I. Under the tracks
My first encounter with a yokocho was long before I moved here, back when Tokyo was still an unfamiliar gleaming enchanting mess of lights, a tangle of train lines and zebra crossings packed with an implausible number of people.
I’d stumbled out of the brightly lit avenues of the Ginza district into a shadowy world under the elevated railway tracks. In the nooks of a brick-lined underpass near Yurakucho Station was a cluster of izakaya billowing smoke and steam into the street. Inside each, a few worn tables crammed together, seats lining a brightly lit counter, walls plastered with old beer posters and strips of paper listing menu items, and white-shirted middle-aged salarymen, red-faced, gesturing, shouting, laughing.
Underneath the railway line I could hear voices coming from izakaya tucked into either side of a narrow corridor, each shop marked by paper lanterns advertising yakitori, gyoza, or the Japanese malt beverage Hoppy.
The scent of grilled meat wafted in the crisp night air, clouds of steam rising from enormous vats of some kind of stew that was being ladled out by the cupful, a low-hanging haze of charcoal and cigarette smoke blurring everything out of focus. I prowled the corners slowly, watching, captivated by the scene and the unbridled vitality of the groups of salarymen, whom I’d only ever really seen as grim-faced automatons crowding train platforms at rush hour. Each bar was packed, maybe with an empty stool or table squeezed in between groups of boisterous office workers, but I hung back, indecisive about entering their world. No one noticed; no shop owners called out the usual “irasshaimase!” greeting to welcome me in. I was invisible. I was in the shadows, after all.
In the end I stumbled off defeated and mesmerised and retreated to the safety of a brightly lit chain sushi shop where the staff shouted a hearty welcome and I ate mid-grade sushi, ordered off a touch screen, without saying a word to anyone.
Illustration by Yasuko Hirota
The literal translation of the word yokocho is “side town” – in the purest sense, it means something like “side street” or “alleyway” – and to many Tokyoites it signifies a narrow lane with clusters of tiny izakaya where burnt-out office workers stop for yakitori and cold sake on their way home from work. Yokocho are found in downtown areas and far-flung suburbs, the common thread being that they’re usually located close to a train station where the bleary-eyed masses will inevitably pass through each night.
The first appearance of “yokocho” in the Tokyo urban landscape is believed to date to the Edo Period (1603-1868). The seat of power moved from Kyoto to what is now Tokyo, and little pockets of commerce and trade started to flourish in side streets off the main thoroughfares of the rapidly growing city. In their current form, many yokocho date back to the Showa period, during the mid-twentieth century, to the black market stalls that sprung up as the city was getting back on its feet after being firebombed to shit by the Americans.
In the subsequent rise of the Japanese economy, the yokocho evolved from marketplaces to eating and drinking alleys and became synonymous with the paragon of the Japanese economic powerhouse: the ubiquitous white-collar company man, the salaryman (サラリーマン). Under a lifetime employment system and decent wages, salarymen enjoyed job security under a booming economy which, like so many other places in the world at that time, created a burgeoning middle class. But the word “salaryman” also carries with it connotations of the sacrifice of individuality for the good of the company, with long hours and heavy workloads in rigid, hierarchical company structures. The phenomenon of karoshi, or death by overwork, is so real that Japanese companies typically include it on their official risk registers. Under extreme pressure to perform in the workplace and conform to societal expectations outside of it, izakaya such as those found in yokocho were places where a salaryman could unwind, to communicate with each other over a cold sake or beer outside the strictly prescribed rules of behaviour they faced at work and in society.
Like the stereotypical clientele, the foods most associated with yokocho also date back to the Showa period and the postwar recovery. In the years immediately after the war, food stalls popped up in black markets selling grilled offal and other cheap meats easily procured from the occupying American forces. Even now, though you’ll find the odd wine bar or Thai joint nestled among the traditional izakaya, the smell of grilled chicken and pork offcuts and charcoal smoke remains the olfactory hallmark of the yokocho.
The setting, too, remains largely unchanged since those decades after the war. Main centres of Tokyo like Shinjuku have seen monumental transformation since that time – not so long ago – when there were still unpaved roads and the elevated expressways and skyscrapers hadn’t yet been built. But look at photographs of Shinjuku in the Showa period and you’ll find one scene in particular that hasn’t changed: an alley flanked by illuminated signs and paper lanterns, men with suit jackets draped over one arm disappearing into the smoky, smudgy dark. A sign over the entrance reads 思い出横丁 – “Omoide Yokocho”. The typeface on the sign is different now, but head to the west side of the tracks outside Shinjuku Station and you’ll find this tiny pocket of history very much intact.
