Little Japan in Saigon – 15B Le Thanh Ton

Enjoying your midday walk? You might want to stop by Le Thanh Ton Street. Located in central HCMC, the 15B Le Thanh Ton Japanese residential, though small, knows just how to make itself stand out. Big welcome gates, straps of colorful lanterns overhanging the lanes, trademark Japanese-style signs – a recipe to turn any mundane neighborhood into an intoxicating one, and the Japanese folks here did perfectly to make their everyday surrounding a place for recreation, with over 20 food shops and restaurants offering not only delightful Japanese cuisine – genuine ramen and sushi to name a few – but also various Japanese comics and souvenirs spreading across the area.

The history of the formation of this so-called ‘Little Japan’ neighborhood is somewhat vague, which serves to give it even more charisma. According to a Vietnamese resident I had a chance to talk with, the Japanese came here Many years ago and just “blended in”. He also suggested that the Japanese came here looking for a place with affordable house rents and to settle down for work. As more and more Japanese people came, their business started to grow significantly and they realized the Vietnamese’s appetite for exotic dishes from their homeland, along with various other services. As of now, there are well over 300 Japanese households in the area.

Getting in touch with the Japanese here is not easy; however, as they are often busy and/or reserved. “They are always either at work or inside their houses”, said another Vietnamese who lives there, “but they do help decorate the streets and lanes with colorful lanterns and sometimes have small talks with people around, you know, to fit in”. And sure enough what he said was true, unless you venture into one of the various stores here, it is very unlikely that you are going to bump into anyone from Japan.

Be that as it may, the neighborhood still has a lot to offer, and if you’re into Japan and its various mangas and animes, or simply want to get to know another fascinating part of the city, pay a visit – the gates are always open.

To see more photos, check the open album below or go to Flickr:
Photo Album Flickr
(Please use the left/right arrows to navigate in the files of the open album)

Words and photos by Duy Nguyen

19 thoughts on “Little Japan in Saigon – 15B Le Thanh Ton”

  1. I love visiting small, yet impactful places! Le Thanh Ton Street looks like an amazing place to take a stroll down. It was fun to learn the history behind it too!

    1. I wish I had more time with the Japanese to really dig into the history of the place. It’s just so hard to get those people to open up though, but hey, why don’t you try it for yourself!

    1. Sure they do 🙂 I’m actually learning more and more about the community ever since i first visited it. Anyways thanks for checking out the post and hope you could visit this street one day!

    1. It is an interesting destination indeed, and from what you said Saigon might just be perfect for you. Come! 🙂

  2. That red Vespa in front of the graffiti is worth to be printed. I would buy that and hang it on the wall. I love the vibe of the street and the colours. It looks so wonderful!

  3. I am from Vietnam and have not gone back to visit for more than seven years now. It’s very interesting to see some of the neighbor hood develops. I would definitely love to sit at one of the store and enjoy some sushi.

    1. It’s always cool to find a Vietnamese halfway across the globe (i can tell from your blog that you’re in Canada?)
      Anyways hope you could revisit the country as soon as possible and maybe enjoy some ramen and sushi on 15B Le Thanh Ton!

  4. What a fascinating destination point. I love how you shared done insider tidbits about the area and the people who live there. Adding Saigon to my list.

    1. I always try to gain as much insider knowledge as possible when dealing with communities. People don’t open up easily but once they allow you to explore their world it is full of exciting stories.
      Anyways, glad to hear Saigon’s on your list!

    1. I was amused to find out about this place too. It’s much less noisy than a chinatown but just as attractive. Come!

  5. Oh, It looks so cute, like a little Japan in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City. I saw many of my friends taking pictures here but I have not come here yet. For sure, this Viet-Japanese place will be discovered by me soon.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Japan is my dream country for setlling down in the future, but I somehow want to get to know the Japanese Culture, the Japanese’s habits, or the overall atmosphere of Japanese life. This place in Saigon is just perfect. Though the Japanese are not so enthusiastic towards welcoming strange visitors, I hope to find and befriend a Japanese.
    Thanks for the informative post.

  7. I think it was a big restaurant at first but it is residential. Wow! Amazing, Why did they decide to desige it that way, very creative. hang on the lantern along the alley is very cool

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