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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 30 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Rob Goss

A ramshackle collection of alleyways crammed with tiny bars, Golden Gai in Shinjuku is a low-rise 1960s throwback that has somehow managed to escape Tokyo’s thirst for redevelopment. It’s an atmospheric spot to soak up an authentic Tokyo cultural experience.

Some bars here specialize in cocktails, whiskey or craft beer, for others is a type of music or even a theme – try Deathmatch in Hell if you are a horror film fan or Bar Plastic Model to relive a 1980s childhood.

Other foreign-friendly, but not touristy bars to look out for are the gothic Albatross and English-speaking Ace.

Price: Free
Minimum age: 18
Age suitable: 18+
Frequency: annually
When: March, May and Sept
Duration: 2-3 hours

Getting there & doing it

Most of the 200 or so bars here can barely squeeze in more than half a dozen drinkers at a time, which is why some limit themselves to regulars only. Many, however, welcome travellers – signs on the doors make that clear in most cases.

Also note that seating charges of up to 1,000 Yen per person apply, which can make bar hopping pricey. When you find a place you like, it’s worth settling in for at least a couple of drinks and a chat with the locals.

When to do it

Golden Gai doesn’t really get going until after 8pm, but don’t go too late. By 10pm, getting seats in the better places can be hard.

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