III. In Praise of Shadows
Shinjuku has been a major centre of Tokyo since before the war years, when train lines started converging into the area from the west and the north. Shinjuku Station alone serves more than three and a half million passengers every day, easily making it the world’s busiest transportation hub. Go out one of the station’s 200-odd exits and you’re flanked by a wall of colossal office towers, gleaming facades of steel and glass reflecting the light from the sky somewhere above. Or you’re in the middle of a neon commercial maelstrom with street after street of department stores, pharmacy complexes, multi-storey electronics hubs. It’s stereotypical Tokyo: chaotic but modern, brightly lit. Clean.
For a city, then, that is so clean that visitors are often taken aback by the lack of litter on the streets despite the dearth of public rubbish bins (most Tokyoites know to take their rubbish home with them, or at least to the nearest convenience store), so full of skyscrapers and glass and sleek, gleaming shopping malls, it can feel incongruous to turn a corner and suddenly be walking through a dimly lit alley with decades of oily grime coating the walls, curled-up paper menu strips covered in sticky dust, dirty cracked footpaths. In places like Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, the ramshackle buildings almost look like they’d fall down if you poked one in the wrong spot. Cluttered kitchens spilling out onto countertops. Years’ worth of dirt accumulating where the floor meets the wall and the counter. The alleyways are dark and shadowy. In the West we’d call them dingy. Fire hazards. A council beautification project waiting to happen.
But, as Junichiro Tanizaki said in his 1933 essay In Praise of Shadows, about light and dark and the Japanese aesthetic: “We do not dislike everything that shines, but we do prefer a pensive cluster to a shallow brilliance, a murky light that… bespeaks a sheen of antiquity. Of course this “sheen of antiquity” of which we hear so much is in fact the glow of grime. In both Chinese and Japanese the words denoting the glow describe a polish that comes of being touched over and over again, a sheen produced by the oils that naturally permeate an object over long years of handling – which is to say grime. …I suppose I shall sound terribly defensive if I say that Westerners attempt to expose every speck of grime and eradicate it, while we Orientals carefully preserve and even idealise it. Yet for better or worse we do love things that bear the marks of grime, soot, and weather, and we love the colours and the sheen that call to mind the past that made them.”
Of course Tanizaki was talking about the arrival of electric lighting and white-tiled toilets to Japanese shops and homes; no one is quibbling about that now. But in yokocho, too, maybe there is value in letting the natural course of human history unfold and accumulate. To allow a space to take on its own character through the layering of years and decades of use and the inevitable build-up of dust and dirt is, perhaps, a way to let the intrinsic beauty of a place shine through.
In a dark corridor in Golden Gai, I’m queuing for niboshi ramen at the famous Nagi, beer can in hand, with a dozen other people sandwiched in the narrow gap between the ramen shop and the drinking den next door. It’s dark and cold and the wait is long and uncomfortable, the surroundings grimy. I think about how quick we’d be in New Zealand to clean this place up, to paint it over in bright colours, install some novelty light bulbs, give the project a hashtag. But here, no one seems fazed. The ramen itself – deep, intensely powerful niboshi (dried sardine) broth, chewy twists of hand-cut noodles – is enough of a draw. To attempt to make over the exterior would be ostentatious, perhaps even insulting.
I think of the changes happening back home: it feels like we’re losing spaces like these at a rapid pace. Labelled “grotty” or “decrepit”, they’re slated for new makeover projects with descriptors like “funky” liberally thrown about. And while we celebrate the installation of bubble machines and pop colour schemes, the more time I begin to spend in yokocho the more it occurs to me: you can’t gussy up a dingy alleyway with a fresh paint job and some new light fixtures and call it progress, something to be celebrated wholeheartedly without paying reverence to what you are losing in the process.
That’s not to say, of course, that the city of Tokyo is resistant to transformation or creative upgrades. If anything, it’s the opposite: the face of Tokyo has always had an air of impermanence, having been repeatedly destroyed by fire and earthquakes and war. There’s a feeling of transience in the cityscape here, buildings torn down and reborn as something new, landmarks disappearing and reappearing. But dig deeper and you’ll see there are corners of this city that haven’t been touched in generations, remnants that don’t seem to have been left there for the sake of nostalgia. Walk through older suburbs of Tokyo and you’ll see abandoned houses with creeping vines eating the place from the inside out, rickety cluttered shops with faded awnings and flickering fluorescent lighting. It still exists because it exists. One day soon, it might be gone – by natural disaster or a developer’s whim – but the feeling is, for now, it’s here.
