Translated by Nupur Jena
Yokohama Chinatown - 6 Things Not To Miss Out While Visiting!
Written by Matcha Admin
Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Japan and is less than one hour away from Tokyo. With temples, traditional gates, delicious food, and festivals, it is a fun, must-see sightseeing spot. Learn where to go, what to eat, and how to get to Chinatown in Yokohama.
Must-Visit Places and Things to Do in Yokohama Chinatown
Photo by Pixta
Craving Chinese cuisine while visiting Japan? Or you happen to be around Tokyo, wondering what to do next? There is no better place to visit than the Chinatown in Yokohama, also known as Yokohama Chukagai. It is the largest Chinatown in Japan and a must-visit for its fabulous food, sightseeing spots, and lively atmosphere. The vibrancy of this area will make you want to visit again and again.
Yokohama Chinatown developed after the port of Yokohama opened to foreign trade in 1859. It became the residence area of the many Chinese traders who settled down in the city. There are more than 600 Chinese stores and restaurants in the Chinatown today, buzzing with activity from morning until late in the night.
Chinatown in Yokohama is close to the Minato Mirai area other shopping and sightseeing neighborhoods and is easily accessible via public transportation on both JR and Minato Mirai lines. Read this article to learn six must-see places and activities to make the most out of your trip to Chinatown.
1. Marvel at the Gates
Four colorful gates stand at the entrances of Yokohama Chinatown, named after the four directions in Chinese tradition, and five more gates can be found within the colorful neighborhood. You can enter the town from any of the four gates. Guardian deities are enshrined in each of these gates, according to the principles of Feng Shui. It is believed that these deities protect the trade and prosperity of Chinatown.
The East Gate is called Choyo-mon and relates to the Azure Dragon God, and brings prosperity; the South Gate, or Suzaku-mon, is associated with Suzaku, the sacred Vermillion Bird, and is bright red. It is said to bring good fortune and protection from disaster. The North Gate, or Genbu-mon, relates to the Black Tortoise, and is associated with the God Xuanwu (in Chinese) or Genbu (in Japanese). Lastly, the West Gate (Enpei-mon) is related to the White Tiger deity of Chinese mythology and is known as Baihu (in Chinese) or Byakko (in Japanese). The gate is supposed to promote eternal peace.
A fifth gate, Zenrin-mon, also known as "the Gate of Good Neighborly Relations" is the symbol of Chinatown and the most beautiful, with its bright red color. It symbolizes warm human relationships and the act of welcoming everyone with an open heart.
2. Visit Kanteibyo Temple
Kanteibyo is a bright red colored temple located in the center of Chinatown. Built in 1873 by Chinese residents, it is dedicated to the Chinese deity of good business and prosperity. The temple is so exquisite that one cannot escape its charm. Visitors can offer prayers here and also light incense sticks in front of the temple. During the night, the temple is lit up by lanterns.
Kanteibyo Temple is elaborately decorated with beautiful and intricate patterns, offering one of the best photographic views in the area.
3. Enjoy Delicious Street Food - Steamed Buns and Sweets
One of the finest attractions of the Yokohama Chinatown is the street food offered at food stands. Visitors can fill up on steamed buns and savory snacks, as well as desserts and drinks for a single coin. There is a choice for all tastes and budgets.
Yokoahama Chinatown Steamed Buns
You will notice many street-side vendors selling large steamed buns. It is hard to resist these aromatic and delicious steamed buns which are available at a very cheap price. Filled with various ingredients, these massive and well-loved snacks abound the streets of Chinatown. We especially recommend the large steamed pork buns, loaded with coarsely chopped pork, leeks, and tiny cubes of pickled mustard green.
For those craving something sweet, try the red bean paste-filled anman buns, which also come in a variety of small and huge sizes. These are often sold at the stands with the pork buns. You will also find adorable panda-shaped buns at certain stands, usually containing red bean paste, chocolate, or pork.
Other common, must-try street food are goma dango, small fried balls covered in sesame seeds with a red bean filling inside. The sweetness of the red bean paste is delicious paired with the semi-sweet, but savory flavors of the sesame and the fried dough.
Shoronpo, or juicy Chinese dumplings, are another popular street treat and contain a savory meat-based filling. They are so delicious that you will want to try all the varieties.
Chinatown Egg Tarts
Egg tarts are a variety of custard tarts found in many parts of China and Taiwan. You will find vendors and shops selling these treats baked fresh in Yokohama. They have an irresistible sweetness balanced with a full egg flavor, and the crust texture is crumbly and melty.
Chinatown Roasted Chestnuts
Another food you will see being sold on the street corners are yaki-guri, or roasted chestnuts. Vendors may try to get you to purchase a bag by offering free samples at first. These slightly-sweet, healthy snacks are roasted on-the-spot, in front of you. They are particularly well-known in Yokohama's Chinatown.
