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Image: PIXTA/ まちゃー

Come walk the streets of Japan’s oldest Chinatown in Nagasaki

By Elizabeth Sok

Out of the three main Chinatowns in Japan, the Nagasaki Chinatown is the oldest. With the closing of Japan to most foreign trade from the 17th to 19th centuries, Chinese merchants were forced to trade with their Japanese counterparts from Tojin Yashiki, an area that would later develop into today’s Chinatown. While the city’s Dejima district is famous for facilitating Dutch trade during Japan’s era of seclusion, the historical Chinese Quarters had both a larger population and a greater volume of trade.

Chinatown covers about 250 square meters of the downtown core and contains roughly 40 shops and restaurants.

There are four primary entrances and each is marked by a massive gate and an accompanying guardian figure. On the north end resides a black tortoise, an azure dragon to the east, a vermillion bird on the south side and a white tiger at the western gate.

Sampling Nagasaki’s Specialty Foods

A town brimming with local flavor, literally Image: PIXTA/ K321

As you make your way around Chinatown, why not explore the restaurants for some local specialties that blend Chinese and Japanese influences? In the early 20th century, a Chinese restaurant owner created a dish drawing on Fujian cuisine that was cheap for Chinese students studying abroad in Nagasaki.

The result was chanpon, a noodle dish combining seafood, pork and vegetables in lard before being joined with thick noodles and a pork-based broth. Check out the famous main branch of Kozanro to try the popular dish!

Sara udon, another Nagasaki specialty dish, has fried vegetables, such as bean sprouts, Chinese cabbage and other vegetables accompanying pork and seafood on a bed of fried noodles. Pop into the Taiwanese restaurant Lao Lee to taste the rich flavors of this nostalgic dish.

Nagasaki Lantern Festival

Click here to read more.

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The Nagasaki Lantern Festival is one of my favourite festivals. The lanterns are gorgeous and cover a pretty large area from Chinatown, through Hamamachi to the Meganebashi over the Nakashima River. Before the Lantern Festival, and actually just started, is the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) where Chinatown is decorated with yellow lanterns. I always found them calming to look at. Best noodles I had in Nagasaki were not in Chinatown though; that honour would have to go to a small place called “Heiwarou” (平和楼) on a side street off Hamamachi. Their dandan noodles are out of this world!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Nagasaki is great but the airport is a bit far from the city (as it is everywhere in Kyushu other than the wonderful airport in Fukuoka).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yes, you are right I forgot about Liverpool the first Chinatown in Europe.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

NY and SF are good too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The best Chinese New Year dinner I had was in Chinatown in London. We went to 11 different restaurants and each one had the dish of the house.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The best Chinatown is in London.

Nope. It's in NYC.

Both wrong. It's in Liverpool. The oldest one in Europe.

Wallace should know this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

.....That said, I've never been to the NYC one so I might be being a bit hasty

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The best Chinatown is in London.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


The best Chinatown is in London.

Nope. It's in NYC.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

NYC Chinatown is pretty dirty and kind of disgusting. But that's probably cause most of NYC is that way. San Fran is a bit nicer. Both Chinatowns in Nagasaki and Yokohama are nicer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I’ve been to Nagasaki’s Chinatown. Shops shut down early in the evening. The Chinatowns in Yokohama, Honolulu and San Francisco are much larger. But I must say it is quaint at and compact

1 ( +1 / -0 )

NYC Chinatown is pretty dirty and kind of disgusting. But that's probably cause most of NYC is that way.

This might be a bit controversialist, but isn't that how they should be?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's in Liverpool.

Weren't / Aren't they developing a new Chinatown in Liverpool? I saw a walled-off construction site and some posters last time I was there (some seven years ago).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's ok but still chutohanpa.

Best avoid.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Way overrated in my opinion and too small. Hoboken New Jersey has a larger Chinatown. Some good food though and nice people are always fluent in Japanese and fun to practice Mandarin with.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

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