A Japanese-themed street in China’s Guangdong province has become a hit with young people unable to travel abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 100m-long road in Foshan city called Ichiban Street has been outfitted by a local property developer to resemble famous commercial streets in Japan, complete with a sakura tree, an icon of Japan.
Ichibangai is a term used to describe large shopping streets in Japan, with one of the most famous located at the entrance to Kabukicho in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Japanese lanterns have been hung along the street in Foshan, while buildings have been fitted with an array of signboards written in Japanese. Even the traffic lights, street signs and road markings are modelled on those used in Japan.
Many of the neon signs refer to Japanese anime characters such as Astro Boy, Inuyasha and Sailor Moon, which are popular in China.
The street is still being outfitted and has not officially opened, but word has spread quickly via social media and locals are flocking to the area to take a look.
“I saw the video of the street via Douyin [the Chinese version of TikTok] and came from Guangzhou to take photos,” said a man in his 20s who declined to give his name.
“This Japanese street looks very interesting. I was in Japan last year. Standing on this street, it really feels like being on those streets in Japan.”
Li Gengyu, an independent architectural designer based in Guangzhou, said the “exotic” street was attracting young people from nearby cities like Guangzhou, Zhongshan and Zhuhai.
“Now, because of the pandemic, we can’t go anywhere overseas, so it’s quite interesting to see local youth come here to feel like they are going abroad,” Li said.
Li believed the street would soon become famous thanks to the friendly relationship that currently exists between China and Japan.
“Most of the younger Chinese generation like many things about Japanese culture and design,” he said. “And compared to the tension between China and the West, we recognise the friendship between China and Japan.”
The street is also turning out to be good for local businesses, too.
“All the shops on this street have been rented out in just two months,” said Zhong Guangsheng, who invested 500,000 yuan (US$73,000) to open a cafe named Flower Farmer on the road. “And the rental price for the second and third floors is soaring because it’s becoming so popular.
“Landlords weren’t aware of copyright protections at first and just copycatted signs from well-known Japanese brands.
“In the past couple of days, they have actually been busy rectifying the signs, after seeing a growing number of tourists come, including foreigners.”
This article Chinese, unable to travel abroad, are flocking to a mock Japanese street in Guangdong first appeared on South China Morning Post