Written by Nupur Jena
Yokohama Chinatown - 6 Things Not To Miss Out While Visiting!
Yokohama Chinatown is the largest in Japan and takes less than an hour from Tokyo. With temples, traditional gates, and festivals, it is a fun, must-see sightseeing spot. Learn where to go, what to eat, and how to get to Chinatown.
Must-Visit Places and Things to Do in Yokohama Chinatown
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 one in Japan and a must visit for its fabulous food, sightseeing spots and lively atmosphere. The vibrancy of this area will surely make you want to visit again.
Yokohama Chinatown developed after the port of Yokohama was 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, buzzing with activity from morning until late in the night.
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 named after the four directions in Chinese tradition stand as entrances to Chinatown and five more gates can be found within. 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 the Chinatown.
The East Gate (Choyo-mon) relates to the Azure Dragon God, and brings prosperity.
The South Gate (Suzaku-mon) is associated with Suzaku - the sacred Vermillion Bird - and hence the color red. It brings good fortune and protection from disaster.
The North Gate (Genbu-mon) relates to the Black Tortoise, and is associated with the God Xuanwu (in Chinese) or Genbu (in Japanese).
The West Gate (Enpei-mon) is related to the White Tiger deity of Chinese mythology, and is known as Baihu (in Chinese) or Byakkō (in Japanese). The gate relates to eternal peace.
The 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
This bright red colored temple is 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 and peaceful that one cannot escape its charm. Visitors can offer prayers and also light incense sticks in front of the temple. During the night, the temple is lit up by lanterns and the view is simply blissful.
Kanteibyo Temple is elaborately decorated with beautiful and intricate patterns, offering one of the best photographic views in the area.
3. Snack on Delicious Treats
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.
You will notice the 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 huge steamed pork buns, loaded with coarsely chopped meat, gao-wa (leeks), and tiny cubes of pickled mustard green.
Particularly popular are the goma-dango (sesame balls), small fried balls with a red bean mixture inside.Shouronpo are another popular treat for non-vegetarians, containing a meat-based filling. They are so delicious that you will want to try all the varieties. You will also find adorable panda-shaped buns at certain stands.
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. They have an irresistible sweetness balanced with a full egg flavor, and the crust texture is crumbly and melty.
Another food you will see being sold on the street corners are yaki-guri, or roast 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 and are particularly well-known in Yokohama's Chinatown.
4. Dine at Sit-down 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.
Mabodofu 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 meat which is often pork or beef. Variations are made with other ingredients popular in Japan.
Mabodofu 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.
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.
5. Go Shopping for 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 usual 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". The qipao is very hard to find in other areas of Japan.
Souvenirs from the store "Panda Memorabilia" are also great. This shop features accessories, sweets and stationery items inspired by the cuteness of the panda.
6. Celebrate Chinese New Year
Yokohama Chinatown is renowned for its large-scale Chinese New Year Festival held annually. 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. The dates vary each year, but the festivities usually occur around late January to mid-February.
Access to Yokohama Chinatown
Yokohama Chinatown is located in the central part of Yokohama. 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 550 yen.
From Shibuya Station, you can reach Chinatown 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 480 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 and I warmly recommend it as a place that symbolizes the multicultural appeal of Yokohama.