The heart of Yokohama City is located just a few minutes away from the train station, but it feels more like a distant land. Walking amidst the city’s bustle of colors and people, its buzzing, narrow streets lined with vibrant billboards and posters, and its many stores adorned with colorful clothes, scarves, precious gems, Chinese spices, key chains, fans, hats, masks, jewelry and fortunetellers’ crystal balls, you could imagine that you had traveled far beyond the shores of Japan.
That was precisely how I felt when I visited the Yokohama Chinatown, or “Yokohama Chukagai,” as it’s known to locals. One of the first Japanese cities to open its port to international trade, Yokohama began welcoming Chinese residents in 1859. It was these early Chinese traders and business people, and their descendants who created this “little China” within Yokohama that invites tourists and locals to enter its gates and explore its wonders.
Though the number of Chinese residents is decreasing, the area retains many typical Chinese stores and restaurants. Tourists flock to Yokohama Chukagai to sample delicacies like city’s famous Shark Fin Soup and the Hundred Year-Old Eggs. These specialties also attract the famous: window panes and doors of the area’s restaurants display photos of Japanese actors and actresses who have dined there.
People often associate the Chinese with a buy-and-sell attitude, but Yokohama Chukagai reveals that there is more to them than just business. Hence, at the center of the Chinatown is not another shop or restaurant, but the colorful and beautiful holy temple of the Kanteibyo, built in 1873 by the Chinese residents as a tribute to their god of prosperity.
So, if you ever have a reason to be in Yokohama, you’ll find that a visit to Yokohama Chinatown is definitely worth your time. It’s also easy to reach! From Yokohama Station, take the train to either the Motomachi-Chokagai Station along the Minato Mirai Line (for only 8 minutes and 200 yen) or the Ishikawacho Station along the JR Negishi Line (for 7 minutes and 150 yen). A quick 15-minute walk from either station, and you’ll find yourself in another country!