My strangest experience in Tokyo goes, hands down, to my visit to the Shinjuku Golden Gai bar area. If you’re anything like me – having a strong preference for the casual-small-quiet bars/pubs rather than the full-blown noisy-party-dress-up bar/clubs – then the Golden Gai is perfect for you. Alleys filled with tiny bars that usually hold up to 5-6 (with the bigger ones no larger than a space for 10 people), with those bars mostly privately owned and offering local brewery rather than the big Japanese or international alcohol brands. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend an evening.
I picked mine out very randomly, it was the only one with its door closed. I had no idea what I was going into…
Apparently, the door was shut close because the owner and the guests like to smoke – which is the biggest turnoff for me, but they were very loud and funny and just wouldn’t let me leave.
This woman here is the owner and bartender of this tiny 5 seats bar establishment. She spoke English well, serving as an English teaching on her day job, and – unlike the other 4 there – seemed completely oblivious to my glorious whiteness.
It was a happy bunch, and very quickly I was invited for local drinks of rice wine and locally brewed beer, asking me all sorts of questions about my life and the circumstances that brought me to share my evening with them. I got to hear a lot very strange Tokyo stories that night.
I must admit, I wasn’t quite ready for just how strong the drinks I was invited to were, and by the time I was trying to take off to catch the last subway back to my tiny hotel I was already feeling way off. But that generally helped with me being far more social than my usual self and spending hours fooling around with the hyper-happy locals.
As you can see, the alleys have very many of those little bars, and during weekdays there isn’t much going on.
Though if you’re a white male tourist looking guy, like I am, you’re bound to get all sorts of offers from pimps and prostitutes passing by, as that bar area is conveniently located next to the infamous Shinjuku Love Hotel Hill.
So, if you’re looking for a hectic local night-time experience, then this is it. Highly recommended.