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Exploring Local Nightlife at a Japanese Yokocho

Sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, something all yokocho have in common is no-frills food, drink and good times. The izakaya (food/drink taverns) are usually dominated by yakitori (grilled chicken) joints, but you’ll also find plenty of other Japanese fare, too.

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For an authentic, down-to-earth Japanese dining experience, head straight for the nearest yokocho, or ‘alleyway’. These narrow streets, crammed with ramshackle izakaya, can be found all over the place and are as atmospheric as they are dingy.

They offer a glimpse into post-World War II Japan, when they first began popping up among the devastated landscape, as a space for locals to gather and have a good time. Come with us now, as we explore some of our favourite Tokyo yokocho. 

What’s a yokocho? 

Sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, something all yokocho have in common is no-frills food, drink and good times. The izakaya (food/drink taverns) are usually dominated by yakitori (grilled chicken) joints, but you’ll also find plenty of other Japanese fare, too. 

There’s plenty to like about a yokocho; the food is traditional and cheap, the drinks are cold and numerous, and the lantern-lit lanes are bustling and nostalgic. 

More often than not, the eateries are small, serving between 5 and 20 people. For this reason, it’s best to go in a small group so you have a better chance at being seated together. It’s also common for these small establishments to charge a seating fee for every patron, or to simply serve a mandatory appetizer.   

Entrance to Memory Lane

The memorable Omoide Yokocho

Located beside Shinjuku Station, Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) started as an illegal drinking area in post-war Tokyo. The story goes that the establishments were too rudimentary for bathrooms, so patrons used the nearby train tracks instead. 

(You can read the rest of the article at this link. This article was first published by Team JJ on November 28, 2020. Check here for deeper and unique insights into visiting Japan, including wellness, travel, cuisine and more. Find us on Instagram and on Facebook.)

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Author: Team JJ

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