Omoide Yokocho is one of the most famous areas of old-fashion back alleys (yokocho alleys) in all of Japan. You'll find plenty of tourists there, as well as businessmen and women converging into the ramshackle zone of cheap bars and eateries before heading back to their homes late at night. At least exploring a little this area should be on your top list of things to do in Shinjuku.
Where is Omoide Yokocho?
From the West or East gates of the Shinjuku Station, it is just a one or two-minute walk.
If you leave from the East Gate, simply turn left when you exit and take the passage that goes under the railroad to your left. Omoide Yokocho will be at the exit point of this passage.
If you leave from the West Gate, walk to your right until you see the Yokocho to your right. Omoide Yokocho is located along the west side of the railroad tracks.
At the main entry point of the famous district, there is the gate shown above with a map of the area.
A Glimpse of the Past
The place is famous for being packed with tiny bars, ramen joints, casual Japanese food diners, yakitori izakayas and many other types of traditional eateries and taverns. Despite being located right next to the Shinjuku Station, the area has survived through the years while keeping a lot of its authentic character dating back to the reconstruction period after WW2. Quite fittingly, "Memory Lane" for many Japanese is indeed a good way to remember and feel the nostalgia of a Japan of another era.
Commonly Know as "Piss Alley"
It has a lot of the run-down qualities we love about the yokocho alleys and more. There are some public toilets in the district but don't expect everyone to use them. The place is infamously called "piss alley". Seen in a certain light, it adds to the gritty authenticity of the area.
Great Food and Drinks, Actually! For Cheap Too!
The area has been famous for its yakitori (grilled skewered chicken) since the 1950s. Pioneering izakayas included yakitori-cabarets in which you found hostesses serving Japanese shochu (spirit alcohol) and yakitori. Today the area still counts 16 yakitori izakayas.
Other original businesses of the area were izakayas serving motsu-yaki (grilled organs such as liver, heart, intestines). On the picture above are liver skewers and a plate of tongue cuts. These are really popular side dishes in Japan to have while drinking alcohol.
Omoide Yokocho eventually became prosperous, attracting a wide variety of businesses serving foods and drinks. You can have fresh oysters for instance at a good price!
You can eat some really cheap ramen, soba noodle dishes (about 400 yen).
You can find street foods such as this delicious grilled and salted fish served at this stall.
Unlike Golden Gai, the other famous area of yokocho alleys in Shinjuku, foods and drinks are generally cheap in Omoide Yokocho. You can easily find drinks for under 500 yen. With its close proximity to the Shinjuku Station, this explains in large part why the place is so popular.
Many businesses in the area open from 3 or 4 PM and close at midnight or stay open until 5 AM. For more information about the shops in Omoide Yokocho and their business hours, please refer to the link below.
Omoide Yokocho is a must-see spot of Shinjuku, Tokyo! Even if you don't intend to eat or drink there, it's definitely worth it to go and see it because of its unique character and historical significance.
For more guides of the back alleys of Tokyo, check out the links below.