In the heart of Tokyo, there lies a place by the name of “Omoide Yokocho,” which means “memory lane,” a dining and drinking district where the remnants of the post-war black market remain on the west side of Shinjuku Station surrounded by a business area.
Small taverns are arranged in a narrow space of about 30 × 100 meters, a 3 minute walk from the west entrance of Shinjuku Station. This street has a feel of nostalgia and is called “Omoide Yokocho”(memory lane), but the people who know it from the old days call it “Shonben Yokocho”(piss alley).
This strange name probably came to be because drunks used to piss to the street directly in the old days. This street was more of a black market that was launched by Yasuda gumi; a stall keeper after WW2.
In the evening on weekdays each of the taverns turn on red lanterns and solicit passengers showing “Motsu nikomi”(a hodgepodge of innards, guts and entrails) in their electric pots. I know it may sound a little gross, but it is actually a well-known, popular Japanese delicacy that foreigners are recommended to try.
Most of the taverns are for middle aged men to drink cheap beers and something called “Hoppy”(a beer flavored drink) and eat yakitori, Motsu nikomi, or ramen. These are cheaper here than in the neighborhood of Shinjuku.
There was a large fire in 2001 and a third of these shops were burned. There was a rumor that “Omoide Yokocho” would be destroyed, but after one year most of shops were restored and reconstructed.
The menu has unique items like “Soy bowls”, “healthy bowls” and “powerful bowls.” I tried the “Poja bowl” which is like a chicken cutlet bowl with chicken breast tenderloin outside and beef gristle inside. It is a strange combination, but it costs only 500 yen.
We also went to a place called “Gifu ya” and ate ramen, stir-fried vegetables and “pidan”; a Chinese delicacy, made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs for a long period of time. It is great cuisine to accompany a night of drinking.
Nowadays this street is popular to foreigners and we often see foreigners taking pictures. I hope “Omoide Yokocho” remains intact in the future so more people can enjoy it.
[How to go] a 3 minute walk from JR Shinjuku station
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