Intellectuals and artists have rubbed shoulders with Kabukichō’s demimonde since just after World War II in the tiny bars of Golden Gai (ゴールデン街). For decades, this hugely atmospheric warren of around 150 drinking dens has teetered on the brink of oblivion, the cinderblock buildings under threat from both property developers and from their own shoddy construction.

Recently, though, Golden Gai seems to be undergoing a mini-renaissance as a new generation of bar masters and mistresses takes over some of the shoebox establishments. Most bars continue to welcome regulars only (and charge exorbitant prices to anyone else), but with several places now posting their table and drink charges outside the door, gaijin visitors don’t need to risk being fleeced rotten.

Champion, at Golden Gai’s main entrance off Shiki-no-michi, has no cover charge and all drinks are a bargain ¥500. The catch? You have to endure tone-deaf patrons crooning karaoke for ¥100 a song. Punk rockers will get more of a kick from Hair of the Dogs (¥800 cover charge), marked by a Sex Pistols poster on the door and a thudding soundtrack of rebellious music inside. Another possibility is Albatross G (cover charge ¥300), a dark and slightly sleazy sister bar to the arty Albatross in Omoide Okochō.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Tokyo features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sipping sake: a dispatch from one of Japan's oldest breweries

Sake is quickly replacing craft beer as the cool kid on the drinks scene globally – and a number of breweries have recently opened in the UK, USA and Austral…

10 Nov 2017 • Tamara Hinson local_activity Special feature
Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Tokyo: an area by area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own charact…

08 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
A taste of Tokyo: the city’s best food experiences

A taste of Tokyo: the city’s best food experiences

If you really want to get to the heart of Tokyo's culinary scene, you'll need to go beyond the city's bustling restaurants and best-loved drinking dens. Rebecc…

21 Jul 2017 • Rebecca Hallett local_activity Special feature
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook