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

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...>>

Nishijin, Kyoto

Fri Dec 07 2018 by Carolyn Stevens

One of the pleasures of academia is working with doctoral students whose projects extend their supervisors' knowledge about their area of expertise. Dr. Jenny Hall introduced me to the sensory experiences of traditional textile making and design as per her dissertation thesis, Tradition and Innovation in Textile Production and Design...>>

Week Day Park

Wed Feb 07 2018 by Carolyn Stevens

Public space is notable for its sounds as well as its silences, and this shifts over temporal and seasonal changes. We would expect that this small park in the heart of Kyoto would sound differently at night than during the day, but the differences between week days and week ends...>>