Golden Gai 新宿ゴールデン街
The entrance to Golden Gai
The streets of Golden Gai from above
One of the tiny bars in Golden Gai
Credit: Eddy Milfort
Six lanes, all narrow and poorly lit, joined by even more narrow passages; around two hundred tiny and outdated local dives, a run-down street... Welcome to Golden Gai.
Attached to the red light district of Kabukicho is a vestige of post-war Japan. Golden Gai is a small corner of Shinjuku with eclectic buildings packed tightly together, long frequented only by locals.
But the tiny area of Golden Gai, sometimes also called Shinjuku Golden Gai, has started to attract foreign tourists looking for an authentic local place to drink.
Behind the outdated neon signs, the faded walls, in the smokey, relaxed atmosphere, even the rich and famous sit down at old, tiny counters to drink and chat with acquaintances, sharing the tastes of patrons whose favorite bar reflects their artistic inclinations: cinema, jazz, rock and more.
Most of the bars, which can only welcome around four to eight people, have their regular customers, and newcomers are rarely accepted - and usually only if introduced by a regular customer. But don't despair, some places are pleased to welcome strangers, and make this clear. While walking through the alleys of old Tokyo, look for the "Foreigners Welcome" signs.
Be aware that all the bars charge an entry fee that ranges from 500 yen for the cheapest to 4000 yen for the more expensive. The average price is around 1,000 yen. With a couple of drinks and some snacks, the bill can get pretty hefty!