Alex Sim-Wise Explores Tokyo’s Smallest Bars! Golden Gai Mini-Bars! Japan’s Exotic Nightlife!!

I love Tokyo!

Look at those lights – what a vibrant, exciting, uniquely original city! So many reasons to love Tokyo, but this post looks at one of the most unique areas of of the city: Golden Gai!

First, here is what Tokyo looks like in the daytime…this is from my hotel room on the 31st floor – looking out at the Shinjuku district of Tokyo…

At the bottom of the shot you can see Shinjuku’s train station – it is the world’s busiest subway – and it is also amazingly clean and quiet…really amazing when you look past my blurry shot of us stuffed on a train and check out these statistics!

Serving as the main connecting hub for rail traffic between central Tokyo and its western suburbs, the station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007, making it, by far, the world’s busiest transport hub. It is registered with Guinness World Records. Including an underground arcade, there are over 200 exits.

What’s really amazing is how orderly things are – people actually wait in line to board trains. The station itself has 35 platforms, but if connected stations are included, this gives a total of 52 platforms. When you go to Tokyo, you will find yourself on the subways, among the best in the world.

Tokyo’s Bright Lights

You will also go out and explore Tokyo’s vibrant night life – and the Shinjuku neighborhood is one of the most exciting and colorful!

These are the lights you see everywhere you turn – Tokyo’s lights are the greatest in the world. I was lucky enough to film with a terrific group in Tokyo – with London Host Alex Sim-Wise. Here we are shooting in Kabucki-Cho, the party district of Shinjuku:

I have posted about this shoot before, so type “Alex Sim-Wise” on the search line and you will find that blog – more adventures in Tokyo with Alex’s unique POV…she was, of course, great to work with…we had a lot of fun filming in this area, especially when you are in one of the most unique places in all of Tokyo…

Tokyo’s Golden-Gai Bar District!

According to “”, “taking a walk through Tokyo’s Golden-Gai bar district is like stepping back in time to early post-war Japan when the area was filled with artists and radicals wanting to change the world. This historical area of dimly lit alleyways and buildings fronted by thin, wooden doors is making a comeback as people take advantage of falling rent — hit by Japan’s economic slump — to try their luck in the bar business.”

Here is the entrance in the daytime – you don’t even know this area exists – hidden away behind an obscure walkway:

Golden-gai, or golden district, is a patch of a land — 21,520 square feet in size — that borders the bustling Kabuki-cho entertainment area in downtown Tokyo. Here is another entrance on the right side of this picture….

In a startling contrast to Kabuki-Cho’s modern bars, glitzy strip joints and noisy karaoke clubs, Golden-Gai quietly hosts more than 180 watering holes, many of which are so small they only hold 8-10 customers.

Golden Gai is a fascinating series of tiny alleyways, barely two people wide – with tiny little bars on both sides – one at street level and one located upstairs as well. We decided to capture the fun of this district – so our Tokyo Producer Nick arranged a visit – here is Alex doing a standup outside one of the entrances…

The plan was to visit a number of the small bars – showcasing those that had unique selling points: one bar shows old wrestling videos, another uses cosplay servers, one has walls covered with classic film posters…each bar is unique, and all have signs like this one outside:

But What If I Don’t Read Japanese?

Good point. Well, this is an area that tourists now flock to, so you will see drink menus written up for us as well…and yes, they have a “foreigner charge” on top of the drink price:

Thanks as always for the terrific assistance from Nick, our Tokyo Producer who found bars willing to let us shoot inside…and as you can see, it could even shock HIM:

Once Nick confirmed our locations, we headed into Golden Gai to begin filming:

We let Alex wander through the alleys, popping into bars, which are really no more than 5-6 seats at a small bar – most run by elderly Japanese women, who dispense whiskey and beer, and sometimes small plates of japanese snack food:

One of the coolest aspects of this area is the fact you can wander these darkened alley ways – which have small bars on both sides, upstairs and down…pop into one and see what happens…this picture captures it best…

Here is Alex preparing to film more standups for us, dressed up for a night out in Tokyo:

And every single bar has a unique name and funny sign – like this one, with fish that drink:

Alex and her friend Rachel also noticed a sign:

Just another funny sign in a funny neighborhood:

We ended up in a bar that specializes in anime…it was upstairs – here is a look at the entrance:

Vinny, Nick and I decided to take a picture – well, they tood a picture of the sign, and I took a picture of them TAKING THE PICTURE of the sign:

Then it was time to head upstairs and check out the anime bar! Alex and Rachel quickly made friends with the bartender – here they are behind the counter getting some training:

This anime bar is full of cool stuff, and since Alex is a great artist, she drew a self-portrait to add to the myriad of images that are covering the walls of the bar:

The bartender who worked here was terrific, having a great time making drinks with Alex and Rachel…here was just one of the fun pictures we got:

When it was time to order drinks for everyone, it was decided that I should pay:

The bar was so small, at one point some of us had to wait downstairs to make room for filming – and we ended up in a VERY RED bar, which apparently confused me:

It was a great night of filming: the people we met were terrific, Nick as always is a pleasure to work with – the entire team is great – here we all are, outside the entrance to Golden Gai:

Just in case you think everything goes smoothly, I failed miserable in my attempt to get this behind-the-scenes shot – but as a result, this is kind of how I remember the night!

Thanks again to “” website for information about this district!

Categories: Alex Sim-Wise, Books / Media, Exotic Travel, Funny Pictures, Japan, Recipes, Restaurants, Talent/Celebrities, Technology, Tokyo!, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, TV Show

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21 replies

  1. I don’t know much about Japan, John, so this is really interesting for me. Why do they charge the foreigners extra? Because they don’t speak or read Japanese?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on johnrieber and commented:

    Happy birthday @sim-wise Great filming with you in Tokyo!


  3. Thanks for sharing – what a great place to explore!



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