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My recent journey to Japan led me to an unforgettable experience in Shinjuku, Tokyo – an Izakaya tour called Shinjuku After Dark Izakaya Tour.

Guided by the charismatic Yoshi, this tour was a great way to try some Japanese cuisine and also immerse yourself in the rich culture and etiquette of Japanese dining. Let me show you my experience.

Table of Contents

A Cozy Izakaya in Omoide Yokocho

Our adventure began in the nostalgic Omoide Yokocho, also known as Memory Lane. This quaint alley, a stone’s throw from Shinjuku Station, is a treasure trove of tiny bars and restaurants, each with just enough space for a handful of guests. Despite having visited this place before, I never had the chance to dine in one of its unique restaurants until this tour.
Shinjuku Izakaya Tour Omoide Yokocho

Joined by fellow travelers from the United States and Germany, we first visited an Izakaya renowned in the area. Yoshi led us upstairs to a private room, setting the stage for an evening of culinary exploration. The session kicked off with everyone choosing a drink – be it sake, famous Japanese beers, whiskey, or lemon sour.

During this dinner, we got to try a variety of dishes, from skewers to sashimi and even the luxurious wagyu beef. Yoshi’s explanations added depth to each bite, turning the meal into an educational experience. It wasn’t just about the food; Yoshi encouraged interaction among us, enhancing our feeling of community. We all introduced each other and shared our stories and plans for our Japan trips.

During this stop, Yoshi clearly explained the nuances of Japanese dining etiquette. From the proper use of chopsticks to the cultural significance of saying “itadakimasu” before a meal, every detail was covered in an engaging manner.

Shinjuku Izakaya Tour Yoshi Guide

A Visit to a Standing Izakaya

Next, we strolled into the bustling streets of Kabukicho, where we stopped at a standing Izakaya. Some of these izakayas are known for its affordability and are called Senbero spots. Senbero means a big drinking session under 1000 yen, which is quite cheap, don’t you agree?
Kendo Experience Tour Skewers
So this particular spot offered a different vibe with its selection of deep-fried skewers and drinks like the lemon sour. Yoshi continued to share insights into the Izakaya culture, pointing out how salarymen often know the best spots to dine, so we should keep an eye out for restaurants with men in suits.

Golden Gai and the Bar Lonely

Our exploration continued as we ventured into Golden Gai, a delightful district characterized by its narrow lanes and numerous small bars. With Yoshi as our guide, we gained an insider’s perspective on the best spots to visit. Since if you are coming here alone for the first time, it is easy to get overwhelmed by everything.
Shinjuku Izakaya Tour Golden Gai
The tour’s climax was at Bar Lonely, a tiny, cozy bar steeped in history and pop culture. You see, Yoshi mentioned that this bar was popular with people who worked on a famous and culturally significant Japanese anime named Ashita Joe. Now, the bar is decorated with many signed memorabilia from the anime, which was very interesting to me as a fan of anime. Another thing that blew my mind was that this bar is famous with some singers, including my favorite band, Killers! They come here after their concerts in Tokyo since they are friends with the owner.
Shinjuku Izakaya Tour Bar Lonely Golden Gai

Conclusion

All in all, I think that this Izakaya hopping tour will provide you a great insight into Japanese culture through its vibrant food and drink scene. It’s an experience I recommend to anyone visiting Japan, ideally at the beginning of your trip, to fully appreciate the art of Japanese dining and drinking.

For those planning a trip to Japan, adding Yoshi’s Shinjuku Izakaya hopping tour to your itinerary is a decision you’re unlikely to regret. Explore this vibrant part of Tokyo and experience the true essence of its dining culture through the eyes of a local expert.

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Where is Omoide Yokocho?

Josip Hotovec
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