A while back when Eric was visiting, his friend, Van was also in town so we decided to meet up. Van suggested going to Shinjuku Golden Gai, and although I’ve been living in Japan for a while now and I’m pretty familiar with Shinjuku, I’ve never heard of the place.
YES!!! New place to explore! My favorite kind of tourist is one who brings me to new places, instead of the typical other way round :D
Shinjuku Golden Gai is a bar neighborhood just a stone’s throw from Shinjuku station. It’s tucked away from the main roads and this tiny city block area houses more than two hundred establishments!
It’s mostly unchanged since the 1960s’ and there are lots (and lots and lots!) of bars tucked into the crammed alleys. There are also bars that can only be reached via narrow staircases. Some bars are private and members-only, so we stayed away from those. (I have no idea how does one become a member, so don’t ask me)
Most bars have a cover charge; 500 yen is the average rate, although there are also some that go up to 1,000 yen. There are also some that are free, but for some reason we find them to be suspicious… haha.
Each bar is very small, sitting only about 4-6 customers. Bar owners rely on personal connections with the customers for business which is why there was no touting on the streets, which I’m thankful for!
We were stumped as to which bar to visit, when we saw this bar:
We peeked in and it had a amiable environment with a friendly obasan bartender. More importantly, it could sit all 4 of us (quite a challenge for Golden Gai!)
But perhaps most importantly of all, it had a “We Love VAN” sticker on the door. Van was very enamoured by it which was probably the biggest reason why we decided on this bar lol.
It was a nice place to just chill. She readily suggested drinks when we asked for recommendations, gave us おつまみ otsumami (bar snacks) and just chitchatted.
All was peaceful until the new guests arrived…
They were a Japanese trio, all colleagues, and coming for drinks after work. At first we all minded our own business but in a bar as small as this, I guess it’s inevitable that some small talk occur.
They were quite surprised and curious to know how non-locals know about Shinjuku Golden Gai. When we told them that we (which really just means Van) read about it on the internet, they were all “EH? Really???”
Then the only lady in the group got quite drunk and kept trying to hit on Eric. Saying things like “he’s so cute!” and “he’s totally my type!” LOL. Not sure if he’ll still be her type when the alcohol wears off hahaha. Eric was grimacing as the rest of us were snorting laughter into our drinks.
And somehow, pictures happened.
I think Shinjuku Golden Gai is really quite a unique side of Tokyo and when Carys visited, I brought her there as well. She also commented that it was very interesting and liked the experience!
Sadly, there are many developers who have been relentlessly trying to demolish the area over the years because, well, it IS sitting on prime land. But demolish such a culturally rich and unique place for… what?
Another run-of-the-mill mall? A cinema theatre? Yet another office building?
Even though I don’t enjoy drinking, I really hope that this place will preserved! It’s really a pity to lose this special place just because some rich asshats want to make even more money.