Golden Gai

There’s an area in Shinjuku called Golden Gai, a narrow maze of criss-crossing streets dense with tiny drinking holes. It’s an alcoholic oasis from a different era of Japan, hidden in amongst the ultra-modern neon and the intense crowds of a Saturday night in Shinjuku.

The Tomorrow bar that a small group of us went to was run by a lovely lady – she was the only staff member there, and possibly owned it too. I took this photo with my back against the wall near the front door, to give you an idea of the size. You could sit maybe 6 or 7 people there total, with only a little standing room left after that. It’s much like having a drink in someone’s kitchen at their breakfast bar.

A lot of the bars have themes, to give them that unique feel. One we passed was a blues bar, another a slightly alternative hippie vibe, another had deep brown hardwood floors and a sophisticated cigar-and-cognac feel to it. Another one we almost went in to reeked of fish. I don’t know if that was their theme, though.

The size of these places give them an intimate feel, like you’re a guest rather than a customer. My understanding is that many of the bars cater to regulars and they’re not really geared to foreigners very much. So, there were a few communication troubles, at least until a Japanese friend turned up to interpret.

Now, some wisdom if you ever want to go to Golden Gai. As it turned out, there was a group reservation due soon, so we only had time for one drink. A good thing too. Many of these bars have a “seating charge” of around $5, plus the cost of the drinks, which are not too cheap either. So, the vodka and cranberry I ordered cost about $16 overall. It’s not unheard of to pay that much for a fancy cocktail in Australia too, but just a warning that it will cost a little bit more than what’s printed on the menu.

At any rate, my drink wasn’t actually a vodka and cranberry after all – I think it was vodka and some sort of red rocket fuel. So, I got my money’s worth.

The service was fantastic – we were served delicious, lightly salted edamame (soy beans in the shell), and looked after very well. The atmosphere of the place had a very secluded, sophisticated feel to it.

Golden Gai is an incredibly interesting, charismatic area, with so many unique places to explore. You might want to make sure you have a good bankroll and smattering of Japanese or a Japanese friend first, though!

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6 thoughts on “Golden Gai

  1. That sounds kind of cool, although it might suffer from Insane-Taxi-Driver Syndrome if the host started to rant on about bloody foreigners and how they should all go back to their own country – you couldn’t really just ignore them in such a confined space.

    I only recently discovered the wonder that is edamame. I used to overlook them because the thought of paying extra for what looked like a very bland salad irked me. Then I went to a ludicrously expensive japanese restaurant (ludicrous because it really wasn’t worth the extra-high prices) that at least served free bowls of edamame. Yummy.

    I also discovered its possible (but probably not all that advisable) to eat them with the shell on….

  2. Yes! That’s the name of that place at the village, and I knew it had to have something to do with beans. Let’s face it, mame is the only japenese word I know.

    That district looks soooo enticing. Nothing to do with alcohol though, of course…….

  3. Um, your dentist called. We informed them of your current proximity to their office. I don’t think they’ll be calling again.

  4. Whilst we are on this topic – do you still have:

    AED 120 Chris U.A.E. – about AUD 41.50

    as per the forex market?

    We might be after them at some point…

  5. Sure do, but unfortunately they’re here with me. But if I get a chance to hand them over to you before you need them, you’re welcome to them.

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