Our Town Yokohama
Honmoku Jazz Festival
The Honmoku area jazzes it up at the end of summer
Honmoku is a confusing area of Yokohama: just south of Yamate (aka The Bluff, the center of the foreign community), it celebrates its fishing port roots, but the original port is now landfill on which Japan’s biggest natural gas tank farm, plus oil refineries, rests; the port now mainly serves LNG carriers. With those humble fishing port roots, prewar, it was also an area for country homes of some of the city’s wealthiest families. (Hence one of the city’s blessings, the Sankeien, a beautiful park with a collection of historic structures and gardens founded by silk merchant heir cum poet Hara Sankei). It’s very humble and fishy, but has been developing into a fairly upscale residential and shopping area—whose merchants rejected connection to the new Minato Mirai subway line, which would have made the major shopping center there more easily accessible. It also has over fifty years of smoldering resentment over so much land in Honmoku being expropriated by the US military during the Occupation (land that has now been returned and converted into said upscale housing and shopping). At the same time, Honmoku celebrates the end of summer every year with a jazz festival, one of Japan’s oldest, with clear roots in decades of contact with the groups associated with the US military as well as all the bars and restaurants that served the crews of the cargo ships of old.
The upshot of all this confusion is that Honmoku somehow organizes one mean jazz festival, with an emphasis on Japanese funk groups. It’s all afternoon and evening, out of doors, all the jazz you want for 4,500 yen (a great price, but early ticket purchasers get deep discounts). This year, the festival, their 26th, is on Sunday, August 27.
Honmoku is great fun, but its festival is just a warmup for the Yokohama Jazz Promenade, Japan’s largest and most exciting jazz festival, which will be held October 7-8 this year. While Honmoku may be a little confused, the Yokohama Jazz Promenade knows exactly what it’s about—world-class jazz in the heart of a world-class city, with the best of the old and the new. This year’s schedule is set; I’ll be telling more about it soon. Meanwhile, save that weekend and prepare to promenade.
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