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Lunar New Year in Kobe’s Chinatown

Chinese New Year - Nankinmachi

As one of the three biggest Chinatowns in Japan, Kobe’s Nankinmachi Chinese New Year celebration is an experience you shouldn’t miss. The New Year Spring Festival, ‘Shunsetsu,’ has been held at Kobe Nankinmachi since 1987, and it is one of the port city’s liveliest events of the year. For around a week in February, the whole Chinatown area is bustling with activity and celebrations to ring in the new year. Whether you’re into parades, ritual dances, martial arts, acrobatics, or even just some authentic Chinese cuisine, there is certainly something for everyone during the festival.

This year, the date of the Chinese New Year is Monday, February 8th, but various performances and parades will also be happening throughout the days leading up to the 8th, so feel free to get started early! On the 8th, the celebration truly begins at 10:30 a.m. with a prayer for safety, and then the opening ceremony kicks the festival off at 11:00 a.m. After that, it’s full celebratory mode for Nankinmachi. Various cultural performances occur throughout the day at the center pavilion, which will be the main stage for the festival. Some performances include: lion dances, T’ai-chi, traditional music, and face-changing acrobatics.

The real highlight of the festival, however, is the historical personnage parade, where locals dress up in makeup and clothes from the Beijing Opera. The presentation of these colorful characters and their intricate floats occurs after the opening ceremony on February 8th. Don’t worry if you miss the first presentation, though, as the parade occurs once more in the evening of the same day starting between 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. The colorful parade passes through Nankinmachi and then moves on to Motomachi shopping street and Sannomiya center street, so there will be ample space to secure a good view of the presentation.

One of the most exciting aspects of this festival is how long it lasts. Things don’t calm down after the official day is over. Instead, the celebration continues with a new vitality in the days following. Throughout the week of February 9-11, prepare to get your fill of more traditional Chinese performances and experiences lasting from 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Many local cultural exchange programs participate in the event, and they provide truly authentic performances. Don’t worry, if you get tired from an afternoon of lively shows, you can always take a break in one of Nankinmachi’s 100 different Chinese food restaurants and shops.

On the final day of the festival, February 11th, a lion dance marks the conclusion of the New Year’s events for 2016. The dance will be performed by two separate groups in the evening of the 11th. With multiple days and various events scheduled, Kobe’s Chinatown is a perfect place to get into the spirit of the Chinese New Year. Be sure to head over to Nankinmachi during the week of February 8th to experience any part of this exciting display of Chinese history and tradition.

Nankinmachi Chinese New Year Spring Festival:

Where: Nankinmachi a five minute walk south of JR Motomachi Station, Samaemachi-dori/Motomachi-dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe (Google map)
When: Official New Year – February 8, 2016. Festivities begin February 5, 2016 and last until February 11, 2016. (Dates subject to change due to weather).
Admission: Free
Telephone: 078-332-2896 (Nankinmachi Shopping District Promotion Association)
Official Website (Japanese): www.nankinmachi.or.jp/
Reference Website (English): www.jnto.go.jp/eng/…

By Ogiyoshisan (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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