Little Tokyo: A nocturnal crawl through Saigon’s Japanese ghetto (photo essay)

words and photos by Simon Stanley

Having first arrived in the early 1990s, the Japanese community in Ho Chi Minh City today is one of the largest and longest-standing expat groups, giving way to an entire neighbourhood of sushi joints, whisky bars, closed-door massage parlours and sex-starved salarymen.

Japan town 1 - S Stanley

For the full story, as published by Rice Media, click here.

Japan town 4 - S Stanley

This is Little Tokyo—or “the ghetto” as it is often known—the hub of Saigon’s Japanese community, a microcosm of Nippon culture packed into a maze of narrow alleyways and concrete passages strung together with makeshift lights and thick tangled cabling…

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When it comes to Japan’s national dish, the area around Le Thanh Ton Street is home to some of the best sushi and sashimi restaurants you’re likely to find in Vietnam…

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Between the manga figurines and polished ashtrays lined up on the countertop, sits a selection of imported (and technically illegal) Tenga male masturbation aids.

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The ghetto is best experienced with a crawl; a slow and steady exploration of the neighbourhood’s numerous drinking and eating establishments, each tinier, busier and tastier than the last…

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Elbow-to-elbow along the counter, the salarymen of Saigon are replacing the stress and monotony of the nine-to-five slog with beer, banter, and freshly-grilled meat skewers…

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Along with cigarette smoke and the general reek of alcohol, expect the cooking smells of this place to still be clinging to you the next day. But oh, it’s so worth it…

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The concrete alleyways glisten underfoot, freshly polished and slick with colour. Twirling a transparent umbrella and teetering on six-inch stilettos, with knockout-red lips and a smartphone clutched in her free hand, a Vietnamese spa worker steps out onto the concrete to wave and giggle at the passing menfolk…

Japan town 32 - S Stanley

One Comment Add yours

  1. phppi says:

    Wonderful photo essay. Thanks for sharing it


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