Japan is not a very culturally diverse place, but I am fortunate that I live in Kobe. Kobe is considered relatively diverse, by Japanese standards anyway. For this reason there is a large enough Chinese population here to warrant a Chinatown. I’ve always enjoyed walking through Chinatown – it’s lively and festive; and the food is good and the shops are cheap. When I read that there was a Chinese New Year celebration this week I decided I wanted to go!
According to the information on the Chinatown web site (which I had to have translated via google translate because it was all in Japanese), there would be dancing and possibly a dragon ceremony. I had experienced Chinese dance in Hong Kong, but I definitely wanted to see the Dragon ceremony!
I took the train to Motomachi, got off and started walking to Chinatown. That’s when it hit me: all festivals in Japan are ridiculously crowded which makes them bad experiences for me. I always forget this! Japanese crowds surpass American crowds… I would have been able to handle the festival in the US, but there are just SO MANY PEOPLE in Japan! I did two loops through Chinatown, then left. If I hadn’t been half a foot taller than most people in Japan I probably wouldn’t have seen any of the performances. People were still very polite even though we were packed onto the streets like sardines, but I just enjoy more personal space than I was allowed.
If a festival in Japan is something you may be interested in, make sure you go early, and plan on being there all day without moving much – it will be crowded but you won’t have to worry about pickpockets or rude people because, after all, it’s still Japan!