Saturday, December 12, 2009

Golden Gai, Shinjuku

It's great to have foreign visitors - the effort to do something fun with them can really take you out of your normal zones. I hardly never go to Shinjuku, but in the course of this one night was able to visit a bunch of the famous sights, ending up with drinks in a randomly-picked bar in Golden Gai after we strolled through the sad hustle of Kabukicho.

Like Omoide Yokocho, Golden Gai is perpetually slated for redevelopment. Once those two are gone, there will be very little left to suggest the pure atmosphere of post-war Showa - everyone working hard in the factories by day, then drinking and eating junk food at night. Golden Gai is a humorously-crowded and disorganized series of 4 or 5 alleys that look about like this - tiny bars squeezed together, making a few yens in the interim between now and redevelopment when rents are (evidently) cheap in anticipation of the buildings all being torn down. The turnover of bars must be pretty high; it was my specific intention to find a place called 'Violet's Skylight' that was a gothic Lolita bar, but that seems to be gone already.

It's really fun to walk around; people spill into the alleys once in a while (as here, where the patrons of 'Carrot' are hanging out), but there's a bar for every taste (old-style Enka karaoke, supposedly one with a guy playing Spanish guitar and singing, punk rock...). We ended up picking a place with a brutally weathered, Western-style wooden front that was staffed by a pleasant young woman drinking Healshia tea ("I'm worried about getting fat," she said). She only opened recently, and as I said was just trying to make some money with her narrow bar and 6 seats while she could. Being open until 5 every night certainly encourages people to come; she said there are places that stay open until 7, 8 and 10 AM.

If you go, do watch out for the cover charges; most places post them outside for your convenience, but they're often Y1000 and sometimes Y500, and this doesn't include a drink. Since this is ammortized over the course of your stay, you'll want to park it for a while. Casual drinking is discouraged in Golden Gai.


  1. The Golden Gai is a pleasant place to visit. I especially like the alcoholic beverages!

  2. Indeed. I'd like to do a Golden Gai Crawl this summer sometime, much in the same way as the Nakano, Nezu, Shimokita and other expeditions. The idea would be to visit as many places as we could, until the wallets or livers gave out (focusing on places with zero or Y500 charges).

    Would you be interested?