A dizzying mixture of old ways and modern style, crowds and calm, and arguably the best food scene on the planet.
Travel bucket list idea:
Drinks in Golden Gai
Tokyo, Kanto, Japan
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.
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.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience