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.
Golden Gai For Newbies
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 shifty 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). Travelers beware. Of course, all of these rando details make Golden Gai a must-add on the “Where In The World…” list.
Location & Hours
You’ll find this quirky little network amidst the skyscrapers of the Shinjuku neighborhood. The largest nearby crossroads are Yasukuni-dori and Kuyakusho-dori, and Golden Gai sits just behind them. You can make the turn towards the alleys at either Mister Donut or Zirco Tokyo.
The bars all open at different times, but they’re generally all open around 5:30 pm. They stay open until 5 o’clock in the morning!
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