The number of foreign visitors visiting Japan has increased recently, and with Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympic Games that trend is likely to continue. Now is the perfect opportunity for the city to show off its offerings as a must-see destination.
In an effort to appeal to and satisfy more tourists, a recent survey of Japanese Tokyoites ranked the top 10 drinking districts that they think tourists to Japan should visit to see and experience the “real” Tokyo.
When showing visitors around to the usual ordinary sightseeing spots, it can get a little boring. One of the best things about traveling is to see and experience the authentic side of a city where the locals let their hair down and you can see the true heart of a place.
Home to some great beer, sake and whiskey, Japan has lively nightlife and arguably the best way to see how the locals really are in their own habitat is to visit neighbourhood bars and local drinking holes. A survey was recently compiled asking single male employees aged 20-30 which drinking districts they would they take foreign visitors to in order to see a more interesting side of Tokyo. Proving that Tokyo nightlife is more than Roppongi and typical touristy restaurants, some of the recommendations are definitely places you’re not going to read about in a travel guide book.
Here are the top 10 drinking alleys as ranked by Tokyoites.
10. Beneath the train tracks of Koenji Station
Many of Tokyo’s restaurants and bars can often be found either near or under the local station train tracks and Koenji is no exception. Located on the JR Chuo Line on the west side of Tokyo, Koenji is home to many cheap bars and eats. “Cheap. Delicious. Interesting.” Sounds pretty good to us!
9. Ebisu Yokocho (Ebisu Alley)
Ebisu is not necessarily an area that many foreigners would visit on a trip to Tokyo, but to skip this neighbourhood would be a shame. Just a few stops away from Shibuya, Ebisu is home to numerous trendy waterholes including the Yebisu Beer Museum. There is no shortage of bars and restaurants at Ebisu Yokocho, and since nearby Ebisu Station is located on the central Yamanote train line, it’s easy to get to even if you don’t feel like paying for a taxi.
7 (tie). Ningyocho Amazake Yokocho (Ningyocho Sweet Sake Alley) and Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho (Kichijoji Harmonica Alley)
Kichijoji is a trendy and hip suburb full of really cool cafes and interesting stores oft frequented by university students. When they come alive at night, the narrow, bar-packed alleys—located just across the street from the station’s north exit—allow you to experience a different side to this fashionable area of Tokyo.
If sake is more your thing, Ningyocho is famous for its sweet sake (rice wine with little to no alcohol content) with many bars and shops offering this unique Japanese beverage which even the kids can enjoy. The area also has a traditional downtown vibe taking you back in time. According to one local, “This district is very Japanese, and will seem very unique to foreigners.”
6. Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho (Shibuya drinking alley)
No trip to Japan’s capital is complete without spending some time in Shibuya, where you can indulge in shopping, people-watching and drinking. Crowded, colourful, and crazy, Shibuya’s most notorious drinking alley has been given the nickname Nonbei Yokocho or “Drunkards’ Alley”. Here you’ll find several side streets of tiny bars and restaurants, making it an ideal spot for bar-hopping.
5. Asakusa Hoppi Dori (Asakusa Hoppy Street)
Asakusa is a very popular tourist spot in its own right and a must-include on any Tokyo itinerary. Its most famous sights include the Kaminari Mon gate, Sensoji Temple, and Nakamise shopping arcade. However, not so many people are familiar with Asakusa’s nightlife. Complete your sightseeing trail by stopping by for a drink or two at a local bar to soak in the atmosphere of old-town Tokyo.
4. The underground tracks between Shimbashi and Yurakucho Stations
This is where hordes of hardworking Japanese salarymen flock to after work to partake in “nommunication” (a portmanteau of “nomu” – the Japanese verb “to drink,” and the English word communication) with their colleagues. The bars here will be packed with men in business suits. A few words from Japanese tipsters:
“This is where you go to really understand the holy ground of the Japanese salaryman.” “Here you can come to understand the more traditional common Japanese atmosphere.” “There are so many kinds of venues here including rare and unusual places all to varying degrees of cleanliness.”
The ‘holy ground’ of the Japanese salaryman? We might need a drink before heading in…
3. Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku Memory Lane)
A gritty drinking district found in Shinjuku, it may be better known by its unsavoury nickname of “Piss Alley.”
“Dirty is good,” said one commenter. “[This place] has a unique history and is only full of great bars and shops.”
Memories, whether for good, bad, or messy, will definitely be made here, by the sound of it.
2. Tsukishima Monja Street
If you like okonomiyaki, then you might want to want to try monjayaki. And the best place in Tokyo to get it as at Tsukishima. For those not familiar with monjayaki, it’s like a giant cabbage pancake with various toppings poured over a hot plate. It is a much runnier version of okonomiyaki and looks pretty much a big hot gooey mess of deliciousness. Along Tsukishima’s Monja Alley you’ll find a whole street dedicated to monjayaki restaurants. We bet it smells amazing.
1. Shinjuku Golden Gai
Most people familiar with the Tokyo night scene will have heard of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. This is a series of narrow alleyways on the east side of Shinjuku Station packed with a couple of hundred tiny bars, most only seating a handful of people at a time. Glitz and glamour it is not, but if you want to know where ordinary people of Tokyo go to drink after a hard day at work, this is the place.
What Tokyoites had to say about the Golden Gai:
“It has a unique atmosphere and gives you a real taste of the common people.” “There’s an air of the Showa era (the reign of Emperor Showa between 1926-1989) so you get a feeling of the good old times in Japan.” “There are many interesting venues.” “It’s the old-fashioned Shinjuku back in the day.”
And once you’ve made your way through the above list, you might want to check out Tateishi Nonbe Yokocho and Sangenjaya Delta Chitai which were ranked just out of the top ten.
On your next visit to Tokyo, don’t be afraid to get a few drinks into you and strike up a conversation with some locals at some of the drinking spots recommended by locals. Tokyo has plenty to offer and is the perfect drinking and culinary playground for those wanting to explore its hidden narrow alleyways that are packed with interesting bars.
Source: Web R25
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