Yokocho, too, are one of these remnants. Their future is not certain: Omoide Yokocho, for example, has been slated for demolition to make way for a new high-rise, only to be saved by a combination of vocal business owners and complicated land ownership rules. Even still, there’s always the risk that they will disappear due to other factors, like the 1990s fire that swept through eighty-odd eateries in Shinjuku, the ever-looming threat of a massive earthquake hitting Tokyo, or simply due to the proprietors’ old age. For now, though, they are here: a continuous link between present and past.
We get to Ebisu Yokocho by stepping through the doors of the former 1970s Yamashita shopping centre. The ground floor of the building has been gutted to create a makeshift alley linking the main street, Ebisu-Dori, to the narrow backstreets around the Shibuya River. Inside, the atmosphere is buzzing with glossy-haired twentysomethings with flushed cheeks and full smiles (it’s Ebisu, of course, not exactly a salaryman stalwart) and it’s so crowded that the three of us can’t sit down in any of the dozen-odd yakitori shops and seafood izakaya crowded into the space except the least popular place, off in a corner. It doesn’t matter: it’s Friday and the place is very much alive and we have cold beer and edamame and slightly too-greasy karaage.
Ebisu Yokocho is less than ten years old. The bars inside didn’t spring up naturally, one after another, but were part of a coordinated effort. Yet it somehow doesn’t feel like it’s an artificial reenactment of a bygone era, but rather an attempt at keeping the tradition going. Maybe a purist would call it a facade, but: those strips of paper on the walls are faded and dirty. The chairs and tables are shoved together, the customers are eating way too close together for comfort, you’re constantly elbowing the stranger sitting next to you. This is no faux-nostalgia for time gone by. This is reverence for a thing that’s still very much alive.
Of course there are shiny new places in Tokyo as much as in any other city; minimalist fourth-wave coffee shops and multi-storey department store developments with living walls and art installations. But even as the chameleonic parts of the city evolve into the latest manifestations of trend and glamour, there’s a need for these spaces, too. Even in trendy Ebisu. Ebisu Yokocho, one could argue, is not fake. It’s simply the latest incarnation in what has existed in the cultural fabric of Tokyo for a lifetime, perhaps longer.
IV. If you’re going to lose yourself anyway
If you’re not careful this city will swallow you whole.
It’s been documented: Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the OECD. In Tokyo alone, an average of about 2,600 people take their own lives every year; in 2013 there were eighteen times more suicides than traffic deaths in the city. Another well-documented phenomenon are the numbers of hikikomori, mostly younger, mostly men, who isolate themselves in their bedrooms for months and years at a time, withdrawn from society for so long they are paralysed by an inability to interact with others. Even among the majority who outwardly participate in society, recent studies have found young Japanese are increasingly shunning intimacy and relationships, uninterested in sex. Interactions are mendokusai. Too much trouble.
There are many contributing factors, of course, that are too complicated to go into here, and these phenomena are not unique to Tokyo. But there’s something about this place that’s acutely isolating.
Isolation. It seems contradictory that in the most populous metropolitan area in the world, in a city where crushing your face into a stranger’s armpit is an everyday occurrence at peak hour on the train, that it would be possible, even common, for people to feel alone.
But I’ve been there too: I’ve stood in the middle of Tokyo Station at rush hour balking at the sheer human mass passing by in every direction, hardly anyone talking to each other, throngs of people moving with single-minded intent to catch the train out of there as quickly as possible. I’ve walked through the city, invisible, anonymous, unable to catch a smile or even eye contact from another person. On trains, rows of identically dressed businessmen with the same dour expression on their face, staring at their phones. People in office buildings who’d rather let the door slam in your face than have to make the interaction. Grey sky, grey buildings, grey concrete roads, ashen-faced people. It’s easy to fall into a trap wondering how anyone can be happy here. How anyone can feel alive.
In a city of so many people, it’s a given that there is something for everyone, if you know what you’re looking for. When you’re a tourist the sheer enormity of options and range of niche experiences – owl cafes, craft beer, robot restaurants, specialty coffee, fine art, punk rock, vending machines selling escargot or fermented soybeans or fruit, convenience stores with ping-pong tables for hire – can be enthralling, delightful. But if you don’t know what you want, if you don’t know who you are and where you fit into this complex, jumbled mess it’s frighteningly easy to get lost. To begin to doubt everything.
