If you want to eat and drink well for cheap nothing is better than Tokyo’s back streets, the Yokocho. They’re really close to the principal streets and stations, but the prices are surprisingly cheaper, and they’re full of small, lively restaurants and bars that are waiting to be discovered! Almost all eateries offer Japanese cuisine only, but the menu expanded a little to attire youngsters. As Yokocho is usually quite small, your nose will let you know when you hit a good restaurant.
1. Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho
Located on the underpass of the west exit in Shinjuku station, Omoide Yokocho means “the back street of memories”. After the end of the World War II, this street was used to sell utilities and necessities such as soap, clothes, and food. The only aliments that were available in a good quantity at that time were the pork entrails, and even now in Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho you can find roasted entrails skewers in a lot of restaurants in the area. But don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of entrails you can also taste other delicious dishes and even local sweets like dorayaki: Tokiya is a café few minutes walk away from Omoide Yokocho which sells homemade dorayakis. It appeared many times on tv programs and online, so you can guess their sweets are really good. Be aware of the queue though!
Address: Nishishinjuku 1-Chome, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tokiya website: http://www.tokiya.co.jp/index.html
2. Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho
A lot of young people and tourists have visited this famous Yokocho lately because you can experience the warm and cozy atmosphere of the past and relax. Every Yokocho has a different atmosphere that is often similar to its neighborhoods, and in Nonbei Yokocho’s case, it has a young and bright atmosphere to attract Shibuya’s youngsters. It is located in the center of Shibuya, near Hachiko exit, and it’s full of lively izakayas and fashionable bars to enjoy on a night with friends. At the website below, you are able to find a list of all the Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho’s shops and restaurants to give you an idea of how many bars you could visit in just one night, and just one street.
Address: 1 Chome-25 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
3. Ebisu Yokocho
I know, we just said that every Yokocho’s atmosphere kind of adapts to its neighborhoods, but Ebisu Yokocho is an exception. Ebisu area is very refined, but by night Ebisu Yokocho becomes full of colors and delicious flavors, showing a different side of the elegant Ebisu neighborhoods. Every restaurant or pub is different from the others, but they have in common the big number of customers. Another charming characteristic is the red lanterns that light up the Yokocho, giving a very romantic feeling. We advise to check the website below to discover all the pubs and restaurants on Ebisu Yokocho and choosing the one best fitting your needs.
Website: http://www.ebisu-Yokocho.com/top.html (Japanese only)
Address: 1-7-4 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
4. Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho
Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho is a bit wider and mazier than other Yokocho, but it surely is worth a visit. Its name, Harmonica, comes from the fact that even though its complex structure the shops are all well aligned and from above it really seems like a big harmonica. There you can also find interesting shops selling various articles and not just restaurants and pubs, which makes this particular Yokocho a good destination for an entire day exploring, starting from the morning market.
Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo
5. Shinjuku Golden Gai
Six narrow alleys connected by even narrower streets form the Shinjuku Golden Gai, a small Yokocho that comes alive at night. At the Golden Gai time has stopped from the time before the great urbanization, so it’s also a good place to get an idea of the past Tokyo atmosphere. This Yokocho has a more artistic feeling than the other ones: it’s a well-known meeting place for artists and musicians of all kinds, and because every day it gathers so many people every night will be different and special. Shinjuku Golden Gai may be one of the most foreign-friendly Yokocho.
Website: http://www.goldengai.net/ (Japanese only)
Address: 1 Chome-1-６ Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo
6. Asakusa Hoppy Dori
Some of the Asakusa Hoppy Dori’s pubs are open even in the morning, and at any time of the day, you will find someone drinking…and one of the most famous pubs there is “Shou-chan”, which serves a delicious braised beef and other traditional meat dishes. The atmosphere is rather relaxed, so it is surely a local which encourages customers to drink and eat to their heart’s content. If you want to eat good quality fish, we recommend Takahashi: it’s a quoted izakaya which also serves sashimi dishes.
Address: 2 Chome-12-4 Asakusa, Taito-Ku, Tokyo
7. Hobo Shinjuku Noren-Gai
In Hobo Shinjuku Noren-Gai, there are 8 Japanese traditional izakayas to choose from. Awadsutsumi, for example, is a peculiar pub which specialties are gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and champagne. It has a good selection of western drinks and wine, so give it a try if you’re searching for something original! There is also a Spanish-Italian pub, Azzurro520, and a yakitori-specialized pub called Yoyogi Shinkei.
Website: http://www.hobo-shinjuku.com/ (Japanese only)
Address: 5-20-10 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
8. Shinbashi-Yurakucho under railroad
Located between Shinbashi and Yurakucho stations, Gado-shita yurakucho is called the “the salaryman’s heaven” because it gathers a lot of cheap and delicious traditional izakayas and standing bars. There you can find yakitori, Korean and Chinese pubs and so on and the atmosphere is very festive. There isn’t anything better than relaxing in a lively pub to soothe the every-day fatigue.
Address: Area around 1 Shinbashi, Minato-ku; 1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda-ku; 2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Thumbnail image is from Flickr