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Politics

Taste of Japan rejected: China's 'Little Kyoto' halts operation

Netizens call mock town a 'cultural invasion'

A Japan-themed shopping street in the Chinese city of Dalian has suspended operations after online criticism of Japanese cultural "invasion." (Photo by Shin Watanabe)

DALIAN, China -- A Japan-themed shopping, cultural and residential complex that opened less than two weeks ago in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian has been ordered to suspend operations. 

Local authorities told the operators of "Tang Little Kyoto" to temporarily close its gates after Chinese netizens slammed the facility as a Japanese cultural "invasion." A reopening date is not clear. 

When Nikkei visited the facility in Liaoning Province on Wednesday, the commercial area was closed off. An executive at operator Dalian Shuyuan Group said the company was instructed on Monday by the municipal government of Dalian to temporarily halt operations. 

The government pointed to the criticism on the internet as well as COVID-19 fears by having people gathering in crowded spaces, the representative said.

For the 29 shops that are part of phase one -- including Panasonic's electronics store, retailers of Hokkaido and Hiroshima products, as well as various Japanese restaurants -- the suspension comes as a major blow. Sales of Japanese-style villas will continue.

On Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, users had pointed out that Dalian was once under Japanese occupation and that the creation of a complex designed to look like the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, and sold all-Japanese items -- including Arita porcelain, cosmetics, Japanese-style sweets, ramen and yakiniku barbecue -- were an invasion of Japanese culture. Some voices had defended the project, noting that other Chinese cities had also lured Japanese companies.

The Dalian government had until now fully backed the project, with the mayor attending a signing ceremony in Tokyo in April 2019. The pressure from netizens looks to have forced the municipal government into changing course.   

Tang Little Kyoto is part of a sprawling 600,000-sq.-meter complex, which was built at a cost of 6 billion yuan ($925 million) and is scheduled to be complete in 2024.

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