Kobe’s Chinatown: How To Best Explore Nankinmachi And Try The Food

Kobe’s Chinatown: How To Best Explore Nankinmachi And Try The Food

Kobe’s Chinatown is also known as Nankinmachi. With rows of Chinese style stands and the sound of merchants calling for customers, it’s an energetic and lively spot. You’ll only need around 1 - 2 hours if you plan on walking around it. See the unique buildings, eat your fill of delicious Chinese food, forage through the cute Chinese goods, and your mind and body will be completely satisfied. For this article, I’ll introduce Chinatown’s famous spots, recommended foods, and other things you should check out!

First of all, start at the west entrance’s Seian-mon Gate

kobe’s chinatown: how to best explore nankinmachi and try the food | first of all, start at the west entrance’s seian-mon gate

Nankinmachi is Kobe’s Chinatown. One of Japan’s 3rd largest Chinatowns, along with Yokohama’s Chukagai (Chinatown) and Nagasaki’s Shinchi Chukagai. However, compared to Yokohama’s Chinatown, Kobe’s Nankinmachi is fairly compact. Nankinmachi consists of about 100 shops crowded into an area of about 200 meters (656 ft.) from east to west and 100 meters (328 ft) from north to south. So despite stopping various shops to grab a bite for your stroll, 1-2 hours should be sufficient time to enjoy yourselves.

The main street of Nankinmachi is a roughly 200-meter (656 ft.) stretch of road that connects the east Choan-mon Gate with the west Seian-mon Gate. Food stalls here and there along the street line the way, and during meal times you can hear the cheerful calls for customers from staff at each shop, making for a highly energetic atmosphere.

Tips for walking and eating and recommended shops in Nankinmachi

kobe’s chinatown: how to best explore nankinmachi and try the food | tips for walking and eating and recommended shops in nankinmachi

With the rising steam of dim sum and the smell of fried foods, a walk down this road and your stomach will instinctively start growling. There are so many menus with rows of food lining the street that you’ll find yourself unable to choose. Although it’s fine to sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a meal, you’ll find that walking while snacking on some dim sum fits perfectly with Nankinmachi. A good way to find a tasty place to eat is probably by choosing a busy shop. Whether a food stall or a restaurant, you can eat freshly made food at places with lines, and I think it’ll be more likely to taste good.

To avoid wasting your appetite on mediocre food, here are my top picks for my favourite foods in Nankinmachi. I would recommend Shao Shao Shinen (小小心縁), which is a fusion of Fujian and Cantonese cuisine, as well as Roshioki (老詳記) for their buta-man (steamed pork bun), and East Royal for their sweets. I’m a little embarrassed to introduce these shops as they’re really popular, almost clichéd, but in any case, these are my choices.

A breather in the Nankinmachi public square

kobe’s chinatown: how to best explore nankinmachi and try the food | a breather in the nankinmachi public square

Along the main street, located about in the middle, is the above Nankinmachi public square. There’s a gazebo in the middle of the space, and in front of it are two statues called Kozai-shin Ningyo. These figures are gods of money, and legend has it that if you touch them you’ll become happy. There are usually a lot of people in Nankinmachi during holidays. Even on weekdays, it’s especially crowded during meal times. You can sit in this gazebo and take a rest, but it’s always crowded with people taking short breaks or whatever. If it’s open, then that’s pretty lucky. You should definitely buy something to snack on and take a break here if you can.

By the way, the area facing the public square has the buta-man shop called Roshioki, which is often featured in the media. It always has a line so it’s not easy to get one, but I recommend trying it at least once!

Garyoden, the back alley-located yet must-see building, is actually...?

kobe’s chinatown: how to best explore nankinmachi and try the food | garyoden, the back alley-located yet must-see building, is actually...?

In Nankinmachi, in addition to the main street, there are surprising shops and other hidden attractions located right off on back alleys.

What do you think the building in this picture is? It’s a short way down an inconspicuous back alley off of the main street.

The answer: restroom.

This public toilet is called Garyoden (臥龍殿) and it has a an exterior with a Chinese style design. Of course, even on the inside, the restroom doors have a pretty flashy Chinese style, so you should definitely check it out at least once. From the outside, you can see a Paper Mache dragon displayed in a glass case. This is a dragon that’s used in the Chinese New Year Festival. The name Garyoden, is taken from the image of a dragon lying in wait for the Chinese New Year Festival.

The Nankinmachi back alleys also have kitschy general stores where you can get items like panda goods, China dresses, Chinese-style accessories, and more. It’s also fun to just see what you can find here.

Finally, Choan-mon Gate, the east entrance

finally, choan-mon gate, the east entrance

Lastly, Choan-mon Gate, the east entrance. It’s a sight to see at night. Like the Seian-mon Gate, the Choan-mon Gate at the Nankinmachi east entrance is illuminated at night. Along with being a lively spot, it’s also a uniquely gorgeous place.

This picture was during Nankinmachi’s best festival, the Chinese New Year festival. The Chinese New Year is a festival which celebrates New Year’s Day on the old lunar calendar. Every year, for a period of about one week in early February, this grand festival is held in Nankinmachi. During the festival period, there are dragon dances, lion dances, parades and more, making it the area’s liveliest time of the year.

A nice afternoon at Nankinmachi

Well, I’ve shared with you a way to enjoy a walk though Kobe’s Chinatown, Nankinmachi, but what did you think? Nankinmachi’s location is a little south of Kobe’ Motomachi Station, so it’s also close to places like Haborland and the Bay Area. It’s a spot where you can do sightseeing in a short amount of time and also experience a different side of the city, so if you’re going to check out Kobe you should definitely drop by.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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