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Chinatown, Kobe

last update: November 13, 2020
When the port of Kobe was opened to international trade in 1868 (along with Yokohama, Nagasaki e Hakodate), many foreigners began to arrive in the city, most of whom were Chinese who settled in present-day Chinatown. This area is still today the 2nd largest chinatown in Japan after the Yokohama's Chinatown. In Japanese, the area is usually called Nankinmachi (南京 町), a word deriving from Nankin, a term that translates the name of the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Things to see and things to do in Chinatown, Kobe

Like all Japanese chinatowns, Kobe is nowadays not only a neighborhood for the local Chinese community, but also a major tourist attraction.
It is a very particular area where you can simply go for a walk surrounded by an enchanting traditional oriental atmosphere, taste some snacks from the various food stalls and have lunch or dinner in one of the countless Chinese restaurants.
kobe chinatown nankinmachi kobe chinatown nankinmachi
There are two main streets, crossing each other at the center of the neighborhood, in a sort of square (Nankinmachi Square, 南京町広場) which is also the most popular place among people to meet each other in Chinatown. In the middle of the square there is a picturesque gazebo where you can also sit if you are lucky enough to find it free. In front of the gazebo there are two statues called Kozai-shin Ningyo, depicting deities related to money, and people say that touching them brings good luck.
the gazebo in Nankinmachi Square
The neighborhood is very small, the longest main road is just under 300 meters long and is marked, to the east and west, by two Chinese-style entrance gates (called Choanmon Gate and Seianmon Gate respectively). A third smaller gate marks the south entrance (Kaieimon Gate).
kobe chinatown nankinmachi east gate the Choanmon Gate
Restaurants are open for both lunch and dinner, generally until 9 pm. This is not a nightlife area, so after dinner time almost everything will be closed. Shops also close earlier, around 7 pm. The most lively hours of the day are between 5 pm and 8 pm, especially on friday and saturday.

Where to stay in Chinatown, Kobe

The Kobe Motomachi Tokyu REI Hotel is the only hotel that can be considered practically inside the Chinatown of Kobe, next to one of the three entrance gates (Choanmon Gate).
The location is really great, just 2 minutes walk from JR Motomachi station, 5 minutes walk from Meriken Park and 1 km walk from JR Sannomiya station.
The hotel's interiors are bright and modern, with a beautiful jazz-themed lounge and free tea for guests all day long. Comfortable rooms and all in all spacious considering the Japanese standards. All the qualities described above, together with their very affordable prices, starting from 5000¥ for a single and 6000¥ for a double room, make the Kobe Motomachi Tokyu REI Hotel one of the most recommended hotels where to stay in Kobe.

Eating in Chinatown, Kobe

While walking around chinatown you will see dozens and dozens of restaurants, one next to the other, with their inviting menus in front of the door. It is really difficult to choose one. You can opt for one of these two techniques: 1) Choose the most crowded places, where you see the longest queues, and waiting calmly for your turn; 2) Make a completely random choice, since almost all restaurants are good and it is difficult for any of you to know Chinese cuisine so well to being able to appreciate the subtle differences that may exist between one restaurant and another.

Among the most famous places, we recommend Shao Shao Shinen (小小心縁), a Cantonese restaurant, and Roushouki (老詳記) for its nikuman (in this region also called butaman), steamed buns stuffed with pork meat and other ingredients.

How to get to Chinatown, Kobe

The nearest station is Motomachi station along the JR Kobe line, and also served by the Hanshin Main Line (in a separate building). The west exit of Motomachi station is located just 150 meters from the heart of Nankinmachi.

The center of Kobe can be easily explored on foot. You can quickly reach Chinatown on foot from Meriken Park (400 meters), from Sannomiya (1 km) and also from Kitano (2 km).

Map of Chinatown, Kobe

Guided tours, activities and other things to do

If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Rakuten Travel Experiences.

How to use Rakuten Travel Experiences

Rakuten Travel is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
Thanks to Rakuten Travel you can find a lot of interesting and sometimes unique guided tours and activities all over Japan (and not only in Japan), that you would otherwise never be able to enjoy.
But there's more: on Rakuten Travel you can also buy tickets for several famous attractions, events, transportation and other useful services for tourists. Last but not least, you can reserve a table in hundreds of restaurants.

Some examples

Take a look at Rakuten Travel Experiences

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