Golden Gai is a very popular collection of tiny bars that are crowded into a network of narrow alleyways in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. More than 200 small bars—many no bigger than a closet and most only large enough for a handful of customers—are clustered in the district, and each one has a distinct character all its own.
Golden Gai is a popular post-work destination for locals and for travelers visiting Tokyo. With the highest number of bars per square meter in the world, this lively spot is the perfect place to have a drink, meet some locals, and experience the charms of Tokyo’s nightlife. Take a stroll through the lanes, and pick a place that looks welcoming—bars that are friendly to tourists typically have English signs posted on their doors.
For a deeper insight into the culture and norms of the Golden Gai, you can visit the district on a guided tour. Guides will help navigate the Japanese signage and keep you from committing any social faux pas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Some bars in Golden Gai do not allow foreigners; these spots usually post English signs to that effect on their doors.
- Most bars charge a cover to enter.
- Photography is not permitted in the bars without explicit permission.
How to Get There
You can reach Golden Gai by taking the Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Odakyu Railway, Seibu Railway, or even Japan Railways trains to Shinjuku Station; the East Exit is less than a 10-minute walk from the district.
When to Get There
Most bars in Golden Gai don’t open until after 5pm, and the area is busiest after 10pm. Bars stay open well into the wee hours; 5am is a typical closing time.
Less than a 10-minute walk from Golden Gai, under a set of rail tracks, you’ll find Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane), another warren of alleyways crammed with tiny businesses. This area, however, is full of tiny restaurants instead of bars. Stop here for a beer and skewers of yakitori before heading out to enjoy the nightlife in Golden Gai.