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Were foreign visitors' wild brawls at Shinjuku's Golden Gai a taste of the Olympics to come?

43 Comments
A sign in Shinjuku's Golden Gai

"This enclave, with its 70 years of proud history, is being by wasted by foreign tourists," claims Friday (Nov 6).

Shinjuku's "Golden Gai" (gai can refer to a street, or a town built around a street), despite its glitzy name, is a rabbit's warren of over 100 tiny two-story drinking establishments, which date back to around 1950, when occupation authorities decided to remove the horde of disorderly black market pushcarts that had congregated adjacent to the Shinjuku rail station. The vendors were relocated to the other side of Yasukuni-dori, in a small city block wedged between the Hanazono Shrine and the Kabukicho entertainment district.

These tiny drinking establishments, which do business in spaces measuring from 10 to 15 square meters, remain much unchanged from their early postwar heyday. While they occupy some of the most valuable real estate in the city, the residents have for decades successfully held out against developers' efforts.

Some people may regard the bars of Golden Gai as firetraps and claustrophobe's nightmares, but from the 1970s onward they became something of a cultural nexus that offered writers, artists, musicians and middle-aged nostalgia seekers a cozy and quiet place at which to imbibe and converse into the late-night hours.

More recently, however, the place has become jammed with foreign tourists, who are attracted to the cheap prices and Bohemian atmosphere.

Unfortunately, as Friday's headline puts it, "As shown by security cameras, the crush of foreigners has led to increased crimes!"

As shown in several accompanying photos, two large men in rugby shirts faced off in an alley. One tackled the other, sending him sprawling, knocking down an air conditioning unit and shop sign. The fight continued for about two minutes, until police from the nearby koban arrived. Worried the situation might even worsen, they called for backup.

It appears that the large number of foreign visitors in Japan for the Rugby World Cup led to numerous acts of lawlessness. What sort of lawlessness? Well, according to Fumiaki Tobayama, head of the Golden Gai Merchants' Association, they included eating without paying, pickpocketing, theft, damage to property and so on. Members have sought means of prevention, but up to now nothing has worked.

"Since the World Cup began, crimes by foreigners have exploded," Tobayama tells the magazine. "It's driven away our long-time regulars, and overall, business is way down."

"All of a sudden there was a loud noise, and I saw two foreigners going at it," an employee at a shop that was damaged tells Friday's reporter. "The air conditioner unit was knocked over and a gas cable torn off. As soon as the fight began, the whole shop emptied out and the other customers took off in a rush. It was too much for them."

"This area is under the jurisdiction of the Yotsuya police station, and their response up to now has been next to useless," a shop operator in the district complained, in a bitter tone. "If something happens, they come to investigate, but perhaps because they're short of manpower these days they don't patrol. Sometimes there's nobody posted in the koban either.

"It might be difficult to investigate because the suspects are foreigners, but unless they deal with the crime problem, nobody feels safe any more."

The Rugby World Cup is over, Friday warns, but just beyond the horizon is next year's Olympics. If foreign tourists are not discouraged from rowdy behavior, their rumbles and tumbles might even get worse.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

43 Comments
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What about doing your business in Shinjuku's 'Piss Alley'?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

On the street near the JR's west exit called Omoide No Yokocho, you mean? It's a lot smaller than Golden Gai, although it does keep late hours. It's mostly for eating, not drinking. The claustrophobic atmosphere is similar I guess. Come year-end party season, you need to be careful where you step.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Street Fighter: 2019 drunken edition?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I remember seeing a similar sign many years ago on the foothpath to the top of Diamond Head, Hawaii. The strange thing is, the sign was only in Japanese. No English.

With the influx of mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong before the demonstrations, they desperately needed similar signs - but for number two!

15 ( +17 / -2 )

I believe Karihuka is referring to Shomben Yokocho by the West exit of Shinjuku station. He is using a literal translation of the Japanese nickname for the area.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With the influx of mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong before the demonstrations, they desperately needed similar signs - but for number two.

Yes, they are well known for defecating in public places..even their women do it.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

When I went to the Golden Gai it was night-time, atmospheric, very few visitors and a photographer's dream. Top of the list of the things that could ruin it, I thought, would be masses of drunken foreign tourists. Et voila, here they are.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

When I first arrived in Japan in 1960 "tachi shoben" (by men only) was very common usually-it seemed-by men who were the worse to wear by drink. I didn't ever see anyone spoken to by Police-even around Yurakucho-turning the blind eye was what was done it seems.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What sort of lawlessness? Well, according to Fumiaki Tobayama, head of the Golden Gai Merchants' Association, they included eating without paying, pickpocketing, theft, damage to property and so on. Members have sought means of prevention, but up to now nothing has worked.

