Shinjuku Golden Gai + Okonomiyaki

Golden Gai is an infamous network of intertwining narrow alleys, which host several hole-in-the-wall (literally!) bars and clubs. Most of those bars can probably only sit six people or so, and the alleys are wide enough for one person to squeeze through. The buildings are all so tiny and ramshackle, the streets dimly lit and the whole area has a grungy feel, much like the activity going on around there.

Shinjuku Golden Gai

Golden Gai was known for its prostitution before 1958 (the year it became “illegal”), and luckily most of those small bars survived time and fires and are now a popular drinking destination. Some say the Golden Gai bars are off-limits to tourists and non-Japanese speakers- which is not necessarily true, as some of those locales are offering an English menu to accommodate foreign customers. Yet, many of the bars only welcome regular customers, so it’s maybe best to go with Japanese friends.

If you’re in Shinjuku, I highly recommend walking through those tiny alleys late at night, as it feels like you’re not in Shinjuku anymore for a few minutes, but in a completely different, scruffy old world- that is, before exiting to the neon lights again.

After walking through what seemed like a time warp, we were ravenous so we headed out to a nearby okonomiyaki restaurant, a dish that always pleases all taste buds, and that’s fun to make. Most restaurants let you take care of the cooking, by giving you a bowl of the mixed batter and toppings. We picked shrimp, mochi (rice cakes) and cheese, and slathered them with okonomiyaki sauce and a bit of mayonnaise (not too much…) after it was cooked. I love okonomiyaki! Osaka is very famous for this dish, and I wish I could eat it more often in Tokyo.

Golden Gai- I adore those little alleys

Pre-cooked okonomiyaki: pancake-like batter mixed with cabbage and toppings

Cooking okonomiyaki… flipping it requires some mad skills.

Final result… sprinkle some seaweed and sauce it all up, Osaka-style.

Okonomiyaki makes me serious.

Golden Gain Photos by Almir de Freitas via Flickr Creative Commons

Author of this article

Vivian Morelli

Vivian Morelli hails from Canada and is a journalist based in Tokyo, where she writes about culture, fashion, food and music. You can read her Japan musings at

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