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.

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