I don’t know the reason for this – whether it’s the number of people, or whether it’s the scale and size of the city itself. Perhaps it is because we are all living in each other’s metaphorical armpit, because we are overworked and underslept, that we crave personal space. To get away from human activity. Too tired to make plans, relationships are difficult, and it’s not until years after moving to Tokyo when you realise you can count the number of real friends you’ve made on one finger. (I’m not the only one: a Google search for「東京のひとは冷たい」(“Tokyo people are cold”) turns up 3.2 million results, mostly from young people who’d moved here from other parts of Japan lamenting how hard it was to make friends.)
Back in Yurakucho, four years from that first encounter. I now know that the cluster of yakitori shops and other izakaya tucked under the bricks and steel and concrete of the rail line above is the Yurakucho Gādoshita (gādo an abbreviation of “girder”, -shita meaning “below”), and that in this part of town the gādoshita stretch in dotted-line fashion connecting Shimbashi and Yurakucho Stations.
The city is still a jumbled mess but it’s no longer overwhelming or unfamiliar. I live here now. I catch the subway to Ginza, emerge above ground near Yurakucho Station and the elevated JR lines, follow the train tracks north and then east, turning left, right, then left again. I know where to go.
Maybe because it’s a Sunday, or maybe because things are changing, but there are others this time, in addition to the throngs of salarymen in shirtsleeves. Older couples, young women in twos and threes, a smattering of tourists. That first feeling of inaccessibility and foreignness I felt so keenly that first time has all but dissipated. We walk towards the tracks and to a bright light illuminating beer crate tables spilling out on the street. The ojisan keeping watch moves slowly, deliberately, he’s got all the time in the world, but he knows how to run the place.
He leads us to a table and I’m still feeling hesitant about finally entering this world but when one of us orders an oolong-hi (whisky and oolong tea over ice) the old man gives him a clap on the shoulder and replies with a smile, “One oolong-HI!” and I know we’re exactly in the right place. We sit on upturned crates and drink cold beer in the first faint chill of autumn, adjusting the volume of our voices every few minutes when a bullet train shudders by overhead. Eating grilled pork on sticks and a gleaming, smoky whole sanma on a plate, pulling the tender, oily fish from the bone, picking at it now like vultures, the Shinkansen still passing by above us every few minutes with a dull thudding roar.
We head deeper into the murk: under the tracks, down a narrow concrete alley towards the lanterns and clamour and ubiquitous yakitori smoke down the end, until we’re sitting at a dumpling joint drinking Suntory whisky highballs (another izakaya staple) and eating motsu-nikomi from one of those big steaming vats which I now know to contain beef or pork offal stewed in a rich, savoury shoyu broth. A young man next to us leans over to ask for a light and somehow ends up telling us how rich he is (I’m sure he’s bullshitting) and old myths about Tokyo’s red-light districts during the Edo period, to the dismay of his friend, who stays quiet but looks on disapprovingly. The guy’s a sexist jerk but he’s also full of all the innocence and disillusionment of twenty-six year olds everywhere so we forgive him and polish off a couple of sheets of bite-sized gyoza all fried together and stumble back to the train full of dumplings and highballs and beef innards stew.
V. Not the glue of the city, but a glue
The Netflix Japan series Hibana: Spark, based on the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel by Naoki Matayoshi, follows the friendship between the protagonist Tokunaga, one half of the fictional manzai comedy duo Sparks, and fellow manzai comic and mentor, Kamiya, as they navigate their way through Tokyo’s comedy scene. Aside from the beautifully affectionate shots of west Tokyo and the raw, honest storyline itself, it’s interesting to watch for its depiction of izakaya, particularly yokocho, as a metaphor and backdrop for human authenticity and connection.
In almost every episode in the first half of the show, when Tokunaga and Kamiya are still relatively unknown, we watch their relationship unfold as they discuss the complexities of manzai and life while talking shit in the rundown bars of Kichijoji’s Harmonica Yokocho. These beer and oolong-hi fuelled conversations create a sort of glue between the two young men: a bond between senior and junior, mentor and mentee, almost brother-like more than friends. All the while they’re in and out of cramped yakitori bars with walls plastered with paper menu items, bar stools tucked among beer kegs and upturned crates, eating edamame and pickles and drinking highballs.
