Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cities Less Traveled: Trekking a Different Side of Tokyo

You might want to consider stepping off of the main streets and back into the alleys if you want a unique experience on your trip to Tokyo. The many narrow lanes throughout Tokyo are called yokocho alleys, and walking down these alleys will transport you to a funky and not-so-well-known side of Tokyo.  The yokocho alleys are filled with offbeat shops, restaurants, bars, and more. You won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to encounter the local culture and traditions in yokocho alleys.

Photo by Kate Stella via trover.com

Nonbei Yokocho

Nonbei Yokocho is also known as Drunkard’s Alley because of its many tiny bars. If you like the intimate feeling of smaller bars, you’ll love the bars here; some of them seat only four people. Nonbei Yokocho also has several bistros, Yakitori shops (skewered meat), and eccentric stores. It is considered one of Tokyo’s coolest back alleys with its retro feel. Nonbei Yokocho is located right near Shibuya Station. It's hidden well from the main streets; you’ll know you are there when you see the vibrant red lanterns.

Harmonica Yokocho

Because the rows of small shops in this alley resemble harmonica reeds and holes, it was given the name Harmonica Yokocho. It is home to several restaurants, as well as grocery stores, clothing stores, and specialty food shops that sell yokan (candy made from bean paste) and taiyaki (fish-shaped cake stuffed with sweet anko bean paste). Harmonica Yokocho even has fortune tellers. The vibe of this yokocho alley, which is just north of Kichijoji Station, is similar to that of an Asian bazaar. The variety of things to do here provides for an enjoyable and memorable day.

Photo by Takashi Kamiya via trover.com

Kurobe Yokocho

Kurobe Yokocho is also called black-fence alley because it is surrounded by chic black walls. This yokocho alley is known for the variety of cuisines served at its restaurants; there is outstanding Japanese, Okinawan, Korean, and more. You can delight in the flavors of dishes such as kushikatsu (seasoned, skewered meat dipped in egg, flour, and panko then deep fried) and Okinawan soba (thick wheat noodles served in flavored broth topped with fish cake, pork belly, and boneless pork ribs and garnished with pickled ginger). Your taste buds will be titillated. Kurobe Yokocho is just a few minutes from Tokyo Station.

Ameya Yokocho

If you like shopping and finding great deals, Ameya Yokocho is the yokocho alley for you. It is a street market with over 181 discount shops. You will find everything from unique local products to clothes, shoes, jewelry, plants, antiques, and more. Of course there are also restaurants, cafes, and fruit stalls where you can enjoy a meal or snack during your shopping excursion. What makes shopping here extra entertaining is the fact that you can negotiate prices with the shop owners. Ameya Yokocho is located next to Ueno Station.

Photo by Ross W via trover.com

There are numerous other yokocho alleys throughout Tokyo that you will be delighted by, too; this is just a small sampling to give you an idea of the variety of their offerings. For added convenience during your trip, there are many Tokyo hotels located near the yokocho alleys, so you won’t have to walk far for your adventures.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.

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