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Fire damages Tokyo's famous Golden-gai bar district

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That area is a serious firetrap, not surprising that a fire happened, just mildly surprised it didnt happen sooner. Nostalgia is one thing, but safety is something else. Seems to me that it is time to rebuild the area. Use some of those Japanese architects to remake the area, keeping the nostalgic and historic flavor, but make it safe.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Remove the slum like street altogether on this occasion.

-19 ( +4 / -23 )

I vaguely remember a story from last year, about this place. I'm sure it had something to do with it being considered an eyesore, and the old guys who have owned places for 50 years or so, weren't willing to move out, to allow a redevelopment, in time for the 2020 Olympics.

anyone remember?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Golden gai is great if you like getting ripped off.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I like the old school areas like this. Too bad it got burnt crispied.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Lucky no one was hurt.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Ahhhh golden gai, I had some good nights there. Tiny bars, great atmosphere.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

That was a little scarry. I could hear the bursting power lines and didn't know what it was at first. "Did North Korea finally launch some rockets?" was my first thought. Only two buildings burned down. Very cozy places. Notice the two story buildings? In the old days, the first floor was the bar and the second floor was a bedroom. This area was a "blue light district". "Blue light district" means it was not a licensed prostitution area. The current gay town, Ni-chome, across the street, was a "red light district" (licensed prostitution area) until McArthur made prostitution illegal. Then it went all gay. Even totally-gay Gokai is welcome in the cozy bars of Golden Gai. Some people thought "gai" was Japanese for "gay", but it actually means "street".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The deadliest fire in Japan post-war, the Myojo 56 building fire, also happened in the Kabukicho area. That one happened in September 2001, and claimed 44 lives.

The Kabukicho/Golden Gai area is full of accidents waiting to happen.

Link to Myojo fire details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myojo_56_building_fire

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The Golden Gai is one of the few places reminiscent of old Tokyo. Unfortunately, old Tokyo was ravaged by fires quite regularly, so it was only a matter of time. And I wouldn't be surprised if there are more fires in the area in the future. The grease from the kitchens drips down the sides of the buildings, the electrical wiring is a bird's nest, and the patrons and staff smoke like chimneys.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Golden gai is great if you like getting ripped off.

Ripped off, and now burnt! It's OK to go there once in a while I guess, but certainly not a cost effective option these days.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This area is such a fire trap, it needs to be destroyed, I can't see how it is legal?

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

Golden Gai is a sad reminder of Japan's post-war poverty. Who wants to see that? They should have let it burn allowing a re-development into what is really needed now - tourist hotels, Italian restaurants, handbag shops and nail salons

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

I vaguely remember a story from last year, about this place.

@Alistair

Here is the story you are referring to (Sept. 2013): http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/2020-olympics-might-spell-end-for-shinjukus-golden-gai

Here are lots of pictures of the Golden Gai district: https://goo.gl/GxVByI

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Convenient time for a fire when developers are looking to clear this area out for much-needed new hotels, Starbucks, and luxury shops. What better excuse? "Oh look, it's a fire hazard."

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Thanks Sensato, I was beginning to think I'd imagined it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The bar owners in Golden Gai I've spoken with are proud of their neighbourhood's history and character. They are strongly opposed to the current Tokyo government's push to make everything look like Omotesando Hills in time for the Olympics.

There are fire codes, and civic planning codes in place. It stands to reason that there must be be ways for them to improve the safety of their structures that do not also involve redevelopment.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Never been to Golden Gai, but am familiar with lots of neighborhoods like it. While I agree that fire codes need to be strictly enforced to prevent fires like this, I find calls for demolishing such neighborhoods to be extremely depressing. These are usually the last remaining neighborhoods that have anything remotely resembling character and liveliness in a lot of Japanese cities, where most have been torn down and replaced with asphalt parking lots or generic mega developments.

Cities need neighborhoods like this to maintain some sense of vitality, there is nothing more bleak and depressing than visiting cities where places like this have been completely wiped off the map.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I used to hang out at LA JETEEEEE once a week or so in the 1990s. Loved the ambience, the people, film directors, writers, Tomoyo the owner.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm betting intentional. The government wants this area shut down and open for the olympics. Glad no one was hurt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If this was earmarked for 'reconstruction' as one poster's link refers to, then this just makes that move much more easier. Coincidence or serendipity, either way the coast is clear.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hope like after the fire at Shomben Yokocho(also in Shinjuku) Golden Gai will survive, these places are awesome & I always try to visit them when in Tokyo!

