The city of Yokohama is home to a major international seaport, one of the busiest since 1859. Located close to its pier is the customs headquarters, an unusual historic building one might expect to find in Morocco rather than in Japan.
Constructed in 1934, the Yokohama Customs headquarters is nicknamed “the Queen’s Tower” for its turquoise-domed minaret, and the rest of the building matches its style, with Moorish battlements and arched windows, partially inspired by ancient Indian architecture. There are also elements of Romanesque architecture here and there, creating an exotic vibe fit for a hub of international relations.
The construction plan was conceived as part of the Reconstruction of the Imperial Capital project, which sought to restore disaster-damaged cities in eastern Japan, as the original customs office was lost in the cataclysmic earthquake of 1923.
Initially planned to be 154 feet (47 meters) tall, another 13 feet (4 meters ) were added to its height at the suggestion of the customs director. As a result, the Yokohama Customs building became the tallest structure in Yokohama at the time of its completion.
Incidentally, the “queen” does not refer to any historical figure, but simply to the playing card, with the Kanagawa Prefectural Government office standing in for the King and the Yokohama Archives of History’s clock tower for the Jack. Located close to each other, the three towers of Yokohama are a somewhat popular spot, best viewed from Ōsanbashi Pier.
Know Before You Go
The Customs Headquarters is located just a few minutes away from Nihon-Odori Station. There is a small museum called the Queen's Square on its first floor, exhibiting a collection of confiscated brand knockoffs, taxidermies violating CITES, and the like, as well as an educational section on the history of the Port of Yokohama. It is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm, free entry.