Kobe Chinatown (Nankin-machi "Nanjing town") (Japanese: 南京町; Simplified Chinese: 南京町) in Kobe, Japan is one of only three designated Chinatowns in Japan. It is located south of Motomachi station adjacent to the Daimaru Department Store and is a major tourist attraction. The area has over a hundred Chinese restaurants, shops, and a Chinese temple (関帝廟).
Unlike its counterparts in Yokohama and Nagasaki, Kobe's Nankinmachi sets itself apart as being the most colorful and foreign-looking Chinatown in all of Japan.
Nankinmachi originated in 1868, when Kobe's port was opened to foreigners including Chinese immigrants from Canton, Fukien, and Samgong (Guangzhou, Fujian, Sanjiang). The newcomers settled in the western end of Kobe's foreign district, which soon became the focal point for subsequent Chinese migrants. During that time, the Chinese people were referred to as "people from Nanking" by the Japanese, hence the name "Nankinmachi" (Nanking Town). By the early 1920s, Nankinmachi was a vibrant area bustling with businesses, restaurants, and homes. That all changed, however, during the next two decades when many Chinese returned to China in response to Japan's expansion of Northeastern China, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and World War II. Destroyed during the allied bombings of Kobe, Nankinmachi was re-built after the war by the remaining Chinese community that stayed behind. In 1995, it was severely damaged during the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It was quickly re-built, and once again thrives as the center of Chinese culture and activity throughout the Kansai region. There are currently 10,000 people residing in Kobe's Chinatown.
Like other Chinatowns throughout the world, Nankinmachi is not only an area for the Chinese community, but also a tourist attraction. The important role it plays in Kobe's cultural landscape was demonstrated in 1985 by the erection of an archway, Changan Gate (長安門). Subsequent projects include the addition of a pair of lions, granite floors, and other initiatives. Three archways demarcate Nankinmachi proper: Changan Gate in the east, Xian Gate to the west, and Nanluo Gate from the south. There is no archway at the northern entrance, which is guarded by a pair of lions. A pavilion with stone carvings of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs marks the intersecting point of the north-south/east-west axis of Nankinmachi. This is a popular resting place for visitors, as well as a favorite spot for taking photographs.
Many establishments such as mahjong clubs and souvenir shops abound throughout Nankinmachi, but none are as prevalent as food businesses. Along the streets of Nankinmachi are restaurants and stalls that serve both Chinese Japanese food, Western steak houses as well.
Most shops show off their cuisine on display stands for potential customers. Some examples include dim sum, dumplings, buns, and Chinese pastries. During the Lunar New Year and the Mid Autumn season, two major festivals celebrated by Chinese people worldwide, New Year's delicacies and Moon Cakes appear.