Golden Gai is a popular night spot in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It used to be a red light district until prostitution was declared illegal in 1958. Since then, Golden Gai has cleaned up while maintaining much of its old Tokyo charm.
At first glance, Golden Gai looks like a shanty town with over 200 tiny bars, squeezed into a block with 6 alleyways. Most of the bars are just a few metres wide and can only accommodate 5-8 persons at a time.
However, don’t be fooled by its exterior. Drinks can be pricey at this alcohol mecca and some bars collect a cover charge. Many of them are exclusive for regular customers.
Golden Gai offers a unique nightlife experience with a 1960s-style Tokyo setting. It is popular among artists, musicians, and actors. On some nights, you could even chance upon a Japanese celebrity!
Though it is often misconstrued as an exclusive night spot, many bars in Golden Gai are friendly to first-time visitors. Just look for the English signboards outside the bar and you’ll surely get a warm welcome when you step inside.
Recommended bars at Golden Gai
Albatross has one of the most fascinating interiors at Golden Gai. It is relatively spacious with two floors decorated with chandeliers, disco balls, stuffed animal heads, and other interesting items. The third floor is a rooftop balcony where you can enjoy your Japanese single malt whiskey beneath the Tokyo sky. Cover charge is 500 yen (US$5.00) and drink prices start at 700 yen (US$7.00).
Araku is another spacious bar at Golden Gai. It is owned by an Australian who is very welcoming to foreign guests. Sit at one of the couches and enjoy a glass of sake-based cocktails! Araku has no cover charge. Drinks cost 700 yen (US$7.00) and above.
Easy Rider pays homage to American biker bars and all things Americana. This cozy 10-seater venue is made livelier with the friendly English-speaking barman. Say the magic words (Easy Rider) to avoid paying the cover charge. Buy some bar chow and get good deals on your drinks!