In Golden Gai, Tokyo, there’s thousands of bars that seat 4-6 people tops, mostly locals. I found one where the locals didn’t mind cuddling with a stranger.

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26 comments

  1. Is it typical for the different bars to serve different beverages? Do you know that before walking in?

    1. I think the selection varies, but only wine is pretty rare in Golden Gai. Usually beers, highballs (whiskey cocktails) and whiskey are common.

    2. Almost every bar in Japan serves beer and whiskey, but there are occasional themed or specific liquor exclusive bars.

  2. I’d personally recommend La Jetée of the Golden Gai bars. It’s mostly a whiskey bar named after the Chris Marker film. It’s run by this awesome cinephile lady, and has a long line of famous filmmakers who have gone there to drink from Quentin Tarantino to Wim Wenders.

    The Golden Gai’s gotten a little touristy, and most bars have a seating fee as a result, and don’t serve the cheapest drinks, but it can be a neat night out on occasion.

    Source: lived in Tokyo.

  3. This is a must stop place for my husband and I when we go to Tokyo. We particularly love “death match metal”. Which is a horror movie/heavy metal themed bar. The bartender, Go, dresses like Wayne from Wayne’s world and the beers are ¥666.

  4. Just as a heads up for some, bars in Japan can have a “japanese only” policy. This is said to be because part of the culture is to talk to the bartender. They can make an exception if you’re fluent in japanese but not always.

  5. How do these bars stay afloat? Wouldn’t having such a tiny bar severely limit income potential?

    1. They cater to the same half dozen alcoholics who piss their money away every night. You’d be surprised at the profit margins one can eke out of a case of whiskey.

  6. I’ve been to a couple streets with bars just like these. One of the most memorable nights of my life was a bar dedicated to American rock and roll, there was a projector playing music videos on the wall. A local came in with his guitar and started playing beetles songs, language barrier be damned.

    Another honorable mention was a bar with a horror movie motif. Old horror movies running on a little tv, memorabilia filling the walls, and neither of these bars could fit more than OP suggests.

  7. There’s a WONDERFUL whiskey bar in one of the upstairs bars. Can’t remember the name, but worth stopping in.

  8. Definitely not thousands, and now it’s mostly taken over by tourists. Not as many locals there as there was a decade or so ago, before it stated being in all the guidebooks.

    1. Apologies, thousands is a bit of an exaggeration. I should’ve said ‘what seems like thousands’. It’s just so dense and packed with little bars!

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