Welcome to the “tiny bar district” in Tokyo! Golden Gai, or “Golden District,” is a six-alley network of some 200 bars in the Shinjuku neighborhood. Each shanty establishment seats anywhere from five to thirty people, and they all come with their very own personalized theme—death metal, karaoke, and the like. (Who doesn’t love a kitschy little theme?) Interconnecting alleyways are sometimes so narrow only a single person can fit through and upper-level bars are reached by steep stairways.
Rumor has it that the Yakuza made a regular practice of burning area buildings down in the ’80s to then sell land to developers, but Golden Gai patrons stood guard at nights to preserve it. Some of the bars only accept regulars and you’ll periodically catch a “no foreigners” sign posted, but most are now “gaijin”-friendly (foreigner-friendly). …Just walk away if you catch some side-eye. No harm, no foul. I personally found the Japanese to be ridiculously polite. Another quirk? (As if you needed more here!) No photos without express permission from the establishment(s). Traveler beware.
Want more on Japan? Stay tuned for my upcoming feature where the #AdventurePartnerForLife and I tackle Tokyo and Kyoto, our first Asia experience! (And, yes, we want more. Much more.)
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© 2018 Jordan Campbell. Some rights reserved. Photo credit: Benjamin Hung, Unsplash.com