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Red Brick Warehouse

Last updated date:2018/9/28

Yokohama Red-Brick Warehouse

Red Brick Warehouse

The Red Brick Warehouse (Akarenga Soko in Japanese) makes up one of the most recognizable landmark in Yokohama and is probably my favorite piece of history since I set foot in these lands! It is simply fascinating to me!

Let’s start with a bit of history. In its golden years, Shinko pier (meaning “new port pier”) was the center of the Port of Yokohama. The result of land reclamation work, at the turn of last century saw the pier grow in importance. The popularity of Shinko pier caught on fast thanks to the possibility of mooring ships directly to the pier, and its cargo volume quickly tripled. In anticipation of this, construction had started on both two warehouse buildings. Warehouse No. 2 was completed first in 1911. Warehouse No.1 followed two years later in 1913.

Planned by Yorinaka Tsumaki, architect extraordinaire and government official famous for his designs mixing elements of classic Western European with Japanese architectures, both warehouses featured steel reinforced structures (as an indication, Building No.2 is made up of some 3,180,000 bricks and 560 tons of steel), fireproof walls, a sprinkler system and huge steel folding and sliding doors. Building No.1 even hosted the first ever elevator for cargo handling in Japan. And the beauty of it all is that most of this is left as it was or is otherwise on display!

Cargo elevator

The two buildings now differ in dimension, but both buildings used to be the same length. Although the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 mostly spared warehouse No.2, it reduced No.1 to half its size. A quick walk around the building reveals the difference in color between the East (original) and West (newer) walls. For the last 10 years or so, Shinko pier has been in constant evolution with projects such as building museums. Just last year opened the very interactive Cupnoodles Museum. However, in order to save the surroundings of the Red-Brick Warehouses, new development is under strict guidelines. A notable effect of this is the Navios Yokohama hotel, with its huge arch creating a hole in the building so as not to hide the view of the warehouses from the shore.

Navios Yokohama's arch

Originally both built as customs houses, the buildings of the Red-Brick Warehouse now serve different purposes. The years of sensitive and detailed restoration the City of Yokohama has put into the warehouse earned them a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction in 2010. The Building No.1, dubbed the cultural facility, now features a hall for theater performances and concerts, a space for galleries and events, and various craft shops. The Building No.2 houses cafés, restaurants and boutiques spread across 3 floors among which is the renowned Sydney breakfast restaurant “bills”.

Then, there is everything around the Red-Brick Warehouse.

Old platform and Customs House annex

A fascinating relic is the railway system conspicuously left here and there in an effort to bring 2 times together in the same space. In fact, a whole platform has been left not far from the warehouse facilities. Now a resting place from where tourists can enjoy the view, it used to be the connection between trains from Tokyo and ships leaving the port of Yokohama. Not far from there would have been the Customs House annex evidenced by the remains of red brick walls. I never thought of myself as a train nor even a history enthusiast, but I can’t stop dreaming of what this area must have looked like at the height of its popularity!

The square between the two buildings, called “Event Space,” is a place of happenings year-round. A recurring main event takes place each season with smaller celebrations making up the rest of the schedule. The 4 main events are:

- Flower Garden – Beautiful flowers ornate the square like a colorful fantasy;

- Red Brick Resort – The 2011 edition transformed Event Space in a tropical resort paradise of cottages floating on water;

- Oktoberfest – A lively beer garden that warms up the city (Munich style);

- Christmas Market – A Christmas Market spread around a majestic Christmas tree, with wodden shacks, German cuisine and vibrant decorations;
- Art Rink – Like skating along with light itself in an enchanted rink.

Event Space

Event Space extends into Akarenga Park. Popular among the citizens for walking dogs, it offers an incredible view on the whole bay and its facilities. Spring and summer make it the perfect place for outdoor concerts too! The year 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of the construction of warehouse No. 2 and saw a plenty of special celebrations. This year won’t let you down either and much can be expected of 2012 as April starts off the 10th anniversary since the warehouses reopened to the public in 2002. Another fun year ahead!!!

Red Brick Warehouse at night

(Cette page en français)

Red Brick Warehouse Official Site(外部サイト)

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