Located near the busiest train station in the world, a tiny alley of around 60 small bars and restaurants linked by a narrow street just wide enough for two to pass stands in a stark contrast to its crowded neighbor.
This area, known as Omoide Yokocho (“Memory Lane”), started out as a black market in the late 1940s after World War II. The strip was also known for cheap drinks and grilled skewers of yakitori. The area’s many watering holes and lack of public restrooms earned it the nickname “piss alley,” as inebriated patrons would relieve themselves in the street.
Although the alley was partly razed to make room for the new Shinjuku station and partly destroyed in a fire in the 1990s, a sizable chunk has survived. The local government also rebuilt the fire-damaged sections, making sure to restore their original Shōwa-era appearance. Today, Omoide Yokocho is filled with tiny stalls serving yakitori and nikomi (a type of beef tendon stew) meant to be washed down with plenty of cheap beer and sake. One of the most famous, or infamous, of them is suggestively named Asadachi, which means “morning wood.” This bar is known for offering such delicacies as fried frogs, salamanders, and aphrodisiacs such as bull penises to go with your beer.
Despite its sketchy past, the area is now perfectly safe for a visit. Most establishments even offer menus in English. To experience Omoide Yokocho in its full glory, it is recommended to visit at nighttime, when most of the tiny bars are open, the lights are illuminated, and the area is filled with businessmen and tourists alike looking for a quick snack and a good drink.
Know Before You Go
It's a five-minute walk from Shinjuku station. The Omoide Yokocho website has a convenient map showing the locations of all of the establishments in the alley.