Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education in Japan and got her Master’s degree in March 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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When you travel to Japan as a tourist you will probably want to visit the country’s famous attractions and savor its delicious food. As you can imagine, however, many foreigners come to Japan not only to travel and go sightseeing but to live and work. People from many different countries move to Japan, and over the years people have gathered in specific areas to form their own communities. In these neighborhoods, you can obtain foods and goods that are not available in other parts of Japan, and the areas are influenced by the culture and characteristics of the people who have settled there. In this article, we will introduce some of the most interesting and fun international communities and neighborhoods to visit in Japan.
1. Shin-Okubo (Koreatown)
Shin-Okubo is a stop along the Yamanote Line, and as soon as you exit the station you will find yourself in Koreatown. Not only Korean foods such as kimchi, but also various Korean products such as cosmetics and K-pop merchandise, are sold there. The best thing to do in Shin-Okubo is to dig into some delicious Korean food. You can try Korean-style barbecued meat such as samgyeopsal as well as Korean street food items such as tteokbokki. It’s only one stop away from Shinjuku Station, so access is easy and convenient.
2. Takadanobaba (Little Myanmar)
Takadanobaba, one station away from Shin-Okubo introduced above, is one of the best places for a taste of Myanmar in Japan. Recently, Takadanobaba has been dubbed “Little Myanmar” because of the large number of Myanmar people who have settled and formed a community here, and Myanmar restaurants, beauty salons, and grocery stores have popped up throughout the neighborhood. As for food, try the famous Myanmar soul food, “mohinga noodles”, which are sold at a very reasonable price here. To dive into the world of Myanmar food and culture, don’t miss out on a visit to Takadanobaba.
3. Yokohama (Chinatown)
Chinatown has become one of Yokohama’s most famous tourist attractions, with the entire city steeped in Chinese culture and visited by many people every year. Japanese and Chinese people alike visit Yokohama Chinatown because of the variety of authentic and delicious Chinese restaurants and foodstuffs available here. There are many all-you-can-eat restaurants in Chinatown that are perfect for those with a big appetite and cravings for Chinese food. If you want to eat as you walk around and explore, nikuman (肉まん, or steamed meat buns) are sold at many places and will make for a perfect snack. These soft, freshly steamed buns are filled with juicy meat and will surely warm you up on a cold winter day!
Official website: Yokohama Chinatown
4. Nagasaki (Chinatown)
Another famous Chinatown in Japan is Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown in Nagasaki City in the Kyushu region. At its entrance, you will be greeted by a large, red Chinese-style gate. The history of Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown dates back to the mid-Edo period. It is said that this Chinatown began as a town created by reclaiming the sea to build warehouses used for storing trade goods from China. About 40 shops such as restaurants, confectionery stores, and other specialty stores related to China line the streets for around 250 meters, and the unique atmosphere makes for a fun place to explore during your visit to Nagasaki.
Official website: Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown
5. Nishi-Kasai (Little India)
Nishi-Kasai, located in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, is a well-known neighborhood with a high ratio of Indian residents – in fact, in 2014 it was estimated that people from India made up 25% of the ward’s entire population. Nishi-Kasai is easily accessed by the Tozai Line, and with a large number of apartment complexes, it’s a preferred area to live in for many people moving to Japan from India. In order to cater to its community, many Indian restaurants and stores selling Indian foodstuffs have opened in Nishi-Kasai, and the area is a highly competitive place for Indian curry restaurants. Curry is by far one of the most popular dishes in Nishi-Kasai and all the curries served here is very tasty and unique – so don’t forget to visit this area if you love Indian food!
6. Johnson Town (Americatown)
When you arrive in this town, you cannot help but wonder: “Is this really Japan?”. Located in Iruma City, Saitama Prefecture, Johnson Town is an American-style residential area built on the concept of “the good old days of the 1950s”. Johnson Town was built near the original site of the U.S. Army’s Johnson Air Force Base, which was in use until 1978, to serve as living quarters for military personnel and their families. Today, the area has been transformed into a residential area for non-military people, and many families live there. Classic American diners and cafes contribute to a retro atmosphere, and if you are interested in American culture and love the 1950s, Johnson Town is the place to visit.
Official website: Johnson Town
7. Kinshicho (Little Bangkok)
Lastly, the Tokyo neighborhood of Kinshicho is known as “Little Bangkok” as many people from Thailand live here. The Thai Education and Cultural Center has been built here, making Kinshicho the center of Tokyo’s Thai community. Many restaurants offering authentic Thai food can be found in this area, and grocery shops offer a wide variety of cooking ingredients such as cilantro and fish sauce which are indispensable in Thai cuisine. Kinshicho is frequented by many Thai and Japanese people alike for its mouthwatering food, great shops and unique Thai atmosphere.
Have any of the international communities and neighborhoods in this article piqued your interest and made it onto your must-visit list for Japan? These neighborhoods are vital for many foreigners living in Japan, giving them the option to purchase the products and savor the cuisine of their home countries, but can be equally fun to visit as a tourist. We hope you will enjoy the diversity of different cultures on your next visit to Japan!
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