4. Dine at All-You-Can Eat and High-End Chinese Restaurants
Chinatown is filled with restaurants offering all types of Chinese cuisines at different price points. Visitors will find all-you-can-eat restaurants and eateries specializing in fine dining options. Below is an introduction to the dishes you should consider trying.
Chinatown Mapo Tofu
Mapo tofu is another must-try dish from Chinatown. Originally a dish from the Sichuan province in China, it consists of tofu boiled in a spicy chili- and red bean-based sauce cooked with fermented black beans and minced pork or beef. Variations are made with other ingredients popular in Japan.
Mapo tofu comes in a set meal and is affordable. Many restaurants have different prices for the same dish. You can choose from the array of restaurants along the streets of Chinatown. A picture of the menu and the prices of each dish are displayed on the boards outside the shops, so choosing what and where you want to eat won't be a difficult task.
Chinatown Dim Sum
Dim sum, or yum cha, is a meal consisting of several small dishes. This is a type of traditional Chinese cuisine ideal for diners who want to try a little bit of everything. Numerous eateries in Chinatown offer yum cha and even all-you-can-eat options.
Chinatown Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Chinese food traditionally contains meat, fish, and many animal-based ingredients, but there are vegetarian and vegan options on the menus of a few Taiwanese-style restaurants in Yokohama Chinatown. These places cook traditional, non-vegetarian fare, too, making them easy to visit with larger groups with different dietary preferences. Be sure to ask for the vegetarian or vegan menu and specify what you can and cannot eat.
Banwaro is a cozy, casual Taiwanese restaurant located next to Kanteibyo Temple. The owner is very friendly and happy to accommodate vegetarians and vegans: be sure to ask for the special vegan menu when you visit. Come in a small group as the restaurant is tiny.
Kokien is another casual Taiwanese-style restaurant with a friendly staff offering a vegan/vegetarian menu , located in the heart of Chinatown. Be clear when specifying your dietary needs.
For a more formal meal, try Chojo Hanten, a famous Yokohama Chinese restaurant that serves vegan and vegetarian options. The food here is more expensive than the other two restaurants but has an elegant atmosphere ideal for a special occasion. The restaurant is located next to the Choyo-mon, or East Gate entrance.
5. Go Shopping for Chinatown Souvenirs
Chinatown boasts a variety of shops selling Chinese vegetables, fruit, herbs, seasonings, and spices. In addition, one can find Chinese medicine stores, select tea shops, as well as stores selling kitchen utensils, lanterns, and Chinese wines. The stalls of Chinese fortune tellers, palm readers, and astrology advisers are also a common sight on the streets in the area.
The best keepsake from this vibrant town would be, for example, good luck charms or the charming traditional Chinese dress called "qipao." Qipao are very hard to find in other areas of Japan.
Many adorable panda-related items, from plush toys to stationery to socks, are on sale in Yokohama Chinatown, too. There is also a Daiso with an entire inventory of fun, 100-yen items.
6. Celebrate Chinese New Year
Yokohama Chinatown is renowned for its large-scale Chinese New Year Festival held annually between late January and mid-February. The streets of Chinatown are transformed by lanterns and other colorful decorations, like Chinese dragons. There are also traditional performances with participants in Chinese lion costumes, as well as parades.
Visiting during this season is a very festive, fun experience not to miss out on.
Access to Yokohama Chinatown
Yokohama Chinatown is located in the central part of Yokohama, near many popular areas, like Minato Mirai, Sakuragicho, and Motomachi. It is easily accessible from within Yokohama and also from Tokyo. The closest station is Motomachi-Chukagai Station (Minato Mirai Line) or Ishikawacho Station (JR Negishi Line), which are both 7-8 minute-walks to the main entrance.
From Tokyo Station, the fastest way to get to Chinatown is to take the JR Tokaido Main Line (bound for Odawara) until Yokohama Station. At Yokohama Station transfer to the Negishi Line (bound for Ofuna or Isogo) and ride the train until Ishikawacho Station. In total it will take around one hour and 570 yen.
From Shibuya Station, you can reach Chinatown directly, without transferring trains. Ride the limited express train on the Tokyu Toyoko Line at Shibuya Station going to Motomachi-Chukagai. Get off at the last stop (Motomachi-Chukagai Station). The ride is about 45 minutes and costs 500 yen.
Experience the Best of Yokohama Chinatown
Yokohama Chinatown is a fascinating area that will allow you to feel as if you are traveling to Japan and China at the same time. It is a great destination for a peaceful afternoon or evening and symbolizes the multicultural appeal of Yokohama.
Main image by Pixta