The Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2024

Yokohama: Bringing the World Together Through Green Transformation

Located about 50 kilometers from Tokyo, Yokohama has emerged as a strategic business hub for startups and entrepreneurs.

This multifaceted city has successfully leveraged its prime location and rich history of international collaboration to create a thriving ecosystem that fosters innovation, facilitates global connections, and drives business success.

The DNA of an International City

Yokohama has a unique position within the history of Japan, where it stood as the first Japanese port city to accept international trade, opening a long-time isolationist country for the first time in 1859. That influx of international ideas and technology began Yokohama’s transition to a center of innovation. In the 1950s, Yokohama experienced a population boom and rapid urbanization, leading it to become the second largest city in Japan by population. In the years since, it has continued moving forward with the ideal of innovation, becoming a model for other cities worldwide.

 “Since the opening of its port as a gateway to Japan in 1859, Yokohama has always welcomed new technology and products from overseas and fostered innovation. Over the course of these 164 years, the port town has grown into a global city that is now home to 3.77 million people,” says Takeharu Yamanaka, Mayor of Yokohama, at the 2023 Y-SHIP Convention held in Yokohama. “With this history in mind, Yokohama aims to achieve open innovation by inviting professionals and businesses across the world.”

Today, Yokohama is home to a wide range of organizations, events, and international companies supporting a network of startups in the region. The City of Yokohama Global Offices have representatives in Frankfurt, Shanghai, Bangkok, and New York City, fostering international business, facilitating global investments, and supporting new business establishment in Yokohama through location-based subsidies.

Prestigious yearly events in Yokohama attract ecosystem leaders from around the world, expanding international connections. YOXO Festival annually turns the entire city into a showcase and playground of cutting-edge innovations, providing a platform for startups to raise awareness. The Y-SHIP Convention is a new platform for international discussions on Green Transformation, providing an entry point for foreign startups to connect in Japan. In terms of international events, the 9th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will be held in Yokohama from August 20th to 22nd 2025, showing Yokohama’s commitment to strength in fostering international partnerships and dedication to nurturing mutual economic and cultural development with African countries.

Global DX, an organization facilitating cross-border collaboration with foreign startups and Japanese corporations, recently supported a visit to Japan by 13 delegates from the Team Canada Trade Mission, which helps Canadian innovators to position themselves in the Japanese market by showcasing their capabilities and facilitating long-term trade and investment opportunities. Global DX also supported the Global Startup Program in 2024, whereby four Italian startups worked for two months in Yokohama to co-create projects with Japanese companies in sub-sectors including Mobility and Food Tech. “Yokohama has the infrastructure for international collaboration mentally and physically and is working to create real values from the international point of view,” says Akihiro Hikita, Co-Founder and CEO of Global DX. “The only direction Yokohama has to go now is to become a city with no borders in Japan.”

“The City of Yokohama is determined in dedicating its full efforts to build up a decarbonization model of large scale cities as a leading city for Japan, Asia, and the world.”

Takeharu Yamanaka
Mayor of Yokohama, during the 2023 Y-SHIP Convention

Green and Thriving

In addition to highlighting its global collaborations, Yokohama’s activities showcase the city’s sustainability efforts and its transition to a smart city. For instance, the Asia Smart City Conference takes place in Yokohama annually. In 2023, the conference was a launchpad for the Yokohama Declaration: Asian Cities Together Towards Zero Carbon, a joint declaration between Yokohama City, Japan, and Thailand’s Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, supported by 43 other participating cities and organizations, to realize a sustainable and resilient zero-carbon future. The declaration will utilize Yokohama’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal as a model while facilitating collaboration between participating cities to share knowledge on best practices and work together to reduce carbon emissions.

Yokohama is next focusing its sustainability efforts on transforming the Port of Yokohama into a carbonneutral port with net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Measures to achieve this goal include upgrading port functions for decarbonization based on store, large volume import, and the use of next-generation energy such as hydrogen and its derivatives, including methanol and ammonia. “The City of Yokohama is determined in dedicating its full efforts to build up a decarbonization model of large scale cities as a leading city for Japan, Asia, and the world,” notes Mayor Yamanaka during the Y-SHIP Convention.

In 2023, Mayor Yamanaka was welcomed to the Board of Mayors and Leaders at the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, the largest global alliance for city climate leadership. Among the 13,300 participating cities, only ten mayors have been selected to join the Board, showcasing the Yokohama government’s commitment to sustainability. Yokohama will host the GREEN x EXPO, also known as the World Horticultural Exhibition, in 2027, where more than 15 million expected attendees will gather to focus on creating a sustainable society. As part of its preparation, Yokohama has already launched agricultural promotion projects and new urban development. The city will showcase Cleantech innovations from startups around the world, utilizing the international expo to enhance innovation and accelerate investment in the sector.

Opportunities for Startup Success

As the ecosystem continues to develop, Yokohama is dedicating efforts to expanding opportunities for startups across sectors. “Foreign startups with new ideas or technologies are required to break the boundaries in Yokohama,” Hikita says.

The City of Yokohama is certified as a municipality that promotes the entrepreneurship of foreign nationals, and its Startup Visa Program supports foreign founders by simplifying the process of residence and status certification. The Yokohama Medium-Term Plan for 2022 to 2025 focuses on specific policies for expanding childcare support to create a community where young people want to raise a family in safety and comfort, allowing entrepreneurs to thrive in both their professional and home lives.

As these support initiatives continue to attract skilled talent to the region, Yokohama’s ecosystem has become a hotbed for engineers and R&D, where the concept of open innovation thrives. The Minatomirai Area is home to a concentration of global R&D facilities including WeworkLenovoSonyHitachiVolkswagen, and 3M, among others. The Kannai Area hosts a cluster of startups, including manufacturer Aperza, disaster supply matching company StockBase, and AI biotech Medvigilance.

Yokohama City has launched collaborations to benefit startup development and increase innovation across the region. Recycling startup Terracycle recently partnered with the Yokohama government and nearby businesses to develop recycling programs. The company joined with Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare for the Okusuri Sheet Recycle Program, an initiative to collect and recycle used medication blister packs, and it installed receptacles at two 7-Eleven stores in Yokohama City Hall to collect empty jelly pouch containers which will be processed and reborn as new resources.

In December 2023, Yokohama City partnered with The Drivery, a German innovation support organization specializing in the Mobility sector to promote support for startups. Through the agreement, the two entities will create the Mobility Innovation Hub YOKOHAMA to promote the connection between startups and corporations and to enable Mobility startups to expand abroad.

Additionally, in the lead up to GREEN x EXPO 2027, Yokohama has implemented a proof of concept program supporting startups in the key target fields of Green Transformation and Mobility, creating an opportunity for international startups with technology related to creating a greener, more sustainable society to conduct demonstrations in the city.

As Yokohama continues to grow as a sustainably-focused hotspot for innovation, it welcomes global innovation and founders with an international mindset and seeks to embody an environment where those with new technologies who want to make the world a better place can grow and succeed.