The bars of Golden Gai

The bars of Golden Gai

Persevere as you wander through the neon dazzle and tout-laden lanes of Kabukicho, the hostess district of Shinjuku, and you just might find the entrance to the Golden Gai. Here, tiny bars, some with only room for four people, line alleys of little more than scooter width. You’ll walk up and down puzzling over which discreet door or stairwell you should explore, then marvel at how such intimate venues with so restricted a clientele can survive. Tokyo’s intelligentsia used to drink here, a place where you’re more able to strike up conversation with strangers while watching your barman chip a single rock of ice for your scotch. Some of the bars have extensive collections of vinyl and other memorabilia, and in such an intimate venue you’re sometimes able to flick through the plastic sleeves and make a suggestion. Or not -it depends on the master of the bar, with each as idiosyncratic as the bars themselves. The Golden Gai is a good place to stay all night and talk, so hop around till you find the right ‘crowd’.

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