Sitting in central Yokohama, the second biggest neighbourhood in Tokyo, is Yokohama Chukagai, also known as Yokohama’s Chinatown. In 1859, Yokohama opened up as a port to welcome foreign trade, and with it came an influx of traders from neighbouring China. During the years that followed, many traders set up shop in Yokohama and brought with them cultural influence that continues to shape the area to this day.
Yokohama’s Chinatown is the biggest in Asia and arguably one of the biggest in the world. Filled with fascinating architecture, a rich culture, a fascinating history, spirituality and, of course, incredible food, it’s unlike any other Chinatown in the world. Only a little over 30 minutes from Shibuya by train and less than 10 minutes from central Yokohama, this Chinatown is worth a visit. Here’s a guide on some of the things you can’t miss.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Admire the city’s towering Chinese gates
As you approach the main entrance of Yokohama’s Chinatown, the first things that’ll strike you will be the towering main gates. Standing tall, welcoming all those who enter, these gates are actually a set of four lavishly crafted, gaudily coloured structures, filled with as much history as detail.
Between 1937 and 1945 Japan and China fell into a conflict known as the Second Sino-Japanese War. As tensions between the Japanese and ex-pat Chinese grew, development of Chinatown effectively halted during this time. Around a decade after the war ended in 1955, Chinatown’s growth continued and with it came the Eastern Gate, known as the ‘Goodwill Gate’, which signified peaceful relations between the Japanese and Chinese populations. Though there are a series of other gates, this one is typically considered the focal point.
Join the Chinese New Year Parade
The biggest event on Chinatown’s calendar is not surprisingly Chinese New Year. Between mid-February until early March, the area hosts an epic, if not the biggest in the nation, Chinese New Year celebration. During the Chinese New Year parade, which typically takes place during the first weekend of the celebrations, you’ll find the streets filled with colourful Chinese style dragon floats, parade goers in traditional clothing, performers, acrobats, steaming street food snacks and a lot of firecrackers.
Make a wish at the Lantern Festival
On the final few days of the Chinese New Year celebrations, one of the neighbourhood’s main temples, the Masobyo Temple, hosts the stunning lantern festival. During the event, festival goers cover hundreds of lanterns in their wishes and hopes for the new year. One sight you cant miss is the principal lantern, a collection of illuminated lanterns that form the shape of an 80-meter (262-foot) long dragon, weaving its way through the main street.
Visit the main temples
Chinatown is home to two main Chinese style temples, each with its very own unique history, design and purpose. Firstly there’s the Kanteibyo Temple, which is also commonly known as Guan Gong Temple and Emperor Guan’s Shrine. Founded in 1862, this temple is a dedication to Guan Yu, a Chinese General famous for his loyalty and righteousness, as well as business acumen. This is where locals go for good luck for their future business endeavours.
The second temple, the aforementioned Masobyo Temple, is much younger, but no less important than its older neighbour. Opening in 2006, the contemporary temple is a dedication to the fascinating Chinese shamaness and water goddess Mazu. If you’re interested in learning the way of Chinese worship, you can speak to the friendly local staff and learn the ins and outs of the religion.
These days it’s estimated that Yokohama’s Chinatown has around 3,000-4,000 residents, many of which are not Chinese immigrants themselves, but decedents from many of the original Chinese locals that set up their lives here. Although it’s gotten a little more Japanese over time, the traditional culture still lives on, especially via the way of the many commercial outlets in the area.
If you’re after tea, Chinese fruits and vegetables, or maybe you want to try baijiu, a Chinese liquor, which is in fact the most consumed spirit in the world, then you’ll find it all here in the way of small independently run grocery stores. The roads of Chinatown are flanked by gift stores, many selling good luck trinkets and traditional Chinese dresses called ‘qipao’, as well as undeniably cute panda style sweets and other goods.
Try the local cuisine
It probably goes without saying, but one of the very best things to do in Chinatown is eat. One of the neighbourhood’s must-try dishes is mabodofu, a hot, meaty, tofu-based dish that originated from the Sichuan province in China. Thanks to Japan’s undeniable mastery of tofu and China’s firm grasp on its heritage, there aren’t many places that are better for trying mabodofu than right here in Japan’s little China. Many of Chinatown’s restaurants offer incredibly cheap (especially during lunch), all-you-can-eat, yum cha style dining options, so you really can’t go wrong. The only real risk you’ll take is getting so full you can’t enjoy the many street food vendors that also offer some of the best dishes in the city.
Snack, snack, snack
Though eating while you’re walking is generally considered a social faux-pas in Japan, it’s one that never made it to Chinatown. Eating on the go here is so commonplace, it feels as though around one third of the neighbourhood’s dining options are eat-and-go places. Every few meters, you’ll find a new street vendor selling steamy nikumans (beef buns), dumplings, dim sum or panda-shaped sweets. One snack you can’t avoid trying is goma dango, a uniquely Chinese-Japanese hybrid sweet, about the size of a ping pong ball. It’s a take on dango (mochi, aka rice cakes) filled with red bean paste, fried and covered in sesame seeds. You can grab them hot individually, or get a cooled-down six-pack to enjoy later.
Chinatown, Yokohama, Yamashitacho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 231-0023
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.