When I visited the vibrant Yokohama Chinatown in September this year, this particular Chinese School captured my attention. The location of the school is oddly tucked away at some out-of-the way spot right in the middle of the commercial street of Chinatown in between the numerous restaurants and merchandize shops. The school is adjacent to the Kuan-Ti Miao temple (or Kantei-Byo), where visitors were busy snapping pictures amidst the lingering smoke emanating from joss sticks. The only visible signs indicating the existence of this school is a narrow tall blue gate and a few unassuming words reading Yokohama Chinese School (横浜中華學院). Laughter of school kids can be heard from behind the inconspicuous gate, mixing with the high-pitched shouts of shop owners trying to attract customers, and the excited noise of bustling tourists.
Researches from the internet reveal some of these interesting facts; The Yokohama Chinese School was established by the famous Dr Sun Yat Sen, the world renowned revolutionary and the founding father of the Republic of China. In the 1890s, Sun Yat-sen’s plot to overthrow the Qing government failed, and he was defected to Japan. It was during this exile period that Dr Sun Yat-sen established the Yokohama Chinese School in year 1897, upon being requested to do so by the local Chinese at Yokohama. Throughout the years, the school experienced various dramatic and devastating events, from the major Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, destructive bombings during World War 2, political tension between the supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party faction and the supporters of the Chinese Communist Party, to the final splitting of the school into two in around 1953. A new school called Yokohama Yamate Chinese School was established by the Chinese Communist Party’s supporters, after some drastic riot and forceful occupation of the compound of Yokohama Chinese School were carried out.
(See more interesting facts about the school in Mandarin in their official website here)
Yokohama Chinatown is located just a few steps away from the exit of Motomachi-Chukagai station. Four vividly coloured and intricately designed Chinese-style gates mark each of the cardinal points of entry into the Chinatown. Each of the gate faces one compass direction and was built around the Kuan Ti-Miao temple, based on the principle of Fengshui.
Today, the Yokohama Chinatown is home to 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese with presence of around 500 shops and restaurants scattered throughout the district.
There are at least 5 reasons why I think Yokohama Chinatown is unique in its own way, apart from the fact that it is the largest Chinatown in Japan and Asia.
(1) This is one of the rare places in Japan where you can constantly hear Japanese language being spoken in very strong Chinese accent.
(2) This is perhaps the only Chinatown in the world where you can see a Hello Kitty dressed in a panda suit. Yokohama Chinatown is possibly the only place in Japan with such large number of panda-bear merchandize.
(3) This is the only Chinatown in the world where you can see cute little Chinese pastries and confectionaries being dressed up in some dainty Japanese packages. Beautiful Japanese-style of displaying samples were adopted.
(4) Yokohama Chinatown is reputed as being the most orderly and cleanest Chinatown in the world.
(5) And last but not least, this is the best place in Japan to get decent and cheap authentic Chinese food. From spicy Szechuan delicacies to Shanghai cuisine, with aroma from the Beijing steaming buns and Hong Kong dim sum wafting throughout the streets- this is the Chinese paradise where one can really be spoilt for choice!
From Tokyo, take the Tokyu Toyoko Line (東急東橫線) from Shibuya Station to Motomachi Chukagai Station (stay on board of the train when reached Yokohama Station. The line’s name will change to Manato Mirai Line at Yokohama Station, and the same train will continue all the way to the Motomachi Chukagai Station). 460 yen per one way journey, takes around 40 minutes.
Yokohama Chinatown is a few steps away from the exit of Motomachi-Chukagai station.