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Photo By: PIXTA/まちゃー
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kobe
Population
5,550,742

Kobe Chinatown

One of Japan’s three Chinatowns and a center of the Chinese community in Kansai

By Whitney Hubbell

While walking along streets lined with fashionable designer shops and European-style bakeries, typical of Kobe’s Old Foreign Settlement, you’ll soon come across a different kind of international atmosphere, one characterized by red lanterns and the comforting smell of steamed buns. This is Nankinmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown and one of only three Chinatowns in Japan.

Kobe Chinatown

Kobe Chinatown

Photo by: PIXTA/ まちゃー Nankinmachi was developed in 1868.

Though Kobe is well-known throughout Japan for its Western influence, Nankinmachi is the city’s most popular international attraction. Nankinmachi was developed in 1868 when the port of Kobe was opened to foreigners, attracting many Chinese immigrants as well as Chinese servants of Western immigrants. Chinese merchants settled in the western end of Kobe’s foreign district, which attracted more Chinese immigrants to the area.

This area eventually developed into Nankinmachi, and by the 1920s it was a bustling neighborhood lined with shops and restaurants. The name “Nankinmachi” comes from the former capital of China, Nanking (or Nanjing), and though this used to be the common Japanese term for areas populated by a large number of Chinese immigrants, Kobe’s is the only one still called Nankinmachi.

Kobe’s Most Visited Attraction

Kobe Chinatown

Photo by: PIXTA/ まちゃー The Azumaya pavilion is surrounded by stone carvings of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac

Today Nankinmachi is the most visited attraction in Kobe and is a center of the Chinese community in Kansai. It is small, consisting of only two main streets, but is packed with over one hundred food stalls, restaurants, and various shops selling Chinese and other foreign goods. The Chinese food served in Nankinmachi has been adapted to suit Japanese tastes, and the area also includes some Japanese food as well as Western steak houses. Decorated archways stand at three of the four entrances to Nankinmachi, while two stone lions stand at the fourth entrance. The Azumaya pavilion, which is surrounded by stone carvings of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, stands in a small plaza in the center of the neighborhood.

Festivals

Photo by: PIXTA/papilio Catch one of the many festivals held in Kobe Chinatown.

Nankinmachi holds festivities throughout the year for Chinese New Year and a few other festivals. Chinese New Year festivities are held for about one week at the end of January and beginning of February. The neighborhood is decorated with lanterns and festivities include a dragon parade, martial arts demonstrations, and traditional Chinese folk and lion dances which are performed throughout the day. There is also a costume parade of famous Chinese historical figures.

The lantern festival is held for about one month from early December until early January. Around 400 traditional red lanterns illuminate the streets of Nankinmachi every evening starting after sunset until 10 p.m. On the first day of the festival, a lion dance is performed by the pavilion.

Two other annual festivals held in Nankinmachi are the Spring Festival, which takes place on one weekend in March or April, and the Mid-Autumn Festival, an event to celebrate the full moon.

Things To Know

HOURS

The opening hours of shops and restaurants vary. Most shops are open from around 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. or 7 P.M.

 Most restaurants open around 10 AM or 11 A.M. and close around 6 P.M., though some are open until 10 P.M. or 11 P.M. 

A few restaurants open only in the evening at around 5 P.M. Many but not all restaurants are closed on Wednesdays. 

How To Get There

Address

By train

Kobe Nankinmachi is a five-minute walk south from JR Motomachi station. 

Where To Stay

Kobe Motomachi Tokyu REI Hotel
  • 1-2-35 Sakaemachidori, Kobe-shi Chuo-ku, Hyogo, 650-0023 Japan
  • ¥6,390 - ¥46,395
  • 4.32/5 (3,522 reviews)
  • 0.1 km
Dormy Inn Kobe Motomachi
  • 2-5-1 Sakaemachidori, Kobe-shi Chuo-ku, Hyogo, 650-0023 Japan
  • ¥12,815 - ¥86,570
  • 4.49/5 (794 reviews)
  • 0.1 km
Smile Hotel Kobe Motomachi
  • 2-5-8 Motomachidori, Kobe-shi Chuo-ku, Hyogo, 650-0022 Japan
  • ¥5,200 - ¥27,600
  • 3.51/5 (1,401 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
R&B Hotel Kobe Motomachi
  • 3-3-1 Sannomiyacho, Kobe-shi Chuo-ku, Hyogo, 650-0021 Japan
  • ¥5,500 - ¥14,200
  • 3.92/5 (2,748 reviews)
  • 0.2 km
Candeo Hotels Kobe Tor Road
  • 3-8-8 Sannomiyacho, Kobe-shi Chuo-ku, Hyogo, 650-0021 Japan
  • ¥12,300 - ¥64,200
  • 4.33/5 (941 reviews)
  • 0.3 km

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