Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku, Tokyo 思い出横丁, 新宿, 東京 is a set of narrow alleys squeezed in between the tall buildings near the West Exit of Shinjuku Station. Omoide-Yokocho means Corner of Memories or Memory Lane. It also has a nickname – “Piss Alley”. The place was a rough drinking area in the 1940s (the Shōwa era) and had inadequate toilet facilities. Nowadays, it is a more hygenic place and goes by the nicer name of Memory Lane. But it is still an atmospheric place to visit and grab a meal or a drink. We visited a yakitori bar and a soba stall there.
Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku
For a map of the alleys and the restaurants and shops, you can consult the official website which has a good description of the place. There are many yakitori restaurants here and the grills emit quite a bit of smoke, which adds to the atmosphere. It was not easy deciding what and where to eat at Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku as the shops are so different and full of character. We ended up at the soba stall and a yakitori bar as they looked really interesting and had seats available.
From the brightly decorated signboards and flowers, it was hard to guess that it is the entrance to these ancient shops and gritty alleys. The atmosphere gets more interesting and befitting its Piss Alley nickname when we visited the alley in the evening. Many of the restaurants are tiny with just a counter for dining. Most of them prepare yakitori using charcoal stoves that generate lots of smoke.
Our first stop was at the Kameya Soba stall. This small soba stall reminded me of our local wanton mee stalls. Except that the chefs were neatly dressed in their uniforms and patrons eat along the small L-shaped counter that seats only 6. The stall was manned by two people – one cooking noodles the other preparing the tempura fritters.
The range of soba dishes sold was limited. Thankfully there was an English menu listing their top three items. We selected the No. 1 and 2 noodles – Ten-Tama soba and Hiyashi Ten-Tama Soba (430 yen each).
The soba arrived soon after we ordered and paid. We noticed that other than ourselves, the other diners were locals. They knew what they wanted. Ordered, paid, ate and slurped and quickly left. Some did not even sit down. This was also a place to practice slurping Japanese noodles. We have often read about slurping soba being done in Japan, but this was the first time I have seen uninhibited slurping. We also did the same. According to one article, The Cultural History of Noodle Slurping, “… it seems probable that the custom of noodle slurping originated at soba stands”.
Here are pictures of the noodles. I cannot remember which is which. They taste roughly the same, the only difference being the toppings. The tempura fritters were well made – light and crisp. They provide some crunch to the food. It is best to eat noodles at a soba stand in Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku on a cold day. Slurping hot soba standing up on a cold winter day in Tokyo is quite an experience.
Yakitori in Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku
We returned to Memory Lane to try one of the yakitori and izakaya places in the evening. We ended up in this yakitori bar. I do not know its English name and could not locate it on the map. It’s layout is typical of food outlets here. Just a narrow bar counter in front of the grills where the cooking is done.
We settled on this place as there were seats available and also an English menu. I noticed more tourists visit at night. Some were small groups being led by a local guide on a food tour of Shinjuku. We shared the counter with some visitors from Mexico.
We ordered an assortment of yakitori and beer for dinner. Prices are quite reasonable at around 300 yen per skewer. The quality was quite average. I think it would be more comfortable to eat at a regular izakaya in a quieter location. But it is nice to try dining a yakitori bar at “Piss Alley” at least once.
Omoide Yokocho Shinjuku 思い出横丁, 新宿
1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0023
Metro: 1-minute walk from the west exit of Shinjuku Station.
Official Website (English)
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