This photo story is about one of the most intriguing place in Tokyo, a place where you will find a cluster of eateries (50 or 60) where salarymen gather do drink after work. It's called piss alley or Shonben Yokocho in Japanese. The name of this narrow street (plus a couple of side alleys) speaks length about its nature, it was nicknamed so in a time when you didn't have toilets to relieve yourself, the middle of the alley being probably where all this urine excess would flow a few dozen years ago. The smell reputation of this alley made probably the area a no-go zone for the respectable people of the 1940s'.
The odd thing is that this old-time street has managed to survive in what is the most modern and active neighborhood in Tokyo : Shinjuku. Shinjuku, for starters, is a hot spot of Tokyo's evening life (partly red-light district), a shopping area and one of the major train/metro hubs of the world, and Japan's first : just think that it handles 3,6 million commuters per day... Not really a forgotten stretch of shitamachi like in the vicinity of Minowa or Ueno where it would be less surprising to find remnants of the old ways.
The gate sign here calls the alley with its other name : Omoide Yokocho or memory lane. In spite of their modernity, the japanese people like to look with nostalgy on long-gone times, that's why this name, which is also more respectable than the other infamous one.
You almost always have the traditional Oden, also called Nikomi (stewed), a sort of pot au feu or soup with all sort of things foating in.
We went there with Anna one evening and this stand was irrestibly attracting us bur alas although we waited a while and walked up and down, it kept being full, these company employees were having fun and were there for long. There would have been maybe a seat in the end of the counter for one person, but not for us three. That's why I think it's good to come with as few people as you can here.
The two vintage drinking areas are also quite different by nature, Golden Gai being more into the 1960s' with music bars and so on, and the bill can be pretty high at Golden Gai, while at Piss Alley if you keep with regular yakitoris (outside of horse penis or frog sashimi), you should get a very reasonable bill. We ordered a couple of sake and something to eat and paid some 1200 Yen each (8,4 € or 11,5 USD).
For all these restaurants, I've been wondering how they do when someone seated at the bottom want to get out, do the others in front of him have to leave briefly to open his way ? Maybe not but better not be overweight if you have to sneak your way behind those backs to an empty seat in the back...
The young woman seated on the front is having a cigarette, showing that smoking in izakayas is pretty admitted.
This venue is named Isuzu and Komatu, they have a menu in Eglish, here are a few prices :
Bers from 400 Y to 550 Y; Sake hot or cold (hakuturu, Kennbishi, Kikumasamune) 350 Y; Sake bottle (300ml) 700 Y; Whisky (Suntory kaku) 350 Y to 600 Y; A few Japanese spirits like Genkai made from barley (300 Y), Dandan made from potatoes (350 Y), Kurokirishima made from potatoes (400 Y), Umeshu made from plum (350 Y). There are also a few soft drinks an tea.
Yakitori side, they had sets with 5 skewels, each set costing a mere 500 Y. These yakitori were made from pork (meat, meat & onion, liver, heart, tongue, intestine and cartilage), chicken (meat & onion, gizzard), or vegetable only (mushroom, small green pepper, green onion, sweet pepper). They had a few other side dishes costing from 200 to 450 Y and more on the other side of this menu.