Chinatown in Kobe

Many scholars conducting doing important research regarding the diversification of Japanese society which has intensified in recent years for a variety of economic, social and cultural reasons. While these contemporary developments are important, we must also remember that ethnic diversity in Japan does have a significant history, and Chinatowns like this one in Kobe – called Nankinmachi, or Nanjing-town. Chinatowns across Japan have been hubs of commercial and leisure activity, especially since 1868 when the Meiji government lifted many restrictions regarding international trade and travel. In the early days of Japan's internationalisation, foreigners and their commercial activity were limited to designated areas, often near ports, like Yokohama's Chūkagai (literally, a Chinese shopping area).

One aspect of my recording experience on this day was the linguistic variation in the sonic environment. I heard many retail employees interacting with colleagues, clients and customers in both Chinese and Japanese, moving quickly between the two languages. Some had accents in Japanese; others spoke with native fluency. In the shops and the streets, Japanese and Chinese words mingle and flow in an out of overhead conversations on the street.

Explore Sonic Japan

More in Kobe

More on streetscapes

Recent posts

Premodern Sonic Security Systems: the Nightingale Floor

Wed Nov 13 2019 by Carolyn Stevens

This a recording of a temple located in Ohara, just outside Kyoto, named Sanzenin. An important site for the Tendai school of Buddhism, this large complex houses many artistic and religious treasures. One of the compound buildings featured a uguisubari (translated as ‘nightingale floor’). This kind of flooring was...>>

Kyoto Jazz Club

Wed Jul 10 2019 by Carolyn Stevens

Last May I travelled to Japan to participate in Professor Hosokawa's 'Otomimikai' (sound and listening research group) at Nichibunken, and as luck would have it, I was there at same time as Professor Merry I White from Boston University. Many know her work Coffee Life in Japan and Perfectly...>>

Pokemon Go

Fri Dec 07 2018 by Richard Chenhall

Public places in the crowded streets of Shinjuku in Tokyo are usually filled with movement, talking and the sounds emanating from shops. Whilst walking through West Shinjuku, I was minding my business walking to my destination. I stopped when I saw a sea of people standing outside Yodabashi camera. There...>>