Having previously covered Japan’s Chinatowns in Yokohama and Kobe, it is now time to focus on the third Chinatown located in Nagasaki City’s Shinchi District. Shinchi Chinatown, is Japan’s oldest Chinatown, established during the 17th century. This was possible because even during the Edo Period (1603-1867), when Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, the port of Nagasaki remained open to foreign trade with China. It is estimated that there were 10,000 Chinese residents, mostly merchants from Fujian, residing in Nagasaki City during this period. These residents were restricted to living in the hills of Nagasaki and it wasn’t until 1859 when Japan opened its doors to foreigners that they transferred to the Shinichi District forming the Chinatown we know today.
Today, Nagasaki’s Chinatown is a collection of over 40 restaurants serving the signature Nagasaki noodle dishes, champon and sara udon as well as confectionary shops and souvenir stores. The restaurants are typically open between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM for lunch and from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM for dinner.
There are four vermilion lacquered gates erected in each of the four corners of Chinatown. They were constructed by craftsman from Fuzhou, China who wanted to develop Nagasaki’s Chinatown to rival those located in Yokohama and Kobe. Each gate is adorned with a sculpture of a god representing the four directions. The Azure Dragon can be found on the east gate, the White Tiger on the west gate, the Vermilion Bird on the south gate and the Black Tortoise on the north gate.
Shinchi Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and particularly crowded during the Nagasaki Lantern Festival, the largest Chinese New Year celebration in Japan, held in February. It is estimated that there are as many as 15,000 lanterns decorating the streets during the festival attracting tourists from all over Japan and abroad.
The Chinese culture has also influenced other events held year round in Nagasaki. Among these is the Shoro Nagashi (the Spirit Boat Procession) which takes place on August 15th, during the Bon celebrations in Japan and the Nagasaki Peiron Championships (Dragon Boat Championship) which takes during the last weekend in July in the Nagasaki Harbor.
You can easily reach Shinchimachi Chinatown from JR Nagasaki Station by taking the No. 1 tram to Tsukimachi . From that point Chinatown is merely 2 minutes on foot. Trams run every 10 minutes.
Address: 12-7 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki 850-0842, Nagasaki Prefecture
Web Page: http://www.nagasaki-chinatown.com/