Shinjuku's Golden Gai: A Hidden Diamond in an Urban Rough (Tokyo Backstreets Part 2)

Shinjuku's Golden Gai: A Hidden Diamond in an Urban Rough (Tokyo Backstreets Part 2)

Fuad Olajuwon

One of the nicest parts of Shinjuku is the vibrant diversity of the area. No matter what you’re looking for, Shinjuku is the place where you can scratch any itch. From restaurants and cafes to shops and sightseeing, this part of Tokyo has something for everyone. Sometimes you can combine two or more elements at once, creating a unique feel that would last a lifetime. So, talking a little bit about the nightlife would do us some good. If you’re looking for an attractive watering hole (or a series of them to make things interesting), look no further than Golden Gai in Shinjuku.

Translated as “Golden Street” in Japanese, the area is a densely packed zone of bars where you can get a quick nightcap or two. To get there from the East Exit of JR Shinjuku Station, head towards Kabukicho. It’s quite a journey with many sights and sounds, but just follow the signs out of the station and keep on a straight path. From there, you’ll come across another major street by the name of Yasukuni Dori. After you see the Kabukicho sign, start veering left until you get to a distinctive temple-like entrance. From there, you’ll enter a secluded area that feels much different than the hustle and bustle of regular Shinjuku. That’s when you know you’ll be in the right place.

Shinjuku Golden Gai sign in Japanese

Welcome to Golden Gai sign

Feel free to take in all of the sights and sounds of the area, as row after row of drinking establishments catch your eyes with neon signs and equally distinctive designs. A place untouched by time, Golden Gai has something to offer those who embrace the night sky and appreciate the inner insomniac. Feel free to choose any bar of your fancy, as most places charge a basic seat fee sitting in the 500-1,000 yen range. Don’t fret if you’re language impaired, as many places have English menus or drink lists with pictures so that you can continue your evening without a hitch. Some establishments have food items as well if you wish to wash down the sustenance with a beverage of your choice. Whether you decide to go out with some friends or fly solo for this affair, the place will reward you with something worthwhile.

Another alley in Golden Gai

A dark Golden Gai alley

Bar Queen sign

One of the more interesting aspects about the place is how it hides in plain sight. Secluded in a more remote corner near another set of Shinjuku playgrounds (such as Kabukicho and Omoide Yokocho), the area doesn’t garner as much praise as its more touristy cousins. That is what makes the place seem all the more appealing to the person who decides to go off the deep end and walk their own path. You get the narrow alleyways of an Omoide Yokocho, with the gritty feel of a Kabukicho, with less foot traffic and more fun. Sometimes if it seems like it’s too good to be true, you have to buy yourself some liquid courage. With the dozens of drinking options available to you, Golden Gai may just be the little pick-me-up you’re looking for.

Also don't miss: Tokyo Backstreets Part 1

Poster in Golden Gai