Thanks to the dedication and solidarity of its predecessors, this historic district has been passed on from generation to generation, as a precious little town that retains the nostalgic flair of the Shōwa period.
Today not only are there long-established bars that have been in business for 45 to 50 years, but also pubs that have just recently opened their doors 1 or 2 years ago. Over 280 pubs exist harmoniously together and have shaped a community with a special attraction and profoundness throughout the years. We invite you to familiarize yourself with the rules of this town and to enjoy pleasant moments of tipsiness, to appreciate the atmosphere of our drinking culture, and to take these special moments home with you.
The Golden Gai is located on private property, which is administered by two associations: the Shinjuku Golden Gai Shopping District Promotion Association and the Shinjuku Sankō Shopping District Promotion Association.
1） Smoking is prohibited on the pathway. (This town is made up of wooden row houses. Fire safety precautions are taken seriously） 2) Drinking while walking or taking drinks from the bars onto the pathway or streets is prohibited. 3） Proper approval must be obtained for photos or video recordings. 4） Please do not hang around, sit around or make noise in the pathway and alleys. 5） There are public toilets nearby. Please do not urinate in the back alleys of the Golden Gai. 6） Do not damage signs or bars, vandalism and graffiti is strictly prohibited.
How to drink like a local!
1) Avoid entering bars in large groups All pubs are small and cramped, and have limited seating space. In some pubs, people stand while drinking. There are also many guests who come alone to enjoy the ambience. Large groups may ruin the atmosphere for them so we ask you to please respect others in this case. In addition, some bars may reject large groups, so when visiting, please come in small groups (2-3 people) and receive confirmation before entering. There are also a few bars which have a surface area of two pubs, offering space for 10-20 guests. We recommend that you be informed before visiting.
2） Check the cost system before entering! In the Golden Gai, most pubs charge an admission fee or otōshi-dai (otōshi is a small dish/snack that is served as soon as the guest sits down) which is separate from the drink charge. This fee varies from 500 to 1,500 yen and differs from pub to pub. Lately there have been an increasing number of bars that waive charges for tourists or foreigners, but there are also pubs that do not even carry a menu. It is advised to clarify the prices beforehand in order to enjoy the evening with a peace of mind and to avoid unnecessary trouble when you receive your check. In addition, many bars offer the option of keeping your own bottle. In this case, you can buy an entire bottle at the bar, label it with your name and then simply leave the bottle with the bar owner or the staff. The next time you visit only the seat fee is charged, which means you can drink relatively reasonably. Although, please keep in mind that some pubs in the Golden Gai are also exclusively reserved for regular customers and you will not be able to enter unless you are introduced by an existing patron.
3） Follow the pub rules It is often said that at a bar, we can completely let go and be casual, but nevertheless, you must respect others and follow the rules in a proper manner. The owner or staff on the other side of the counter, as well as clients of the bar should be treated with respect. Conversations with people you encounter at pubs are exactly what makes the Golden Gai so magical. There should be no bullying, aggression or swaggering here and rules should be respected so that everyone can spend a pleasant evening. If a pub is offended with the behavior of a guest, a house ban can be issued. Complaints based on the argument “I’m the customer here!” will only lead to rejection.
4） The Golden Gai is a pub crawl district The small and narrow district is packed with over 280 pubs, bars and eateries – each with its own character. You will certainly find “your” bar too, a place where you can feel most comfortabel. However, staying longer than actually desired can also be perceived as tactless. As soon as the bar fills up and gets crowded, it is therefore considered as courteous in the Golden Gai to give up your seat to new guests. As the Golden Gai is a pub crawl area, it’s worth asking the owners for recommendations on where to go next. Our hope is for our clients to get to know as many pubs as possible.
5） Explore the multi-faceted culture There are quite a few bars in this city that have deliberately “lifted the bar”. Around 1970, cultural figures from all walks of life got together here in this city and debated over a glass of alcohol until dawn. This culture still exists today, and many pub owners or regulars are very familiar with film, theater, literature and art, and some are also active as artists or are creative people themselves. Enjoying the “alcohol culture of Shinjuku” together with these people can perhaps also be viewed as a special kind of “sociological study” (shakai benkyō).
6） Where old and new converge In the last few years there have been an increasing number of young owners and bars who serve a variety of dishes and even offer karaoke. Recently there are many pubs where women on their own can feel safe and comfortable. This serenity of today and the nebulous-enigmatic mystic, secret-eerie magic of the past … All this is merged in the Golden Gai. We welcome you to discover the magic of this encounter between the old and new in this district.