If, like Alicia Bridges, you like the nightlife and you’ve got to boogie, Tokyo’s Golden Gai should be at the top of your after-hours itinerary. But be warned: boogieing is going to be tricky in some of the bars in this crow’s nest of tiny alleys and tinier passageways—the area’s six wee little streets are home to over 200 bars, eateries and clubs, some of them so small that they can seat only four or five patrons. (As always, karaoke will be easier.)
A former post-war red-light area that survived the bulldozers of the 1980s, the ramshackle rookery of the Golden Gai is now a meeting place for musicians, writers and artists, and the bars (some of which are more than 40 years old) are as quirky and fringe as their clientele. Some of them take the “right of admission reserved” thing very seriously, meaning you’ll only get in if you’re with a regular, but most of them welcome anyone who wants a drink. An English-language menu outside is always a good sign. Go in late: many of the bars only open at about 9 pm, so the area only gets lively when everyone else is starting to head home.
Places to check out are Champion, which is roomy but filled with karaoke, Albatross’s rooftop terrace, and the themed environments of Zucca (Halloween) and Blue Square (vaguely S&M). For snacks to soak up the shochu, head over to Omoide Yokocho (aka Piss Alley) where there are cafes and chophouses aplenty. The area is also near to the famous Robot Restaurant.
- 382 m from Shinjuku-sanchōme Station
- 449 m from Seibushinjuku Station
- 0.5 km from Higashi-shinjuku Station