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The Top 5 JapanTowns In This World

Updated on November 20, 2015
Nihonmachi cherry blossom festival
Nihonmachi cherry blossom festival | Source

Living the Japanese Dream outside of Japan

Sure, you've heard of Chinatown. But have you ever thought about going to a Japantown?

For people like me who have had the chance to go to Japan and experience the culture shock it has to offer, it is an unspoken mission to go and find places outside of Japan that can offer a similar Japanese feeling.

Back in the day when I went, there weren't many Japanese restaurants around, Bubble Tea was not even a thing in the Mangas I read, and finding classes in the many Japanese arts was a tedious search.

Today, if you searched for a Japanese restaurant in town, google will most likely be able to point one out to you. However, finding the original Japanese taste can still be a tough call. One Ramen is not like the other. Besides food, you might not even be able to practice your Japanese language skills on the waiters since they are very often of some other Asian origin.

What better place to go and have the real deal than one of the many Japantowns in this world, also called Nihonmachi and Little Tokyo? Japanese people selling imported and home cooked Japanese goodies. Wikipedia has a great list of probably all Japantowns in this world. Below you find my top 5 picks, I can highly recommend of visiting.

Peace Pagoda in Japantown
Peace Pagoda in Japantown | Source

San Francisco, USA

Probably the best known Little Tokyo there is. With over 50 restaurants and other places to eat as well as 50 other Japanese shopping opportunities and a dozen entertainment venues, it is clearly a top 5 destination. The best part of all: it features a Hot Spring! Almost every picture of Japantown San Francisco shows its main landmark - the Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist building sponsored by its Japanese sister city Osaka in the 60ies.

San Francisco Japantown
San Francisco Japantown | Source
Little Tokyo in Duesseldorf
Little Tokyo in Duesseldorf | Source

Duesseldorf, GERMANY

Right by Duesseldorf's main train station awaits a long street called Immermannstrasse full of Japanese restaurants. There are about 3 book stores, the Nikko hotel and a Manga cafe featuring local Artists to check out as well. Little Tokyo is the biggest Japantown in Europe and host to the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe as well. Check out the Japanese garden.

Japanese garden and tempel in Duesseldorf
Japanese garden and tempel in Duesseldorf | Source
Japantown in Sao Paulo
Japantown in Sao Paulo | Source

São Paulo, BRAZIL

Nothing less expected from a city with the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and the largest population with Japanese inheritance. It came as a big surprise to me when Japanese people told me they either wanted to go and visit India or Brazil as their top travel destination. The gate (Torii) that marks the entrance to this Nihonmachi is a beautiful reminder of all those Toriis in Japan.

Torii in Sao Paulo
Torii in Sao Paulo | Source
Little Tokyo Watchtower
Little Tokyo Watchtower | Source

Los Angeles, USA

A highly visually attractive Japantown is located in a second US city, Little Tokyo Los Angeles, hosting the largest Japanese American population in America. Unsurprisingly, not one but over 5 Buddhist temple can be found here as well as the Japanese American National Museum. Can you imagine that there were already about 3500 Japanese people in this Little Tokyo 100 years ago? Apparently the whole city of Los Angeles was host to 10.000 Japanese immigrants by that time.

Buddhist temple in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo
Buddhist temple in Los Angeles, Little Tokyo | Source
Entrance to Japantown in San Jose
Entrance to Japantown in San Jose | Source

San Jose, USA

... and because the state of California is pretty much just a swim across the ocean, there is a third popular Japantown here. It features another Japanese American museum given its long reaching past and the World War II resettlement where Japanese were forced out of Japantown.

If you are in other parts of the world than described above

There are many Japantowns in other Asian countries, but there is only little information available, so I'm afraid I cannot feature them in my top 5. Bangkok, Thailand, for instance seems to have quite the Japanese population as well with a lovely Nihonmachi. There are some pictures available on google. Malaysia is a big hub for expatriates, too. I can imagine there'd be Japanese areas worth checking out.

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    • Lilli2go profile image
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      Lilli2go 21 months ago from London, UK

      Thanks a lot Linnea. It is actually very hard to find any information about Japantowns outside of the US. I'd really like to see some other Japantowns in Asia to see how they differ and if they adapt to local culture after all. I also wonder a lot what it would be like to live in a Japantown or even Chinatown (if they would let me....). I'd probably eat too much, hehe.

    • Linnea Lewis profile image

      Linnea Lewis 21 months ago from South Carolina, USA

      How interesting. Indeed you hear much more about ChinaTowns than about JapanTowns. Thank you for an interesting hub.