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14 Oct 2014

Yokohama Chinatown Part 1, Japan

Yokohama [横浜市] • 14 OCTOBER 2014
Yokohama Chinatown was founded in 1859 when Japan was opened to foreign trade. When the Chinese migrants arrived they established the traditional social institutions such as temples, clan associations and later schools. 

Within three years of their arrival, the Yokohama Kanteibyo (Guan Di Miao), 横滨关帝庙dedicated to Guan Gong was established and quickly became a major center for Chinese migrants. This temple still count as one of the most important landmark in Yokohama Chinatown today.
The development of Yokohama Chinatown was affected by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the second Sino Japanese War in 1937 when many Chinese migrants returned to China.

After World War Two, conditions for the Chinese living in Yokohama Chinatown improved and are reflected in 1955 when a goodwill archway, or Paifang, was constructed and the area officially recognized as Chinatown.

   Today, the Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Japan and in Asia. It is also one of the largest Chinatowns in the world with some sources claiming it to be the second largest. The surrounding streets and train stations have prominent signs to lead visitors towards the Chinatown. Inside the Chinatown, some of the streets are named after places in China such as the Shanghai Street, 上海路, Chang An street (modern day xian) 长安道, Fujian Street 福建路and Suzhou Street苏州小路.

Along the streets of Chinatown, you can find a wide range of Chinese restaurants, shops offering Chinese pastries, dim sum, dumplings and bao (Chinese buns). These are located alongside shops offering Chinese souvenirs. There are also shops offering food ingredients and foodstuffs required for preparation of Chinese dishes.

Yokohama Chinatown is one of the most visited tourist sites in Japan and even have a special visitor center call “Chinatown 80”offering information, maps and brochures. Although tourism plays a large role in the economy of Yokohama Chinatown, it is a living Chinatown and takes into consideration the economic and cultural needs of local stake holders. This is best illustrated in the founding of Mazu temple instead of a residential complex following feedback from the local stakeholders.

Yokohama Chinatown in Japan has hundreds of shops, restaurants and street vendors selling food and trinkets. The fact that it’s just 45 minutes away from Yokosuka Naval Base only sweetens the deal.One of the most popular foods in Yokohama Chinatown is xiaolongbao, a steamed dumpling filled with soup and meat. The xiaolongbao shops show videos of people failing to eat them properly and shooting hot broth at their friends. They’re tricky to eat, but they’re delicious.

It’s interesting to experience Chinese culture, even if it’s filtered through a Japanese sensibility. The streets are very clean and there’s almost a theme-park feel, especially in some of the themed food courts where dining areas are decorated like sets from a kung-fu movie. While the food might be the most obvious selling point, Yokohama Chinatown is also the place to go if you want to buy a Bruce Lee track suit for a baby or get your palms read on the side of the road.

Japanese tourists are generally interested in the food, and Yokohama's Chinatown has lots of restaurants. Most of them serve the same items with just a bit of difference in the price. The real important part of your visit's meal is the quality. Do your research before you go and find a place that has good reviews. Most of the highly-themed restaurants serve crappy food to tourists who don't know any better, especially in their all-you-can-eat deals. Its a great place to hang around with friends. And it’s easy to get to — Yokohama Chinatown is located just outside Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line


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