The 3 Largest Chinatowns in Japan

  • SPOT
  • Areas known as “Chinatown” exist almost everywhere in the world. You can find them in North and South America and Europe, but also more down south in Africa, Australia, and also all over Asia. Japan also has its fair share of Chinatowns.

    In Japan, the 3 largest Chinatowns are located in Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Kobe, all of which originated as residential areas for Chinese traders in the late 1800s. These Chinatowns are commonly referred to as “chukagai” (中華街 ) in Japanese. Today, the Japanese Chinatowns, as well as most other Chinatowns around the globe for that matter, have become popular tourist attractions. Let’s take a closer look at “the big three”.

    1. Yokohama Chinatown

    The history of Yokohama Chinatown is about 150 years long. In contrast to the Chinatowns in Kobe and Nagasaki, a small number of Chinese residents still live there. One reason for that might be the fact that Yokohama Chinatown is the largest one – not only in Japan but in all of Asia. The district houses approximately 250 Chinese stores and restaurants.

    Yokohama Chinatown has four beautifully designed gates, one at each entrance, plus another five within the town. In the center, you can find the Kuan Ti Miao Temple, a colorful Chinese temple constructed in 1873 by Chinese locals. The main reason to visit Yokohama Chinatown, however, are its many restaurants and food stands that offer popular Chinese dishes and snacks, such as steamed buns, ramen noodles, and tapioca drinks.

    Click here for access information.

    2. Nagasaki Chinatown

    The port of Nagasaki was one of only a few Japanese ports to remain open to Chinese trade during the country’s roughly 300 years of isolation. It is because of this that Nagasaki has experienced the biggest Chinese influence, and thus feels more Chinese than any other city in Japan. Nagasaki Chinatown, also known as Shinchi Chinatown, was established as early as the 17th century, making it Japan’s oldest Chinatown. Today, it is best known for serving two famous types of local noodles: champon and sara udon.

    Click here for access information.

    3. Kobe Chinatown

    After Japan’s period of isolation had finally ended in 1868, Kobe’s port was among the first to be opened to international trade. This is when Kobe’s Chinatown, also known as Nankinmachi, started to develop. Nankinmachi got its name from Nanjing, the Chinese capital of that time. Nankinmachi is a rather compact Chinatown with two main streets running through it that meet each other at a small plaza in the center. As it’s packed with shops, restaurants and food stands that sell popular favorites, including steamed buns, ramen, and a wide array of other Chinese dishes, Nankinmachi is a popular tourist destination.

    Click here for access information.

    A visit to one of these cities is not complete without having sampled some of the delicious dishes at their Chinatowns, so make sure to include a lunch or dinner here during your trip!