Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to play tennis at Yamate Park in Yokohama. The Meetup organizer named the event “Playing tennis at the first place of tennis in Japan,” so it was more than enough to attract my attention, and make me take that 1.5 hour train ride from where I live, just to play tennis.
I arrived at Ishikawacho station, and had to walk about fifteen minutes to reach the tennis courts. The uphill walk was a good warm-up, and the neighborhood around Yamate was pleasant, and interestingly very western. Old English-style wooden houses, big European-style residences, small-town Christian churches… am I still in Japan?
Later, I learned this area is also known as The Bluff, where the affluent Englishmen used to live when Yokohama first opened its ports to international trade back in the mid 19th century. If the Chinese had the Yokohama Chinatown down the hill near the port, the English had The Bluff up the hill overlooking the port.
What many people do not know though, is that this is also where the first tennis match in Japan was held back in 1876, surprisingly just a couple of years after lawn tennis began in England.
Here’s a short chronology of tennis at Yamate Park, and how it relates to international tennis. Hopefully, this can help you realize how significant this place is for tennis fans like myself.
- 1874 Lawn tennis began in England
- 1876 First lawn tennis match in Japan, played here
- 1877 First Wimbledon Tournament in England
- 1878 Ladies Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, founded here
The place is now called the Yokohama International Tennis Community, and some of the courts are open to the general public, for a reasonable fee of 2,200 yen for two hours. I didn’t have to make the reservations myself as I just signed up for the Meetup event and went there to play.
There were five of us… two Japanese and three Filipinos. The meetup group is new, so all of us joined for the first time. Luckily, we were all playing at relatively the same level, and we had exciting matches. Will definitely join this group again.
The organizer also informed us there is the Yokohama Yamate Museum of Tennis in the park, which is open to the public for free. I didn’t visit this time. Maybe I should have. Maybe next time. For sure, I’ll come back.
After tennis, I walked downhill to meet my wife for lunch over at Motomachi. It’s a weekend well spent.