The Five Star Vagabond

Super travel tips, all road tested by David Herd. I'm an Australian guy who moved to Thailand in 2011 & still travel the world as often as possible.

Piss Alley Tokyo very quaint Street

February 27, 2014 by David Herd

Piss Alley Tokyo very quaint Street in Shinjuku which really has a distinctive personality. Known also as Memory Lane however I think Piss Alley has a far better sound to it.  😆

Piss Alley Tokyo

Piss Alley Tokyo

 

Piss Alley Tokyo was named many years ago, when it was a shady destination for criminals to get drunk together. The place wasn’t very built up back in those days, so instead of using a toilet, people just relieved themselves wherever they could.

Wonderful tiny restaurants

Piss Alley Tokyo

 

Many of the restaurants in Piss Alley Tokyo only seat 6 or 7 people, the larger ones probably up to 20 and people are often packed in like sardines.

Little “hole in the wall” restaurants

Piss Alley Tokyo

There are some very strange dishes available on Piss Alley.

  • Frog sashimi
  • Pig testicles
  • Soft-shelled turtle
  • Still-beating frog’s heart
  • Grilled salamander
  • Snake liquor

I was not taking any risks so I stuck to the Yakitori.

Yakitori in Piss Alley Tokyo

Piss Alley Tokyo

 

Great yakitori,  this is still the place to eat Japan’s original fast foods: yakitori (chicken skewers), motsu-nabe (offal stew) and hormone-yaki (grilled organ meats). Most items on the menus are made from the rejected body parts of livestock.

Foreign television crews love izakaya Asadachi (Shinjuku 1-2-14, no phone) for delicacies such as pig testicles, grilled salamanders, frog sashimi and other foods. Even for adventurous Japanese eaters, most of the menu is considered off-the-wall. There’s a reason Asadachi has maintained its near city-wide monopoly on serving horse penis.

For the less experimental, standard yakitori joints abound, though truth be told, many of these Shinjuku bars survive as much on location as quality. Finding the best yakitori is often a hit or miss affair. The best strategy is to follow the crowds — or better, go with a knowledgeable friend. A general rule of thumb: the less crowded an establishment, the less you can trust its cooking.


 

One of the larger restaurants in Piss Alley

Piss Alley Tokyo

Most are not much bigger than a shoe box. 🙂

 Bright lights of Memory Lane

Piss Alley Tokyo

The collection of small Shinjuku bars evocatively called Piss Alley (‘Shonben Yokocho’) — or Memory Lane (‘Omoide Yokocho’), as the authorities would rather you call it — is a sliver of post-war Japanese culture a few minutes walk from Shinjuku station. The cramped alley of restaurant and bar stalls offers a ‘nostalgic’ experience, which means something like visiting a decrepit shantytown.

My favourite Japanese song

Busy chef at work

Piss Alley Tokyo

On a Friday night Piss Alley is in full swing. It’s like a film set of tiny buildings, with staircases leading nowhere. The place feels like it’s painted nicotine brown (no smoking laws definitely don’t apply to Piss Alley), and then spritzed with a hot, savory steam. It’s beside the railway (at one point, there’s a rusty ladder up to the main train track out of Tokyo) and the rumble of trains never goes away. Nor does the smell of fried food and sake, as salary-men eat and drink their fill.

My favorite PA photo

Piss Alley Tokyo 

  Each time I look at this shot it reminds me of the song “Only the Lonely’. The truth, however, is that the run-down, old-timey atmosphere of the Alley is as carefully cultivated as any of the city’s famed theme bars. The theme here just happens to be ‘post-war poverty.’ A black market drinking quarter in the 1940s, Piss Alley earned its name from its lack of toilet facilities, which compelled patrons to relieve themselves against nearby train tracks. The ramshackle post-war infrastructure lasted until 1999, when a fire destroyed most of the buildings and the Alley had to be rebuilt. Along with the renovation came actual restrooms and a new marketing campaign — at least officially, the Shinjuku bars of Piss Alley became Memory Lane. Though none of the current structures are more than a decade old, you’d hardly know it from the grease and grime covering nearly every surface. Although positioned as the ‘ultimate old-style Japanese drinking experience,’ the bars of Memory Lane are mostly staffed by young women from various Asian countries. Between the broken Japanese and hard-drinking patrons, many of them tourists, the area remains a little seedy — just in a new way.

Two American girls

Piss Alley Tokyo

I visited Piss Alley again in September 2015 & chatted to these nice American girls.

In October 2017 I travelled to Kagoshima and was happy to find another “Piss Alley” type village, check it out on THIS LINK.

It will remain a favourite part of Tokyo for me.

Piss Alley Tokyo 

Make sure you put this unique piss alley Tokyo 0n your bucket list.   My hotel was 10 minutes walk from here, great value for Tokyo, only $85 per night. Use THIS LINK to book.

Granbell Hotel

Piss Alley Tokyo

 

This is a great hotel in Shibuya, I got an excellent deal booking through this Agoda link.

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Click here to see the famous Tokyo fish market.

 

Check out Bangkok’s red light districts.

 

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