It’s strange seeing Harmonica Yokocho given this cinematic treatment, because in spite of the show being fictional the place, and its portrayal, is entirely real. I know: I live in west Tokyo, too; Harmonica Yokocho is a part of my life just as it is theirs. At An-chan, a yakiton (grilled pork) bar along one of the narrow corridors, we sit along the same wooden counter as Tokunaga and Kamiya did in one episode. We eat glistening skewers of kashira, pork head sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled over charcoal. It’s so simple but it’s fatty and full of flavour: the best thing in the world. Gingko nuts threaded on a skewer like yellow-green pearls and grilled until tender, almost creamy in texture. Steaming, quivering dashi-maki tamago (a Japanese rolled omelette) served with a mound of sharp grated daikon. We drink cold draught beer and highballs out of thick glass mugs just like Tokunaga and Kamiya do. We trade banter with the chefs and with the guy sitting next to us who offers us his drink to try: pickled plum mixed with soda and shochu. He’s drunk, it’s all good.
You could spend an entire evening eating and drinking within the maze of the harmonica, ducking in and out of tiny bars. We find ourselves at a bustling yakitori operation packed with young couples on dates and small groups of friends eating salted chicken hearts on sticks. A couple drinks later we’re somehow upstairs in a German restaurant with white tablecloths and imported beer, sharing a single expensive sausage before returning to the buzzing alley below. We pass by a mysterious set of stairs with painted elevation levels and words you’d more likely find on a hiking map; at 10,000 metres (“watch for falling rocks!”) we’re in a tiny, smoky old bar called Dengaku Mountain, where grilled and steamed vegetables and meats are painted with dengaku, a thick, sweet sauce made with homemade herbal miso. The place is cluttered and almost silent except for the baseball game playing on a small TV in the corner; there’s Hiroshima Carp memorabilia everywhere, the owners are clearly fans. As we eat in hushed tones the old man sitting around the corner from us leans over to ask where we’re from. We’re interrupted by his phone ringing: “I’m on a mountain right now” he tells the caller.
As Sparks gains increasing commercial success we see less of the red paper lanterns and clear vinyl curtains of the yokocho. Tokunaga’s on TV, drinking with industry executives in dark, swanky cocktail bars in Ginza, we see hints of discontent but by all outward measures he’s made it. Kamiya, by contrast, is spiralling, growing increasingly lost. When they do meet, it’s no longer in the yokocho but in a more upscale izakaya near Shibuya. Their conversation is strained. They’ve lost the relaxed intimacy they shared in those early years in the yokocho.
By the end of the series, Tokunaga’s fallen from stardom, dyed his silver hair back to black, taken up a job at a real estate office. He meets Kamiya back in the familiar old passageways of Harmonica Yokocho. They’re older now, wrung out by the entertainment industry; their relationship has scars. But in the divey backdrop of their old local izakaya, we once again see their friendship for what it really is: a bond forged on honesty and loyalty and unconditional acceptance. It’s unbreakable.
There’s something about these spaces: the close quarters, the honesty and simplicity of the food, that fosters some kind of intimacy between friends and between strangers. Like the man at Dengaku Mountain or the young braggadocio under the tracks in Yurakucho, in yokocho it’s somehow easy to have conversations with people who, in any other situation, would just be part of the anonymous masses.
And between friends, the mix of alcohol and good food and an inherently unpretentious setting, perhaps, allows us to be as relaxed and authentic as we can be: like Tokunaga and Kamiya, opening up our true selves to one another. This, I think, is the fundamental value of places like the yokocho. The heart of human connection isn’t in Ginza or Aoyama or a glimmering high tower in Shinjuku. It’s in spaces like these, built at a human scale.
And that’s why, perhaps, Tokyo needs yokocho more than ever. Why younger people are flocking to the traditionally older male enclaves now more than ever (in fact, in Hibana the clientele depicted in Harmonica Yokocho, for example, are mostly young, a mix of men and women). Maybe because we are overworked and underslept and living in each other’s metaphorical armpit, maybe that is all the more reason to overcome the craving for personal space, and remember we need each other too.
It’d be too trite to say yokocho is the glue that holds the city together. Tokyo is too big for that, too sprawling, too diverse even in its homogeneity. And it’s not as if they’re everywhere; places like this barely account for a fraction of the eating and drinking establishments in this city. But it’s hard to deny there is something special about them. It’s easy to believe that yokocho are one of the many glues that keep this city from falling apart.