2 places in Shomben I have been going to for almost 25yrs, if it disappeared my overnighters into Tokyo will likely become more like day trips, in & out.

Don't understand the haters, these places have great character & you also MEET all kinds of interesting people from all walks of life that would otherwise never cross paths, let alone pour each other beers!!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

What's 'offensive/vulgar' about suggesting that this may not have been an accident? There are no details at all about the cause of the fire, and since 'strong-arm tactics' have been used in the past to try and get people out for development, why censor a comment even throwing out the possibility?

http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/2020-olympics-might-spell-end-for-shinjukus-golden-gai

In the artilce, it even says: "“Some strong-armed tactics were employed to get the owners to move out.", and, "“Within six months or so, I expect to see a new redevelopment plan launched for the Golden Gai area,” "And should Tokyo be selected on Saturday to host the 2020 Olympics, denizens of the miniscule district fear, the chances of the nostalgic section of Shinjuku falling victim to the wrecking ball are increased many-fold.", etc.

Is it, therefore, not at all possible this might have been the use of some strong-arm tactics?

In the same article, however, it DOES point out that the place is a hazard, but again no source or cause is listed.

Moderator: You implied that the government was responsible for the fire, which is offensive.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i've never understood the gaijin fascination with golden-gai. or at least the fascination with going there more than once. drinking expensive watered-down alcohol in a crowded cardboard box can only be so entertaining once.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

NHK is reporting that a person was seen leaving a shop on the second floor with a backpack just before the fire started. It is looking more and more like arson. Developers?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I vaguely remember the area... What do you expect,I was never sober while being there :) .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nakanoguy: "i've never understood the gaijin fascination with golden-gai. or at least the fascination with going there more than once. drinking expensive watered-down alcohol in a crowded cardboard box can only be so entertaining once."

It's the Japanese who have lived there for a long time who have the love/hate relationship with it. It offers nostalgia for everyone, but especially for Japanese who lived there and or were elsewhere and alive at the time. For foreigners it's mostly just "something to see" once, or for those living here maybe something a little different. Don't act like its all foreigners who frequent or obsess over the place.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

It's the Japanese who have lived there for a long time who have the love/hate relationship with it.

Golden Gai business area is run by foreigners, It's better for you to have a stab at what goes on in the rural kinki area.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Fire damages Tokyo's famous Golden-gai bar district

I have never thought there could be a day when someone calls Golden-gai famous. It is an infamous place.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Educator60: "In any case, a man suspected of involvement in the fire was arrested today (Wed)."

Boom! Knew it was likely arson. I'm betting it's strong-arm tactics by people who want the area razed to the ground for development.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

TV reportage said the arson suspect is a 66-year-old homeless man. Well, he's no longer homeless now. He's got a nice warm cell to sleep in plus he gets three solid meals a day.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember reading an article 5 or more years about and a bar owner was saying in the 80s, there were so many firms that wanted to develop the area, that there was the constant threat of Golden Gai being intentionally burned down, to give them an excuse to clear the area completely. I wonder if the building boom ahead of the Olympics inspired someone to pay this guy to start a fire, or if it was just some personal grudge.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Some of these places have leases that are impossible to break. This is one way they get them out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shotengai, golden Gai, same word in nihongo, gai?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shotengai, golden Gai, same word in nihongo, gai?

Yes. 街 - gai - street/area. Shotengai - 商店街 - shop street. Golden gai - ゴールデン街 - golden street.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When I vacationed in Tokyo a few years ago, my hotel overlooked Golden-gai (NOW I know what the area's name was!) I walked through some of the alleys but never stepped in one of the bars. The stares I got from some of the proprietors weren't very inviting. I guess they figured I was some stupid gaijin looking for the seedier aspects of Kabukicho.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks for kanji lesson, Strangerland.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

About time that rat's nest got cleaned out.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Shocked my the number of negative comments here. Perhaps people lacking the guts to go and see what the place is really about? (and that's not to rip people off, in my experience...Golden Gai and Kabukicho are NOT the same) But if you don't like the place, don't go! If you do, cherish one of the very few bits of Tokyo history that has not been razed and turned into yet another block of dull tower mansions or a faceless shopping mall full of idiots.

All the haters side with the vandals who have been steadily knocking down anything of historic relevance or merit in the past few years - and there was scarce little to start off with ! Long may Golden Gai and Omoide Yokochou and their ilk survive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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