It doesn’t matter how many people have said it before, there’s simply nothing like visiting Japan. The neon lights, the enthusiasm and the utter quirkiness aren’t lost on anyone, and with Japan still closed to most visitors, travelers from all around the world are lamenting lost opportunities to visit this year. And yeah, the food is good too.
In China, one city is turning the sadness of lost travel into opportunity, creating a knock off “ichinbangai” Japanese shopping street, and people are going nuts before its official opening.
Foshan’s “Japanese” Street
According to the South China Morning Post, a 100m long street in Foshan, a prefecture of Guangdong, China is now a Japanese shopping street in every way, shape and form, except physical geography. The street signs are now in Japanese, there’s a Sakura tree, and even Japanese lanterns adorn the street. The brands are predictably Japanese, or based on anime too.
Young people are lapping it up, thanks to viral TikTok posts, coming from cities all over the region, including Guangzhou and Zhuhai to take in “Ichiban Street”, and it’s not even technically open.
The street is yet to officially open, but already shows signage for Tokyo landmarks including the Ginza line and Shibuya Station and everything down to road markings and traffic lights are modeled after Japan. If you woke up from a dream and landed in the middle of the 100m street, you’d be hard pressed to know you weren’t actually in Japan.
It’s all the wild and wonderful creation of a local property developer who looked to quell travel blues with a bit of Japanese inspiration. That inspiration is now bringing 1,000’s to the otherwise quiet part of town.
Due to the unprecedented and somewhat unexpected success, the street is already becoming more authentically Japanese than originally planned, with 2nd and 3rd floor stores being leased by the day, after all ground floor locations sold out in mere days. It’s only a matter of time before matcha latte’s and Harajuku couture take over.
Japan is famous for vertical shopping, with travelers often missing key shops by simply looking on the ground level, rather than walking up the stairs to the numerous shops, or secret bars, in each building.
With few visitors eligible to visit China now, or for the foreseeable future, it’ll be a race to see whether outsiders are allowed back into Japan for the real thing, or into China for this incredible knock off, first. Either way, it’s a brilliant way to keep the feeling of travel inspiration alive.