Robots, Tiny Bars, and New Friends in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Where to even begin! Shinjuku was everything I imagined about Tokyo. We stayed at an Airbnb in Daikan-yama, a really nice area with boutiques and shops, which is in between Ebisu (where my favorite yokocho is) and Shibuya (where scramble crossing is). Our area felt nicely balanced with tall city buildings mixed with smaller buildings. On the more city-like side of the spectrum, our evening in Shinjuku was incredibly stimulating from the immense buildings, bright lights, colorful outfits, it goes on.

Early in the evening, I bought some swag from a street vendor - a souvenir jacket with a tiger and "Japan" embroidered on the back. I had seen many of them being sold in stores at a higher price than I wanted to pay, and even the locals were sporting what I at first thought was ironic fashion. Finding this bomber jacket at the right price near Piss Alley, I had to have it.

We started the night at Omoide Yokocho, which like other yokochos, is a series of small bars and restaurants close together in an alley. Omoide translates to "Memory Lane." Omoide Yokocho used to be referred to as Shomben Yokocho, which translates to "Piss Alley." You can imagine how small, and cramped these areas are. We walked around until we saw an open seat at one of the grills and we ate skewers of meat called yakitori with our Asahi beer. We had a really great night talking to the locals. The couple to our left was asking about our camera, and they were nice enough to take a photo of us together! A group of friends to our right were made up of a local, a woman visiting from Osaka, and a guy visiting from Hawaii. It was really awesome getting to talk to them throughout the evening. The local was telling us how to say a few things in Japanese, and in turn, we were teaching him how to say a few things in English. It was such a fun dinner!

From there, we went to Robot Restaurant. If you have seen the Tokyo episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain visits Robot Restaurant. Although there are definitely robots, it isn't much of a restaurant. It's a show, an experience, and it's incredibly stimulating. We were only among tourists, but it was something we wanted to do because where else in the world does something like this exist? It was vibrant, it was spectacular, it was fun. It's definitely an experience one could only have in Shinjuku.

Before we headed back to our apartment for the evening, we made our way to Golden Gai - an area of  small, 5-10 seat bars. A Chicago friend recommended a bar called Parasol, which was on the second floor of a small building. Our friend visited Tokyo and made friends with the bartender, so she gave the bartender a heads up that we were coming that evening. The bartender, Hayato, later posted on Instagram the photos from both of our visits! When we first entered the bar, there were only two seats left at the bar, at opposite ends, and before Hatayo even knew we were the travelers that he was expecting, he had everyone scoot over to accommodate us, the tourists. We ordered some tropical inspired drinks. To our right were two women that spoke English that work for Uniqlo, so we spoke to them a little bit through the night. To our left were a group of salary men (business men in suits) that kept ordering tequila shots, and Hayato kept pouring shots for us too. It was such a jovial and exciting evening that ended with us rushing to catch the last train at Shinjuku station. It was everything I had wanted, all wrapped up in one Tokyo night. 


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