Yokohama is a relatively young port with a history of less than 150 years. Its initial development was one consequence of the treaty negotiated between the United States and Japan in 1853 after the visit by Commodore Matthew Perry and his squadron of several steam-powered U.S. naval vessels. When Yokohama was opened to international trade in 1859, it had no berths for ocean-going ships. The government at the time, Tokugawa Bakufu, hurriedly constructed port facilities, an enclave for foreigners surrounded by a moat, and a customs house.
Yokohama continued to grow rapidly after the Meiji Restoration as an international trade port. It was called the "silk port," and Kobe, the second largest port in Japan, was called the "cotton port." The British Pacific and Orient Line (P&O) opened a Shanghai–Yokohama liner route in 1864 and Messageries Maritimes also opened one in 1865, whereas Pacific Mail (PM) opened a San Francisco–Yokohama–Hong Kong route in 1867. In 1875 Mitsubishi Kaisha, which was to later become Nihon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), opened a Yokohama–Shanghai route, and it drove out P&O and PM after severe competition. During that period Yokohama's main exports were raw silk, tea, and copper, and its main imports were cotton goods, woolen goods, and metals. The amount of trade with Western countries, $30,000 in 1868, accounted for 85 percent of Japan's total trade. In 1873 the railway between Yokohama and Tokyo was opened. Yokohama was now counted as one of the three major ports of Asia, together with Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Japan's industrialization began in the late 1880s. Major imports then were raw cotton, steel, and machinery. Many cotton-spinning companies grew in the Kansai district, and Kobe became the main import port of raw cotton from India. Yokohama remained the main port for the export of raw silk to the United States. Raw silk accounted for about 60 percent of Yokohama's total export from 1900 onward. Yokohama modernized its port facilities in 1917. They were destroyed, however, by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Repaired, they were again severely damaged by air raids during World War II. Japan was occupied by the United States after the war, and the port of Yokohama was reserved for U.S. military use until 1952. With the rapid growth of the Japanese economy that started in 1955, the Yokohama/Kawasaki area was developed as a vigorous industrial city. The total volume of exports and imports reached 21 million tons in 1957, exceeding the level of the prewar peak year (1937). Thus, Yokohama again became the largest port in Japan and developed rapidly as an international port. In the 1960s and 1970s the chief exports were manufactured goods such as automobiles, and the main import was oil.
In 1967 the first full container ship—Matson Navigation's Hawaiian Planter—entered the port of Yokohama. Japan was then in the process of containerization. That year the operation of container berths was started at the ports of Tokyo, Kobe, and Nagoya, and at Yokohama the following year. Yokohama continued to be the second largest port in Japan in the volume of container cargo until Kobe was struck by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. In 2001 Yokohama was the nineteenth largest port in the world in terms of volume of cargo handling at 116 million tons, and twenty-first in terms of number of containers at 2,304 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units). At the beginning of the new millennium the main imports are oil, coal, and iron ore, and the main export is still manufactured goods.
SEE ALSO Agriculture; Cargoes, Freight; Cargoes, Passenger; Chambers of Commerce; Compradors; Containerization; Ethnic Groups, Fujianese; Free Ports; Harbors; Japan; Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI); Jardine Matheson;Mitsubishi;Nagasaki;Perry, Matthew;Port Cities;Shipbuilding;Shipping, Technological Change;Sumitomo.
Nihon Keizaishi. 8 vols. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988–1990. Yokohama shishi. Yokohama: Yokohama-shi, Showa, 1958. Yokohama shishi 2. Yokohama: Yokohama-shi, 1996.
YOKOHAMA , city in Japan. Opened to foreign trade by Japan in 1859, Yokohama soon blossomed into the country's major port. Among the Westerners who settled here were Jewish merchants and professional people, some of whose graves may still be seen in the city's old cemetery, dated 1869 and 1870. The first organized community was established in 1917, mainly for the purpose of helping the approximately 5,000 Russian Jewish migrants, mainly women and children, who, on their way to join their menfolk in the U.S., were held up in Japan by a change in the American visa regulations. This community continued to exist until 1923, but after the earthquake in that year the majority of Yokohama Jews moved to Kobe. Although some returned, no community was reestablished. During the years of the American military occupation of Japan (1945–52), Yokohama became a center of Jewish life because of the presence of numerous American Jewish soldiers and sailors in the area. Since then the small number of American and European Jews have continued to reside as individuals in the city. Its Jewish cemetery is still used by the Tokyo Jewish community.