Yeah drunk foreigners that take advantage of the perceived kindness of the Japanese. Nothing can really be done but throw the perps in J-jail for the 20+/- days of holding and slapping them with a hefty fine.

As for pissing in public, funny how it's now an issue when it's not a Japanese salary man. How about NO ONE be allowed to urinate or otherwise in public.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

It's the government, in its quest for revenue, that has amped up the advertising and drawn more tourists than the infrastructure can handle - and their goal is to eventually have 40 million of them a year.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Unfortunately, as Friday's headline puts it, "As shown by security cameras, the crush of foreigners has led to increased crimes!"

Yeah, yeah. Blame it on the foreigners. I witnessed local misbehavior at one of the matches and I can assure you, it's not all down to us gaijin.

As shown in several accompanying photos, two large men in rugby shirts faced off in an alley. 

Photos not shown here & I'd rather not peruse a soft porn publication to get a closer look at this non-existent crime explosion.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Come to think of it, the only folks I've seen taking a leak in public are salary men in Tateishi and younger GIs in Naha...

13 ( +13 / -0 )

My partner and I were at the golden gai on Friday night and it was definitely the rugby crowd causing the issues. Made me embarrassed for being a gaijin.

There were groups screaming in the alleys and at bar owners, chanting profanities, throwing up everywhere, not respecting bar owners and 2x at the one bar we saw people trying to skip out on their bill.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@Jacob Capper

Unfortunately the behavior of some of our fellow foreigners in Japan is an embarrassment. Completely disregarding Japanese norms and disrespecting the locals. I have no issue with govt clamp down.

Sure, many Japanese behave badly as well, but every country has higher standards for visitors. My country sure does and our locals would be furious at unruly tourists.

Japanese Brazil World Cup soccer spectators cleaned up the stadiums after the games and became famous for it. God bless them.

My partner and I were at the golden gai on Friday night and it was definitely the rugby crowd causing the issues. Made me embarrassed for being a gaijin.

There were groups screaming in the alleys and at bar owners, chanting profanities, throwing up everywhere, not respecting bar owners and 2x at the one bar we saw people trying to skip out on their bill.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

"standing piss prohibition"

hahahahahahahahahaha

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Where is the Yakuza when you need it? isn't this to be their turf?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

More xenophobia.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Japanese dudes piss all over the place, I've seen them doing in the middle of bloody Namba. Even in the day and they're not even drunk! Much worse here than any country I've seen. Fighting isn't on though, I do like not even having to think about being threatened here.

It also doesn't help that all the tourism sites just copy each other so there are probably 10,000 digital signs pointing to places like Golden Gai. Japanese people stop going because they're shut out with all the tourists there and they go elsewhere. I think this is going to reshape the flow of Japan's social life, the deluge of tourists is just going to get worse

16 ( +16 / -0 )

the sign cracks me up. if anyone needs to be told not to pee in public its Japanese. When I first came here I thought it was part of the culture it was so commonplace

12 ( +13 / -1 )

More xenophobia.

only if you think telling the truth is  xenophobia.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

BS and you know it.

It really isn't. Public urination is very common here. It's one of the first things you notice when you come to Japan.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

"Standing piss" has been illegal here for a long time. I found this in a history book:

...Yokohama, being a city with a large foreign population, had promulgated an ordinance back in 1868 prohibiting males from relieving themselves in public. The ordinance stated, “In places lacking urinals, the act of urination in view of others is hereby illegal, and as it is particularly shameful when done before foreigners, it is prohibited. Violators will be arrested.” 

This ordinance was adopted, with varying degrees of success, by Tokyo and other cities. *
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Update: Went again last night 11pm till just after 4am and it was so much nicer, everyone was chill except for an intoxicated French gentleman who accidentally broke 2 glasses in as many minutes. Didn't hear any shouting except Cheers for a karaoke singer.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I see Japanese men urinating, arguing, disturbing others in public in business suits all the time in Tokyo.

Defecating in public is something that I have only witnessed in China!

Why don't Japanese people get a sign in Shinjuku?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Why don't Japanese people get a sign in Shinjuku?

I'm confused by that question. What language do you think it is, immediately above "Standing piss prohibited"?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

So, one scrap between two blokes has become a "crime problem"?

