Travel

Japan Town

A piece of the Far East in Ho Chi Minh City

Long referred to by expats in Ho Chi Minh City as the ghetto, this enclave in the centre of town offers a small taste of Japan in Vietnam

words: MATTHEW COWAN   |   photos: OLGA ROZENBAJGIER

 

It’s the stuff of B-grade Hollywood martial arts films from the 80s — a Japanese enclave in the heart of a heaving city in the Far East with dark alleyways lit by flickering neon lights, dingy little noodle shops and seedy massage parlours open till the wee hours of the morning. Not quite that good but close enough is Saigon’s own Japan Town hemmed in by Thai Van Lung, Le Thanh Ton and Ngo Van Nam streets in District 1. By day it’s a sleepy hollow. By night, it’s an energetic above ground warren of food, drink and entertainment options catering mostly for Japanese clientele who miss the comforts of home. We present The Ghetto. Dozo!

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It’s not hard to find a massage or karaoke joint around the clock in the ghetto

 

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Cheeky cosplay establishments abound

 

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The word is already out. We could tell you what’s in there, but then we’d have to kill you

 

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Not just Japanese. The Koreans are moving in too

 

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There are scores of places to hide away from the world in the ghetto

 

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Behind closed doors. It’s common to find young Vietnamese cooks learning the finer art of Japanese cuisine preparation

 

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Look for places offering nomihodai — Japanese for free-flow drinks

 

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On watch. Nothing much goes unnoticed in the ghetto

 

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Japanese kaunta ba — in English ‘counter bar’ — small night spots where patrons sit at the bar and order directly from hostesses

 

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Late night snack. Takoyaki street-side

 

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Contemplation at the end of another shift

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