Gallery
Photo: Launch Pad Gallery

Launch Pad Gallery

Art Yokohama

This independent Yokohama art gallery is working hard to raise the city’s profile on the global art scene. Located off the beaten track in the Ishikawacho district just south of the Nakamura River, Launch Pad Gallery was opened in 2014 by photographer-painter Fred Vee and locally born printmaker Ling Liu. The duo, along with their two cats who are often on the premises, exhibit the work of emerging artists from Japan and around the world. Creators shown so far have hailed from as far afield as the USA, Europe and South Africa, with the modestly sized gallery space allowing for real intimacy with whatever is on the walls. Exhibitions each last for a period of two weeks, so there’s always something fresh to see.

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Fei Art Museum Yokohama
Fei Art Museum Yokohama
Photo: Ulin Miura

Fei Art Museum Yokohama

Art Yokohama

This expansive art gallery, a six-minute walk from Yokohama Station’s west exit, believes beauty provides nourishment to the eye and the soul. Founder Hideharu Fukusaku knows plenty about the former: as head of the Fukusaku Eye Institute, he is an accomplished eye surgeon as well as an art lover and painter. Opened in 2012 and still looking sleek and contemporary, the Fei Art Museum offers a program of solo and group exhibitions that pack both visual and emotional impact. The range of genres covered here is eclectic, with recent highlights including a show in which Lithuanian-born artist Tadaocern filled the space with an unnerving army of black balloons, around which Japanese dancers performed an interpretation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino
Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino
Photo: Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino

Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino

Museums Kanagawa

More than a simple gallery, this expansive building north of central Yokohama is more of a hub for creative activity in the city, housing exhibition spaces, studios, music rooms, dedicated areas for kids, and more. Established as a place where residents of the bayside city can encounter creativity in its many manifestations, Yokohama Civic Art Gallery Azamino also has much to offer visitors and non-Japanese speakers.

Each year, the venue hosts three major exhibitions, one dedicated to cutting-edge contemporary art, photography and children’s art respectively. These are complimented by a wide-ranging events program, with one highlight being the outdoor Azamino Art Wagon & Marche, which combines a farmer’s market with stalls selling goods made by local artisans.

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Yokohama Museum of Art
Yokohama Museum of Art
Photo: Kasagi Yasuyuki

Yokohama Museum of Art

Museums Minato Mirai

One of the region’s major fine art museums, this Kenzo Tange-designed building is set on a prime, tree-lined plaza in Minato Mirai. To the right of the courtyard, temporary exhibitions range from Leonardo da Vinci to contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara. To the left there are regularly changing exhibitions drawn from the permanent collection of Western and Japanese modern and contemporary art and photography.

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