Alongside Yokohama and Kobe, Nagasaki’s Shinchi-macho district is one of Japan’s three designated Chinatowns. It is also the country’s oldest, dating back from well before the Edo Period.
During Japan’s self-imposed period of national isolation, the port of Nagasaki was the only place open to foreign trade and merchants. Chinese were allowed to live in Nagasaki but segregated to specific ‘Chinese areas’ and isolated from the general public. They were allowed to worship at local temples and despite their isolation transferred many Chinese traditions and influences to the local Nagasaki culture, such as food and festivals.
In 1859, after two centuries, Japan’s period of isolation ended and the Chinese moved to Shinchi, establishing today’s Nagasaki Chinatown. The area is a popular tourist attraction with Chinese-influenced restaurants and souvenir shops.
Every year during the Lunar New Year, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is held with thousand of lanterns and elaborate displays on show throughout the city. After a long drive from Fukuoka city, we arrived just in time for the last evening of the two-week festival. They were literally taking the displays down, so we were quick to enjoy this beautiful and unique Nagasaki experience.