Not every review on TripAdvisor for Golden Gai is positive. I read comments that said it was overrated and only good for one visit but not worth going back to. People who cannot appreciate Golden Gai are not my kind of travel buddies.
Because I disagree. Golden Gai is amazing. The atmosphere is something unique to the place and while, yes, the drinks can get expensive, I think it’s really worth checking out. It’s exactly the kind of place I would want as a regular hangout if I was a Tokyo resident (and have enough to blow on drinks).
We first stumbled upon the few narrow blocks collectively known as Golden Gai one morning as we cut across the notorious Shinjuku Red Light District known as Kabukicho. We first noticed the quaint alleys and started taking pics, until I got the feeling that we were in Golden Gai, which was on the itinerary for a night out. A quick consultation with Google Maps confirmed that we were in fact in Golden Gai so we excitedly walked around.
Little did we know that there were signs around saying No Photographs around. That was disappointing but the place looked too cool so we covertly tried to take pics as much as we can.
There were bars that only had Japanese signs, but there were enough bars that had English signs and a pricelist outside, which is a good indicator that tourists are welcome. Most bars have a table charge of 500 to 1000 yen, but there are also a few signs saying it’s free to enter. There are rock bars, jazz bars, reggae bars, Francophile bars, and, I heard, a BDSM-themed bar somewhere although I didn’t see it.
We went back one night soon after for a taste of the nightlife there. We went around the whole area once before finally settling on a Spanish-themed bar that had positive reviews online called Nana.
There was a table charge of 500 yen. We sat by the bar and my boyfriend ordered a vino de tinto. I had done my research before going so I knew that the most popular drink in Japan is the highball, and that’s what I ordered. That set us back by 2,500 yen, including the table charge.
There was one other couple when we entered. When they left, a Japanese couple, a Spanish couple, and a Japanese woman arrived in sequence. The barman, who also owns the place, lived in Spain for a while and speaks Spanish, as does the other Japanese man, who seemed to be a regular. Soon, conversations in Japanese, Spanish and English filled up the small space. The atmosphere was very laid-back, friendly and intimate. It was definitely one of my favorite moments in Japan.