JAPAN: Kobe (Nanjing town / Chinatown)

Located just south of Motomachi Station in Kobe is one of only three designated Chinatowns in Japan known as Nankinmachi (Nanjing town). Originated in 1868, the area is home to over one hundred Chinese restaurants, shops and a temple dedicated to Guan Yu.

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When Kobe’s port was opened to foreigners after Japan’s isolation period, Chinese merchants from Guangdong and Fujian flocked in and settled in the western end of what was known as Kobe’s foreign district.  At that time, Chinese people were referred to as “people from Nanking,” therefore the settlement came to be known as Nankinmachi. The area flourished in the early 1920s but that all changed during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II when many of the settlers returned to China.  Further, the town was destroyed after the allied bombings and had to be rebuilt after the war by the Chinese who remained behind.  In 1995, Nankinmachi was damaged once again due to the Great Hanshin earthquake and quickly rebuilt where today it remains a thriving center of Chinese culture in the Kansai region and is home to 10,000 residents.

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A popular tourist attraction, Nankinmachi has three gates: Chang’an Gate (長安門), Xi’an Gate (西安門) and Nanlou Gate (南樓門). Two main streets run through the district, intersecting at a small plaza in the center. They are packed with shops, restaurants and food stands that sell items such as steamed buns (manju), ramen, tapioca drinks and various other Chinese dishes, many of which have been altered for the Japanese palate. The plaza is decorated with stone carvings of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs is a well-liked spot for photographs.

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Several events take place during the year, with Chinese New Year or Shunsetu Sai, being the most attended. The brilliant fireworks and dancing lions/ dragons are quite spectacular and attract thousands of visitors to the district.

 

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The Motomachi Station is 3 minutes from Sannomiya Station, 25 minutes from Osaka Station on the JR Kobe Line and 30 minutes from Umeda Station on the Hanshin Main Line making it an easy stop over when visiting Kobe.

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