P!ss Alley, or Memory Lane, is one of Tokyo's best street food areas. Though covering a very small area, they somehow packed about 40 restaurants into this alley, plus another 10 or so on the parallel alley to the east.
This alley earned its name appropriately, as it was originally a narrow alley with numerous restaurants, but no restrooms, so people had to do their business where they could. The area was established following World War II, and soon earned a reputation for its street food. Unfortunately, the original alley burned to the ground in 1999, and the city rebuilt the small alley of restaurants, coining it with a new moniker, Memory Lane. The look and feel of the place is similar to the original, but now it is cleaner, and it has public restrooms, so the urine smell is gone.
The restaurants are so tiny here, you may have trouble squeezing by other patrons to get to a stool at the bar. There is a variety of food, but the common theme is fast and relatively cheap. You can find anything from standard yakitori, to stews, and even oddities like pig testicles and horse ***.
It's funny that the censors won't let me say the most appropriate correct word for a male sexual organ, ***, but I can say horse dick meat, and I can say horse schlong. Perhaps I should say "horse naughty bits?" Another example of why censorship is foolish and wrong.
Shinjuku Nichome (literally Shinjuku 2nd District) is a name known to most straight Japanese but visited by very few- it is the "notorious" epicentre of gay life in Japan.
In a four block radius,this little corner of Shinjuku is packed with hundreds of tiny (and amusingly named) gay bars and clubs, like "Baby Satan", "King Light Costume Bar" and "Kings of College". As well, there are cafes , restaurants , a very cruisy Starbucks full of pretty boys flirting over their frappucinos, and of course... porno stores.Its quite remarkable how completely gay the area is - you wuld be hardpressed to find one "striaght" establishment.
During the day the area has a quiet, pleasant village-like atmosphere. Unlike the rest of Shinjuku, there is a nice community atmosphere here. On weekend afternoons crowds gather early to drink, see and be seen at the fashionable Advocates Cafe, standing outside on the footpath as there are no chairs
There is only one "sightseeing" spot per se- the Temple to the King Of Hell - with Tokyo`s biggest statue of the deity and a peaceful graveyard, where mourners leave offerings to their loved ones. Amusingly the graveyard is now overshadowed by a ten-storey (!) gay sex club where patrons can sunbathe nude on the roof and look down over the graves!
At night, the park next door is also a lively and rather seedy cruising area. However, the much more refined pleasures of one of Tokyo`s biggest parks, Shinjuku-Gyoen, are only a few blocks away, if youre more in the mood for French landscaping and lotus-covered ponds than a quick hookup!
For more information on gay nightlife, see the nightlife section.
If you are in the Shinjuku area, you MUST visit Shinjuku Gyoen Park. It is beautiful, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. It is very relaxing. Take a book and spend the entire day. 200yen entrance fee.
Shonben means "p*ss" in Japanese. I don't know how this little alley jammed with bunch of little Izakayas (Japanese style pub) and restaurants is called like so. Perhaps some drunken businessmen do their business on this alley. There is no doubt to say the whole alley looks cluttered and grim and no where near as frilled or polished but there is something in the air that I love so much here not to mention the food.
People who come here is another great thing about this alley. Once you get to know the people who gather here, you could hear the wickedest stories like nowhere else.
If you are totally not into the idea of eating anything from this alley, it is worth a peek since this alley seems it has stopped ticking the time away…since 1950.
Directions to Shonben Yokocho:
Go out from the east exit towards Studio ALTA. Turn left at the intersection. You will see the alley sort of under the railroad trucks.
Under the high skyscrapers in Shinjuku we found this tiny fleamarket. Locals sold everything from shoes and clothes to books and statues.
The fleamarket was one level below streetlevel in front of the Mitsui building.
We visited on a saturday.
SHINJUKU: This is where major offices & many skyscrapers are situated. For first-timers to Tokyo this can be an interesting but confusing place to be. As for me, even though I know how to read Japanese (took Japanese for Humanities in the University for a full year course) I still took some time to get around. Anyway, what interested me here is the KINOKUNIYA BOOKSTORE (Shinjuku South Store) which opened in 1996. This outlet is the largest bookstore in Japan, with a retail space of 4,750 sq m (51,000 sq ft)! The bookstore has one of the largest collection of English & Japanese books.
Deserted subway tunnels under the skyscrapers at Nishi-Shinjuku. Absolutely lifeless, yet in the daytime swarming with thousands of people on their way to work. This photo was taken literally 5 minutes before the whole place was sealed off for the night with big steel shutters... and guess who almost got shut in for the night as a result?!? Fortunately the PA announces the doors are closing in English, as well as in Japanese...
The Shinjuku area of the city was a great experience. It was very busy - people running about everywhere and had fabulous shopping. Shinjuku is the hub of business in Japan and an area filled with high tech gadgetry.
Shinjuku has more skyscrapers and hotels than any other part of Tokyo.
Shinjuku at night is a big , bright wild place with all types of bars, clubs,stores and massage parlors.Bring lots of Yen.