With the smell of delicious foods from restaurants’ kitchens and steamers at buns shops wafting throughout the streets, you cannot help but feel hungry once you enter Yokohama Chinatown. In a small area of about 500 square meters surrounded by gates in vivid colors stand more than 500 restaurants side by side. Yokohama Chinatown is always bustling with visitors from across the country all the time.
Chinese first came to Yokohama to work for western trading houses after the port was open in 1859. The western trading houses needed Chinese who knew their business practices, and were able to communicate through writing with Japanese. (There were few Japanese who understand English at that time.) Many Cantonese followed them after a shipping line launched its service between Hong Kong and Yokohama. They began to live on a piece of reclaimed land near the harbor in the foreign settlement, built a Kwan Tai Temple and a school, and formed a Chinese community there. Now Yokohama Chinatown has grown into the largest Chinatown in East Asia as well as in Japan, and is the face of Yokohama.
Cantonese restaurants outnumber restaurants of other localities. High-end Cantonese restaurants Manchinro and Heichinrou are the oldest with more than 120 years of history. Besides Cantonese food, you can enjoy Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwanese, Szechuan and others. Some are all you can eat style restaurants with a wide variety of choices. There are restaurants that specialize in certain dishes, such as Congee and Dim Sum. In front of popular restaurants, people are waiting in a line for a long time. Buns shops are popular among young people. Those shops sell Niku-man pork buns and An-man sweet bean buns. On side streets, restaurants are competing with eye-catching signboards and menus to attract visitors. There is even a Japanese Sushi restaurant which is open 24/7. You may be surprised to see it on the main street near the East gate. I am sure it is not easy to decide which restaurant to go.
There are Chinese tableware shops, souvenir shops and Chinese grocery stores in the town. Especially, the streets such as South Gate Silk Road street and Kwan Tai Temple street are lined with those shops. It is a lot of fun to browse around those streets.
Kwan Tai temple is a place you mustn’t miss. It is a shrine to worship a legendary military general in the warring period in about AD200 in China. His bravery and loyalty to his master were described in the book “Story of Three States” and loved by Chinese and Japanese alike. He is known for his words, and worshipped as a god of business around the world. The temple has been the center of the community since it was built in 1862. It is known as a cosmic place which gives people spiritual energy. You may feel energized after a visit to it.
If you are interested in Chinese culture, Mazu Miao temple is another place you must visit. Mazu Miao enshrines a Chinese goddess who is a guardian of seafarers. It is on South Gate Silk Road street between the East gate and the South gate.