Kobe Chinatown Nankin-Machi Travel Guide

Kobe Chinatown Nankin-Machi Travel Guide

Settled amidst the vibrant cityscape of Kobe, Japan, lies an emblem of cultural fusion and heritage – Nankin-machi, Kobe’s vibrant Chinatown.

Tucked within a bustling urban setting, Nankin-machi, which means “Southern Capital,” is a showcase of the Chinese diaspora’s impact on the local scene. With its rich history, vibrant streets, and tantalizing culinary offerings, Nankin-machi is a must-visit for every traveler.


The birth of Nankin-machi traces back to the late 19th century, when Kobe port was one of the first to be opened for foreign trade. Chinese merchants were quick to establish their presence in Kobe, creating a residential area that would eventually transform into the vibrant Chinatown we know today. The district earned its name Nankin-machi, reflecting the Chinese migrants’ roots in Nanjing.

Despite the historical challenges it faced, such as the World War II bombings and the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake, Nankin-machi showed remarkable resilience, bouncing back with renewed strength and vitality each time.

Location and Accessibility

Nankin-machi is conveniently located in Kobe’s central district, situated between Motomachi Station and Kobe Harbor. The district is pedestrian-friendly, allowing visitors to explore the area at their own pace. Signs in English and Japanese make it accessible for non-Japanese speakers.

What to Expect

Upon entering Nankin-machi, you will be greeted by vibrant red and gold paifang (traditional Chinese gates), marking the north and south entrances.

These gates are symbolic of traditional Chinese culture, their vivid colors exuding an aura of energy and prosperity.

Nankin-machi’s vibrant streets, lined with around a hundred shops and restaurants, are a riot of colors, smells, and sounds. From the murmur of locals haggling to the sizzle of stir-fries, every corner of Nankin-machi brims with life and activity. Lanterns hanging from shop fronts and traditional Chinese arches spanning the streets add to the charm of the district.

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Culinary Delights

Nankin-machi is a veritable paradise for food lovers. From street food to high-end restaurants, the district offers a variety of gastronomic delights.

The famous Kobe beef, prepared Chinese style, is a must-try for meat lovers. Various dumplings, such as jiaozi and xiaolongbao, are among the favorites. For dessert, try the mooncakes or the candied fruits.

Several food stalls offer “food walks,” where you can walk around the district, sampling different dishes. Whether you’re into sweet or savory, spicy or mild, there’s a culinary adventure waiting for you in Nankin-machi.

Cultural Immersion

Visiting Nankin-machi is akin to stepping into a slice of China. The district’s architecture bears significant Chinese influence, with intricate decorations, bold colors, and unique motifs. You can spot several Chinese Zodiac statues spread around the district, adding a touch of mythical allure to the area.

During certain times of the year, such as Chinese New Year or the Mid-Autumn festival, the district comes alive with cultural celebrations. Dragons and lion dances, vibrant parades, and the glow of countless lanterns turn the streets into a spectacle of color and activity.

Souvenir Shopping

Shopping in Nankin-machi offers a mix of traditional and modern items. From Chinese tea sets to silken garments, you can find a variety of souvenirs and gifts. If you’re a fan of Feng Shui, check out the shops selling Feng Shui items. They also sell Chinese medicinal herbs and various trinkets associated with Chinese culture and beliefs.

Visiting the Kobe International Plaza

Don’t miss the Kobe International Plaza located in Nankin-machi. This three-story building houses a variety of shops and restaurants. On the third floor, you’ll find a Chinese Museum showcasing the history and culture of Chinese immigrants in Kobe.

Relax at the Plaza

At the center of Nankin-machi lies a quaint plaza, home to a beautiful stone Chinese pavilion. Take a moment to rest here, absorb the lively ambiance, and watch street performers who often showcase their talents in this public space.

Nankin-machi, Kobe’s Chinatown, offers a beautiful fusion of cultures and a testament to the enduring resilience and influence of the Chinese community in Kobe. From the food and the shopping to the vibrant festivals and immersive history, Nankin-machi is a world in its own right. A day spent in this lively enclave is sure to be a day filled with delight, discovery, and lasting memories. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, food lover, history enthusiast, or just a curious wanderer, Nankin-machi welcomes you with open arms and countless treasures to uncover.