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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) _ Japan’s second city has always been its window on the world.
On Sunday, it will be the rest of the globe looking in as Yokohama plays host to the World Cup final between Brazil and Germany _ the globe’s most watched sporting event.
Billed on banners all over town as ``The City of the Final,″ Yokohama relishes its reputation as one of Japan’s most open and international cities. From its piers and harbors, Japan has exported its culture and products to the rest of the world.
It’s been on the receiving end, too.
Japan’s first brewery was built here. The city has the country’s biggest Chinatown and a considerable Korean population. Japan’s tallest skyscraper, Landmark Tower, peers over Yokohama’s sprawling waterfront. Just a short walk away is Sogo, regarded as the world’s biggest department store.
A native is known as a ``Hamako,″ which also implies someone who is open to a new and modern way of life.
``If you say a sweet, a piece of candy, is from Yokohama, it gives the impression that it is from Europe or from someplace foreign _ high quality and very delicious,″ said Mika Oyama, who lives in nearby Tokyo and runs a clothing import business. ``If you say it’s from Yokohama, it’s automatically associated with something European or western.″
Chihiro Kanda, an English teacher who lives in the city but has lived in several other Japanese cities _ plus Britain and the United States _ called it a ``really open place.″
``My family has lived here for a long time,″ she said. ``They’ve been eating foreign things and fruits here since before the war, things that were foreign and quite rare in those days.
``The urban design, or the foods sold in the shops here are different from the sort you would find in Chiba or Tokyo, even though the places aren’t so far apart.″
In the wake of Commodore Perry’s 1853 mission to open up the country to the United States and end two centuries of seclusion, Japan completed a ``new port″ in Yokohama in 1859.
What was a small village of 600 _ chosen partially to keep the inevitably troublesome foreigners isolated _ grew into a city of 3.4 million.
Yokohama is just south of Tokyo, but it’s impossible to know where one ends and the other begins.
The 30-minute train ride between the two cuts through an urban thicket of gigantic shopping complexes, the industrial city of Kawasaki, and traditional houses wedged between modern apartment buildings.
The site of the game is 72,000-seat Yokohama International Stadium. It was opened in 1998, but was recently refurbished and is the largest of the 20 venues used for the monthlong World Cup.
Yokohama does not have a long history with soccer, but neither does Japan, although the national team made it to the second round of the World Cup. The city does have its own team in Japan’s professional J-League, the Yokohama F Marinos.
A small British community is believed to have introduced the game to Japan in the late 1800s. The first international game on record was played in 1904, between the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club _ a club mainly for foreigners that still exists _ and a Tokyo high school.
The YC&AC won, 9-0.