Local Japan: Yokosuka in Kanagawa
Yokosuka city, Kanagawa prefecture is a staple of the United States Navy dating back to the end of World War II. About 30 miles south of Tokyo Shinagawa and serviced by the Keikyu and JR train lines it is as close to being in America as you will find in Japan. From Shinagawa it takes about 50 minutes to reach Yokosuka if traveling on an express train, but it is well worth the trip. Over the decades, Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Sailors have ventured off base for a bit of enjoyment, great food, a bit of sightseeing, and some typically well-deserved relaxation.
Yokosuka was one of the main locations that the Japanese had utilized since the late 1800’s up until the end of WWII and there is a great amount of history to be seen around town.
The city is somewhat built around the bases. On one side of the harbor is the current US base where Commander US Naval Seventh Fleet as well as the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its support ships are permanently stationed. When Reagan is in port you can see her red, white and blue 76 hull number illuminating the bay. On the other side of the bay is the Japanese Naval base where the Yokosuka based ships of the Japanese Self Defense Force are docked.
The US base is typically closed to the public but it does open its gates a couple of times a year to support a Friends and Family Day where local nationals among others are invited to come enjoy exploring the base and taking in the sites of the ships. Guests are also treated to an array of food provided by the Sailors stationed in Yokosuka among other festivities including music and games. It is a great way to continue to build and improve on our relationship.
Just outside of the base is the bar and restaurant district known as the Honch. A few blocks in each direction holds a number of bars and food establishments catering to the Sailors and Japanese nationals that are mostly local to Yokosuka. A number of people do come to Yokosuka to socialize, play some darts or pool, sing karaoke in the bars, and to generally have a great time. There are a couple of outstanding chu-hi stands which have varying levels of strength for their chu-hi’s. Many an experienced Sailor and Japanese alike have stumbled home after having a few of the chu-hi’s at the stands near Shiori Station. They are truly amazing and the price is right! For the burger connoisseur, there are a couple mandatory stops such as Tsunami Burger in the Honch which boasts the massive Trump Burger and triple stacked Obama Burger. These burgers are delicious. Yokosuka Burger, another restaurant in the Honch, isn’t half bad either. I typically go for the avocado burger at Tsunami Burger since the taste is amazing and the avocado is always so fresh. There are bunches of great places to each in and around Yokosuka and it would be hard to list them all. Bahn Chiang Mai or Thai Erawan are solid choices for Thai food, Gorkha Palace is great for Indian and Nepalese, Nawlins is great for American and Cajun style BBQ,
and for a great cozy Yakitori place make sure to hit up Hisago near Shiori Station.
Once your thirst kicks in once again, head over to the Rising Sun Bar. It is a small bar but what they lack in size they make up for it in great drinks. Recommended is their signature drink called a Rising Sun. This consists of way more than a normal amount of vodka and crown Royal topped off with Red Bull. If you ask them to make it strong then they will. For 1,000 Yen a drink this is well worth it. If you can manage more than 2 or 3 you are not a human and should be checked out!
As you move away from the Honch toward Yokosuka Chuo Station there is the small standing Yakitori stand in one of the small alleys that I have been going to for the better part of 16 years. The yakitori is cooked right on the spot and placed in little trays for you to eat. When I say it is savory, and juicy that is an understatement. Each stick of chicken, beef, or pork is 70 yen. Once you have had your fill, you take each of the sticks to the cashier on the side and pay. Highly recommended is the bonchiri or chicken butt. So juicy and fatty. Bottomline: Yum.
For the atypical quality sushi go-round, the place under Yokosuka Chuo station is a must visit. The price is a bit higher than most of the sushi-go rounds but the quality, cut, and size of the fish are at least twice as good. The Aburi Spiced Salmon is highly recommended. In fact, there is nothing I have had at this place that wasn’t top notch. For their regulars, they offer a point card good for 10% off after 10,000 yen spent. Regardless, this place is phenomenal for sushi in Yokosuka and the lines that people wait in to enjoy their sushi is the proof. It is located at Yokosuka-shi, Wakamatsuchō, 2 Chome-2-25. If you are lucky you will get the salty older sushi chef. His skill is superb and definitely outshines his cheerfulness, but you will definitely feel taken care of when he serves you some scrumptious fresh sushi.
For a great beer, stop into Belgian House Brews located not far from Yokosuka Chuo Station which maintains one of the largest stocks and selections of Belgian Beers in Japan. Their barman ship is superb and they definitely pour you a great beer. Each beer is typically matched to the associated glass that it was designed to be served in from the actual brewery. Mohan, the owner, is very personable and you will feel like you have been a regular for years. Not for the budget beer drinker though, ensure you have hit the ATM before you go cause a round of beers for two people will set you back around Yen 2,500-3,000. Good chance the selection Mohan recommends for you is a rarity and would not be found outside of Belgium. He personally flies to Belgium to hand pick the selections he serves. Hat’s off.
For a bit of history, venture over to Mikasa Park where you can see an old Japanese Naval vessel called the Battleship Mikasa maintained as she was from the early 1900’s. For a small get-away you can venture over to Monkey Island also known as Sarushima Island. It is a small island nestled just off the tip of Yokosuka Base and maybe a 10 minute boat ride out. Not far away, just a bit more south, is Uraga and her seaside park. Also in the area is the Jogashima Park on Jogashima Island at the south end of the Miura peninsula. Enjoy the park with her beautiful lighthouse and tapered cliff views of the Sagami Wan (Bay). Miura, specifically Misakiguchi actually boasts some of the best sushi in Japan and is not to be missed. Nothing beats savoring some scrumptious sushi with a view of the sea side. Reached easily by train on the Keikyu Line and from there it is a short taxi ride. 4th of July also has some great fireworks to be seen and they are definitely not to miss.
All in all, Yokosuka is a great little city just outside of Tokyo and Yokohama proper. You can enjoy the sites or come down and meet some new friends while sipping on something cold. Recommend you visit sometime soon and hope to see you down here.