VI. West side, Shinjuku Station
Finally. I’m in Omoide Yokocho. Piss Alley. The granddaddy of them all. The smokiest, darkest, most cramped laneway straight out of the pages of a Showa photography book. I’ve passed by here countless times but have never gone in.
This time, I’m alone. I’ve been to plenty of places like this by now. But I find myself uncertain, hesitant again. The alley itself isn’t that long – maybe twenty tiny bars on each side – and I walk down, and back up around the outside, circling back down again, trying to find the place for me. This should be easy; I live here now, I know how these places work.
The ironic thing is I can’t. I’m paralysed. As I part the clouds of low-hanging charcoal smoke I’m fighting, jostling at the same time with tourists with backpacks and tripods and guidebooks in hand. Each tiny eatery is packed to the gills with the usual salarymen, of course, but peppered amongst them are carefree Europeans, Aussies, Americans wildly gesturing in hilarious attempts at communication with the Japanese. They’re having the greatest time. They’re tanned from travelling, their clothes hang well on their bodies; they’ve clearly been spending the last few weeks swimming and eating and maybe suffering a bout or two of food poisoning along the way, emerging all the lither for it. Clearly not trapped in an office all day on a salaryman wage. I can recognise it in the way their facial muscles all look so relaxed, in their eyes: alert, sparkling. I remember it too.
There are two worlds overlapping here, and neither of them are mine. I wonder if I should give up and find some cheap sushi like I did that first time all those years ago. But the smell of fat dripping on charcoal is too much to tear myself away from so I keep pacing past laughter and shouting and cross-cultural camaraderie.
I finally duck into a Chinese restaurant full of weary-looking office workers and pull up on one of the stools surrounding a big open kitchen. The man standing behind the U-shaped counter never stops tossing his flame-licked wok, simultaneously taking orders and shouting them out to the ramen cooks further down the line. It’s brightly lit with flickering fluorescent light and it’s quiet save for the sounds of stir-frying and slurping. Everyone here is focused on eating: a plate of gyoza charred black on the bottom, stir-fried pork liver and Chinese chives, steaming bowls of tan-men. It’s so cramped I have to reach over my seatmate’s bowl to reach the shoyu and vinegar. And no one here is talking to each other. Everyone is tired. No one is looking for communication. I understand.
I wonder if this will be the first time I visit a yokocho without having a single conversation when, on my way out I see a few ojisan in rumpled black suits waiting outside the door of a wide, shallow yaki-ton place. A queue is a good sign in Tokyo. I instinctively get in line.
When a seat opens, I’m sandwiched between the older man who had been ahead of me in the queue and a group of loud-mouthed middle-aged salarymen and women on my right. A company man from Tottori who’s been transferred around Japan his whole career, never calling one place home for long. An executive of a rugby club in Yokohama. A charismatic older woman, a manager type with a 1980s perm. They’re all strangers, they’re all twenty or thirty years my senior, but everyone is talking to each other, raising overflowing glasses of sake together in a rousing kampai. I find myself joining them; we’re sharing pieces of grilled omelette and skewered pork belly and delicately sliced bits of tongue, conversation and temporary friendship. The bar starts running out of meat; they start shutting the grill down. It’s last call for drinks and we start peeling off one by one, putting on our jackets, taking our briefcases and backpacks back to Shinjuku Station, to our respective trains that will carry us back home in all directions through the vast, unending night.
Yokocho visited in this essay
Yurakucho Gadoshita (Yurakucho)
2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku
Golden Gai (Shinjuku)
1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
Ebisu Yokocho (Ebisu)
1-7-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku
Harmonica Yokocho (Kichijoji)
Kichijoji-Honcho 1-chome / 2-chome, Musashino-shi
Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku)
Nishishinjuku 1-chome, Shinjuku-ku
Others worth seeking out
Nonbei Yokocho (Shibuya)
1-25 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
Shinbashi Gadoshita (Shinbashi)
1 Shinbashi, Minato-ku; 1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku;
Hoppy Dori (Asakusa)
2-5 Asakusa, Taito-ku
Koenji Gadoshita (Koenji)
3 Koenji-Minami, Suginami-ku
2 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku
Akabane OK Yokocho
1-17 Akabane, Kita-ku
Tateishi Nombe Yokocho
7-1 Tateishi, Katsushika-ku