The compact maze that is Golden Gai feels like a world of its own, a remnant of old Tokyo hiding under the shadow of Shinjuku’s modern, glitzy skyscrapers. It is cinematic, atmospheric, and a classic Tokyo nightlife experience.
A former red light district, the tight alleyways are now home to roughly 280 distinct little establishments, each just big enough to seat a handful of people at a time – in fact, many of them count among the tiniest bars in the city (and perhaps in the world as well). What they lack in space, they more than make up for with their personality, each with its own niche catering to a particular set of clientele, especially folks from the local creative industries.
Many of the city’s budding actors and musicians moonlight as bartenders at Golden Gai, and are always happy to welcome patrons from all walks of life. However, some bars cater only to regulars or members. For travellers, it’s hard to know where and how to start your bar-hopping night here – but not if you follow our guide to the best drinking dens in Tokyo’s golden district.
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