When we think of Tokyo today, it’s the bright neon lights and towering skyscrapers that dominate our imaginations. It’s hard to picture the futuristic looking city in any other way. But there are pockets of the city which have resisted change for decades – and it’s in these places that you can still experience the spirit of old Tokyo. One of those places is called Golden Gai.
Located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, the buildings are ramshackle and the alleys are poorly lit but don’t be deceived – this is one of the trendiest spots in the city. Over 200 bars, clubs and eateries are packed into cultural kaleidoscope that, quite frankly, boggles the mind. The drinks are on the pricey side which ensures the clientele are generally of a higher standard, which no doubt contributes to the safety of an area that could otherwise quickly become dodgy.
While some of the bars welcome regulars only (requiring new faces to be introduced by an existing patron) many of the establishments are more than happy to serve tourists, going so far as to put up signs in English. The really stunning thing about Golden Gai though is its variety. There are bars that are antique homages to ages past, Nintendo gaming den bars, bars dedicated to Japanese whiskies… the list could go on and on. With so many establishments packed into a small area it’s no surprise that the bars are small – but it may surprise you just how small. Many of the bars will only seat five to ten people, which explains the (albeit modest) door charges and relatively highly priced drinks.
There aren’t many places that you can say are absolutely unique worldwide, but Golden Gai is certainly one of them. If you’re after a cultural experience like no other, this is a fantastic place to start.