Golden Gai: The Iconic Showa Era Retro Little Town Of Shinjuku!
Golden Gai, which translates to "golden block" is an area of Shinjuku that has approximately 200 bars, pubs and eateries concentrated on 6 small alleys. The area is famous for having resisted and survived the 20th-century development boom of Shinjuku. Walking in these side alleys will give you a true feel of what Tokyo looked like during the 1960s!
Unlike the main streets of Shinjuku which were rebuilt much wider after the WW2, the streets there were kept their original size. The passages linking the alleys are even tinier. Only one person can go through at a time.
Most buildings are only two-stories high with a different bar or eatery on the first and second floor. The tiny establishments are barely two meters wide. In most places, only 5 to 10 people can go in at a time and sit at the counter. The close proximity people have makes it easy to start up a conversation with the other customers. Be aware however that some places will only accept regular customers (you can go there only if someone introduces it to you).
On the other hand, some places are very welcoming to foreign visitors, allowing them to enter without paying a cover charge. Most places will ask you to pay a 500 yen charge to enter. Although the area looks a bit rundown, Golden Gai is by no means a cheap place to eat and drink. It is well-liked by the artistic community of Japan, and in recent years it has become one of the main touristic spots in Shinjuku. You won't be alone as a foreigner when you get there, there are plenty!
As for drinks, it may be a good idea to go for something traditional such as shochu (Japanese spirit), sake, or Japanese whiskey. Don't hesitate to ask for recommendations (osusume).
Aside from the alcoholics drinks, you can usually order tsumami (snacks to eat with drinks) and sometimes main dishes. The friendly owners usually take pride in their home-made tsumami!
Pickles, salads and small bowls of stews are common tsumami side orders.
Some places serve hearty meals such as ramen or curry too!
How To Get To Golden Gai
Golden Gai is a short distance walk from JR Shinjuku Station's East Exit. The area is next to the Hanazono Shrine. It is also easily accessible from Tokyo Metro's Shinjuku Sanchome Station. Look for the emblematic gate shown above.
Address: 1-Chome, Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
On weekdays and Saturday, the area's businesses are usually open from 5:30 PM to 5 AM. On Sunday only, the usual hours are 8 PM to 12 midnight.