Hardly.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Perhaps constructing more urinals will help solve the problem. Otherwise, if you are worried about drunken brawls and public urination, move the entire Olympics to Hokkaido. Sorry Tokyo (and Japan in general) the Olympics bring in all sorts of characters and if you are worried about a few fights and piss, you probably shouldn't be hosting any events. Just return to your pre - Perry era lifestyle and act the the rest of the world doesn't exist.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

if you are worried about a few fights and piss, you probably shouldn't be hosting any events.

Haha, love it! They should include that phrase in the official Olympic Candidature Process brochure.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Wasn't Golden Gai doomed to be shut down and demolished for redevelopment due to a dying customer base until all the guide books starting writing about the "authentic" experience and all the foreign money came in? These morons are going to kill the goose that lays the golden egg if they make it more hostile to foreign customers.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

gaijin do come here and bring their idiot behaviors with them. I saw some during the rugby games also, loud obnoxious behaviors. I could not understand what they were getting so excited about, its just a damn game, now its over.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I think Madden has a point about the modern appreciation of Golden Gai being at least partially foreign driven. The same thing happens in Kyoto, where the locals were merrily knocking down all the traditional machiya houses until they realized tourists would pay to rent them as minpaku or buy souvenirs or cakes and coffee in them.

More than anything, the popularity of Golden Gai should be remembered the next time a.n.other developer, Mori Corp or whoever, gets planning permission to put up another concrete and glass wonder building. The type with a windswept empty plaza outside it that people scurry across as fast as possible. It's not the only one of course, Golden Gai is an example of architecture on a human scale. A lot of the appeal about Japan comes from screening out all the could-be-anywhere concrete and zooming in on these places.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In cowboy westerns, you lay your coin on the counter when you ask for a whisky. I was asked to pay in advance for something just the other day. A bit surprising, but no real problem.

Maybe these stall owners should ask for money up front from everyone during the Olympics, just to keep themselves covered.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

only if you think telling the truth is xenophobia.

the truth is that nearly all of the people I see peeing in public are Japanese men , just saw one yesterday pissing on the street corner d''k out for everybody to see, He was most likely drunk but that isnt an excuse. I was driving past and gave him a good blast with the car horn, guy nearly fell over in shock, hopefully he splashed it all over his pants LOL. that truth enough for you!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I see the peeing by old men, almost daily. Yesterday, I saw 2 doing it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The norm in any British pub is to pay for your drinks as you receive them, may be they should adopt that then it is difficult to skip paying, and any potential loss is limited.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Easy fix on skipping out on Bill, during the olympics just post sign in English and Japanese cash only. Japanese will frown, but it’s the only way. No tab. Locals will get used to it. It’s a hassle, but you won’t have someone skimping out on a tab. Had a bar for 3 years and always did it that way. Worked fine.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pissing in public is seen all the time by old Japanese men. I’ve seen a guy piss in the bushes near that koban on the corner of Omotesando and Aoyama Boulevard with a policemen just watching and doing nothing.

When you get old enough in this society, your seniority will get you off the hook.

This has nothing to do with the World Cup. If there were more public toilets, it might help.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I was a kid in the 80s, there were public toilets everywhere in Tokyo. Then they started disappearing. The idea was that with the spread of convenience stores, the public toilets would no longer be needed. But lots of convenience stores don't have toilets, so what do you do?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Been going to Golden Gai regularly, also during the recent Rugby event, and I find the article a little exaggerated. Yes, the rugby crowds were noisy and intimidating, and for that reason many bars put out "Members only" signs during the month... problem solved. Other bars did not mind the chaos and made good business. I am also glad the Rugby crowds are gone, but the claim that there were regular fights is clearly wrong. Also, the koban is just around the corner, is always staffed, and the police show up immediately if called. Clearly someone wanted to make the article a little more sensational.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

About the tachi shombe issue, yes that is a Japanese thing. Foreign tourists have nothing to do with that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"standing piss prohibition"

simple answer: get down on your knees and piss

1 ( +1 / -0 )

During my two brief stays in Tokyo while on vacation (each two weeks) I only met maybe five foreigners (fellow Americans, etc.), but knowing how out of control people get here I would expect the worst and pray to the ancestors for the best. Fortunately these will not be college basketball fans that have been know to turn cars over, put a sofa out front of their home and ignite it (and the overturned cars sometimes). Things have changed here a great deal in a very short time and it seems to be getting worse every year.

We can hope that the people that will journey there will be of a more "grown-up" group that what we normally get for regular sporting events.

Just a few rambling thoughts from an atypical American

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What bad behavior? That is how they behave in their own country, and it's not considered bad just normal everyday behavior. Sad but true.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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