Heads up! We’re working hard to be accurate – but these are unusual times, so please always check before heading out.
By Kumi Nagano
Hidden in between and behind shiny high-rises, massive station complexes and other architectural monsters, Tokyo's old-school alleyways or yokocho are treasure troves for anyone looking to experience the city's less sterile, more down-to-earth side. Found all over town, Tokyo's yokocho host thousands of tiny eateries, pubs and shops, some of them dating way back to the early postwar years, and provide opportunities for slipping back in time to the smoky, change-filled decades of the Showa era. Recent years have seen some yokocho become trendy locations for opening hip new restaurants, adding another flavour into the diverse mix of tastes, attitudes and customs found on these backstreets.
If you don't mind a little neighbourly physical contact (many joints seat less than 10 patrons), yokocho eateries and izakayas are cheapo heaven. People's booze, such as highballs, shochu and Hoppy, is often available from ¥100 or so, and the food maintains the same dirt-cheap standard without sacrificing quality. The alleys are also ideal for discovering the less stuffy sides of Japanese culture and making new drinking buddies. Do avoid going in big groups though, as there simply won't be enough space for all of you. Here's our comprehensive list of 17 fascinating yokocho – crawl through them all and you'll have learned more about the city than many people ever will.