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Japan's oldest existing Chinese restaurant in Yokohama files for bankruptcy amid pandemic

Heichinrou's main restaurant is seen in Yokohama's Naka Ward on May 17, 2022. (Mainichi/Yoshiki Koide)

YOKOHAMA -- The operator of the main restaurant of established Chinese eatery Heichinrou has filed for bankruptcy with liabilities totaling some 305 million yen (about $2.35 million), and the Yokohama District Court decided to commence bankruptcy proceedings, Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd.'s Yokohama branch announced on June 2.

    Established in 1884 during the Meiji era (1868-1912), the beloved eatery in Yokohama Chinatown is said to be the oldest existing Chinese restaurant in Japan. The restaurant had closed in May to relocate elsewhere, but now that its operator has gone bankrupt, another company operating other restaurants will take over its operation. This company will secure a new location for the flagship store and prepare for its reopening.

    In March 2017, a previous operator of the Heichinrou main restaurant underwent special liquidation proceedings due to declining sales, and a separate company with the same name Heichinrou took over its operation. However, the prolonged coronavirus pandemic dealt an additional blow to one of the symbols of Chinatown.

    The main Heichinrou store was lost to the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and again in World War II, but was rebuilt in the aftermath of both catastrophes. In 1986, a seven-story building was put up to house the restaurant with party spaces and private rooms both large and small. The eatery attracted not only tourists but also numerous business figures and dignitaries.

    (Japanese original by Yoshiki Koide, Yokohama Bureau)

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