by By Hunter R. Slaton | November 01, 2009

1109 Downtown YokohamaWith a population of 3.6 million,
the Japanese port city of Yokohama is the country's second-largest metropolis, following Tokyo. This year, the city celebrated the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama, on Tokyo Bay.

Yokohama is 90 minutes by rail from Narita International Airport, Japan's primary international arrival point for Western visitors, and about a half-hour from Tokyo by local train.

More than 13,000 guest rooms are within city limits, ranging from opulent five-star, Western-style hotels to Old World Japanese inns known as ryokans.

Convention center
Pacifico Yokohama, the city's convention center, includes the 5,000-seat National Convention Hall, a 60-room conference center and a 215,000-square-foot, column-free exhibition hall. The complex incorporates the sail-shaped 594-room InterContinental Yokohama Grand, a five-star hotel with 27,835 square feet of meeting space of its own, including a 7,700-square-foot ballroom. In December, Pacifico Yokohama will renovate its conference center, by adding additional meeting space and Wi-Fi, as well as replacing electrical products.

Hotel update
The biggest news here is next spring's opening of the new 240-room New Otani Inn Yokohama. The luxury property, within walking distance of the convention center, overlooks Yokohama Bay.

The 299-room Daiwa Roynet Hotel Yokohama-Koen will open in a landmark 13-story building in December. It will occupy the third through 12th floors, atop a two-story mall.

Due to the weak economy, a Park Hyatt and a W hotel that had been planned for 2010 openings have been postponed indefinitely.

Other four- and five-star convention hotel properties in the city include the 975-room Shin-Yokohama Prince Hotel, 603-room Yokohama Royal Park Hotel, 480-room Pan Pacific Yokohama Bay Hotel Tokyu, 398-room Yoko­hama Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers, 251-room Hotel New Grand, 212-room Yokohama Excel Hotel Tokyu and 203-room Hotel Associa Shin-Yokohama.

This past April, the Yoko­hama Convention & Visitors Bureau began offering its International Convention Subsidy, designed to attract large international conferences. To receive the subsidy, which can be as generous as 10 million yen (US$111,000), groups must meet the following three minimum

• There must be more than 2,000 delegates, with at least 800 coming  from overseas.

• Delegates must hail from at least five countries.

• The conference must be at least three days long.

The YCVB Subsidy Com­mittee will make a final decision and notify the planner of the amount of the award, with payment made after the convention has ended.

Large incentive groups with at least 1,000 participants can apply for the Incentive Support Program, which offers a maximum value of two million yen (US$22,000). This incentive subsidy is awarded not in cash but in "souvenirs and services" for the group.

The two subsidy programs will be offered for meetings booked through March 2012.

Airport news
Haneda International Air­port, which until now has been used primarily for domestic Japanese and international Asian traffic, is undergoing a major expansion. A new international terminal should open by October 2010, and a fourth runway also is under construction. When the new terminal is finished, the airport will begin receiving direct flights from North American and European cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, London, Amsterdam and others.

Haneda International Air­port is 24 minutes by rail from Yokohama.