District in China Has Japan Written All over It

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The main street of the Shokubancho area in Foshan in China’s Guangdong Province was designed to resemble a Japanese shopping district. It has gained popularity among many of its visitors, who come to enjoy the atmosphere.

BEIJING — A street in the southern Chinese city of Foshan, Guangdong Province, made to resemble a Japanese shopping district, opened back in August and has been capturing the interest of local residents. Although some have criticized the project as “glorifying Japan,” the street is full of people wanting to experience a Japanese atmosphere during a time when travel overseas is restricted because of the novel coronavirus.

A number of signs written in Japanese are posted along the roughly 100-meter-long street that includes some resembling the ones found in subway stations and Japanese traffic signs.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman takes a selfie in front of a road sign. Photos taken by visitors are often posted on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, increasing the street’s popularity.

While there are streets in Japan that resemble those of foreign countries, the level of interest in Japan seen here was surprising. There were even some areas that seemed a bit out of place, such as a large signboard that simply read “tanoshii [fun].”

It seems that although the street was originally dubbed Ichibancho (First Avenue), it was later renamed Shifan Ding Street (Food Avenue), and the kanji for “ichiban” have been covered up. Other kanji that were seemingly taken from a famous Japanese video game were also modified. It’s unclear if these changes were made in response to criticism about glorifying Japan or rights-related issues.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
At the entrance of the street, the kanji for “ichiban” are covered with a sheet as workers put up the new street name.

A seemingly never-ending number of visitors could be seen taking photos in front of the Japanese signs.

“Since I can’t visit Japan because of the pandemic, I want to enjoy the feeling of traveling here,” said one local resident.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman poses for a photo next to a car featuring a Yokohama license plate. A line of visitors wait their turn nearby.