Whenever I’m overseas, I like to do things like the locals. Thus, I headed over to a Yokocho which is actually “side alley”. Featured here is Omoide Yokocho in Shinjuku, which has been around since 1950s. They are also commonly known as “Piss Alley” or “Memory Lane”.
Omoide Yohocho is located in West Shinjuku and there are several entry points to this place. Before continuing, I need to manage your expectations. Don’t expect a Yokocho to be a nice, clean and spacious place, because it isn’t.
In fact, Yokocho is actually very small. It only has a side table and some stools, enough to seat about 10 to 15 customers each time.
It will definitely be a smoky and squeezy affair.
At Yokochos, the most popular food is actually deliciously grilled yakitori (food on skewers) and so you basically see smoke coming out from the individual stalls while they grill their food. Apart from food, beer and company of friends are essential too.
I say that it was a smoky affair because of the grilling of yakitori. It also depends on where you are seating. At some shops, they have the grilling done near the front while some were at the back.
Other than the grilling of yakitori, you most probably will find that the people around you will be smoking too.
Other than yakitori, you can find other grilled food or boiled food such as ramen or stews. At Yokocho, it is almost a SOP to order a glass or bottle of beer as it’s cheap! However, if you really don’t take alcohol, they have other drinks too.
Pictured here is a Yakitori Set (1000¥) and a glass of draft beer (500¥). I personally prefer the winglets and meatballs so if you see items that you don’t actually consume, it will be better to order the yakitori a la carte, according to your preference.
It might not be the most beautiful or comfortable place to be (especially for non-smokers) but it’s where you see locals or blue-collared workers hang out after work over some good grilled sticks and beer to end the night. Definitely a good way to experience the local lifestyle.