Born in 1828, Jules Verne combined in his novels his era's fascination with technology and the 19th-century sense of adventure. "Around The World in 80 Days" was an instant hit when it was published in 1873 and has remained one of his most popular stories. It tells how the enigmatic English bachelor Phileas Fogg embarks on a race around the world to win a bet, accompanied by his accident-prone valet, Passepartout, and trailed by a Scotland Yard detective, Fix.
At dawn on the 13th the Carnatic entered the port of Yokohama. This is an important way station in the Pacific, where all the mail steamers, and those carrying travellers between North America, China, Japan, and the Oriental islands put in. It is situated in the bay of Yeddo, and at but a short distance from that second capital of the Japanese Empire, and the residence of the Tycoon, the civil Emperor, before the Mikado, the spiritual Emperor, absorbed his office in his own.
The Carnatic anchored at the quay near the custom-house, in the midst of a crowd of ships bearing the flags of all nations.
Passepartout went timidly ashore on this so curious territory of the Sons of the Sun. He had nothing better to do than, taking chance for his guide, to wander aimlessly through the streets of Yokohama. He found himself at first in a thoroughly European quarter, the houses having low fronts, and being adorned with verandas, beneath which he caught glimpses of elegant peristyles. This quarter occupied, with its streets, squares, docks and warehouses, all the space between the "promontory of the Treaty" and the river. Here, as in Hong Kong and Calcutta, were mixed crowds of all races – Americans and English, Chinamen and Dutchmen, mostly merchants, ready to buy or sell anything.
The Japanese quarter of Yokohama is called Benten, after the goddess of the sea ... Passepartout wandered for several hours ... looking in at the windows of the rich and curious shops, the jewellery establishments glittering with quaint Japanese ornaments, the restaurants decked with streamers and banners,the tea-houses, where the odorous beverage was being drunk with saki, a liquor concocted from the fermentation of rice, and the comfortable smoking-houses, where they were puffing, not opium, which is almost unknown in Japan, but a very fine, stringytobacco. He went on till he found himself in the fields, in the midst of vast rice plantations. There he saw dazzling camellias expanding themselves, with flowers which were giving forth their last colours and perfumes, not on bushes, but on trees; and within bamboo enclosures, cherry, plum, and apple trees, which the Japanese cultivate rather for their blossoms than their fruit, and which queerly-fashioned, grinning scarecrows protected from the sparrows, pigeons, ravens, and other voracious birds.
Follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne
On paper, Yokohama is Japan's second largest city. In reality, it forms one vast sprawling metropolis with Tokyo. In the days of Phileas Fogg and Passepartout it was Japan's busiest port and was the first to open to international trade, about a decade earlier in 1859.
Yokohama was all but destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and then rebuilt. It was then flattened in bombing raids during the Second World War, like many Japanese cities, and again rebuilt. Today it is a high-tech high-rise jungle, although there are a number of impressive 19th-century European-style residences in the upmarket suburb of Yamate.
Yokohama boasts Japan's tallest building, the 296-metre Landmark Tower, with Japan's fastest lift at 45kmph. It also has Japan's biggest Chinatown and its Sogo shop is the largest department store in the world. Landmark Tower is part of the Minato Mirai 21 development (or MM21 as it is known), a semi-completed "harbour city of the 21st century" containing shops, hotels and conferences centres. The Sky Garden observatory on the 69th floor gives spectacular views of Tokyo Bay and the Boso and Izu peninsulas. On a clear day you can even see Mount Fuji.
A taste of tradition
For something traditionally Japanese, visit the lovely Sankei-en garden, established by a Yokohama silk merchant in 1906. Chinatown (or Chukagai in Japanese) is one of Yokohama's highlights and has plenty of pagoda-style red and gold buildings, colourful Chinese gateways and the Kantei-byo temple. It also has a great selection of Chinese restaurants, fresh produce, food stalls and knick-knacks from the Middle Kingdom.
'Ere we go, 'ere we go
Even non-football fans probably know by now that the World Cup final will be played at the International Stadium inYokohama on 30 June next year.
Where to stay
For a room with a view stay at the Royal Park Hotel Nikko (00 81 45 221 1133; www.royalparkhotels. co.jp/yokohama) on the 52nd to the 67th floors of the Landmark Tower. It has the Sky Lounge bar, Japanese, French and Chinese restaurants, a fitness club and a swimming pool. A double room in September costs ¥36,960 (£214.33) for two, including tax and service charge.
Yokohama is around 30-45 minutes from Tokyo by JR (Japan Rail) trains. By shinkansen it takes 17 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Yokohama station but Sakuragi-cho and Kannai stations are more convenient for sightseeing. British Airways flies direct from Heathrow to Tokyo in September for £597 return. Turkish Airlines flies from Manchester via Istanbul for £481. Call Trailfinders (020 7938 3939).