Ah, the enchanting Memory Lane in Tokyo, or as the locals call it, Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁), a name that undeniably graces the pages of countless Tokyo itineraries. Yet, there are those who know it by another name - Piss Alley - a moniker that might tempt you to avoid it. But dare to venture down Memory Lane in Tokyo, and you'll soon find that things are not as they seem.
Nestled in the neon-lit centre of Shinjuku, Memory Lane is a narrow atmospheric Tokyo alley that harbours approximately 80 premises, including ticket shops and some 60 bars and restaurants.
Far from a squalid corner in a forsaken district, Memory Lane in Tokyo, or Omoide Yokocho, is a delightful gem that sparkles with life and character. You will find mostly motsuyakiya (offal restaurants) and yakitoriya (chicken skewer restaurants) crowded together in about 2,000 m2 of land, beckoning locals and travellers alike.
As with all things Japanese, there is a captivating tale that lies behind the peculiar name of Piss Alley; a story that, once unravelled, reveals why Omoide Yokocho has become one of the must-see attractions in Tokyo.
Table of ContentsOpen
What is Memory Lane in Tokyo (Omoide Yokocho)
Memory Lane, affectionately known as Piss Alley or Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁), possesses a rich history that reaches back to the 1940s, post-war Tokyo. As a haven for black market traders, this small corner of Tokyo provided a vital lifeline to its residents, supplying scarce goods and resources that were otherwise difficult to come by during those challenging times.
Over the years, the once-shadowy alleyway filled with street vendors underwent a metamorphosis, evolving into a network of permanent structures. Tragically, in 1999, a devastating fire ravaged the area, and the whole maze needed to be rebuilt. And so, from the ashes of the original Piss Alley, a new and more fitting name arose: Omoide Yokocho which roughly translates to Memory Lane.
Despite its unseemly nickname, Piss Alley was far from sordid; rather, it was a place that helped the people of Tokyo recover from the war through the trade of resold goods and essential items. Today, Memory Lane, or Omoide Yokocho, continues to thrive as a lively destination where countless individuals, including salarymen in their crisp suits, gather in search of delectable and affordable Tokyo street food.
In recent years, Memory Lane has become a top popular tourist attraction, offering visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture and to savour the authentic flavours of Tokyo. As you wander down the atmospheric lanes of Omoide Yokocho, you too can partake in the experience of eating like a local.
What to do in Memory Lane Tokyo
As twilight descends upon the city, Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho) comes alive with a beguiling charm. The wisps of smoke emerging from the myriad bars make the narrow street a magical, atmospheric alley best appreciated after dark.
Take a stroll, allowing the sights, sounds, and aromas to envelop you, and don't be afraid to sit down and point at random things on menus. While some feature English menus, trust your instincts and just allow yourself to try new dishes.
These intimate venues, with their limited seating, will feel like you're stepping into someone's cosy, smoky kitchen. If you know a little Japanese, this is a prime opportunity to mingle with locals and forge new connections. If not, I do recommend joining a local food tour for a better experience. after all, trust the locals to take you to the best places in Memory Lane.
There are countless activities to enjoy in Omoide Yokocho, from capturing the essence of the place through stunning photographs to savouring the flavours of Japanese food and drinks.
After a glass or two, you might even get the courage to strike up conversations with fellow patrons. You may encounter salarymen who have indulged a tad too much, a common sight, especially on Friday night. Worry not, as they will be soon sober enough to continue their journey. This lively scene illustrates the practicality of Tokyo's capsule hotels, which provide affordable, convenient lodgings for those who have missed the last train home or need a place to rest after an evening of revelry.
There are about 60 food stalls nestled within the confines of Memory Lane, so consider it the best way to try street food and indulge in skewered meats. Once you've had plenty of food and drinks, go and explore the nearby Golden Gai and Kabukicho, which are some of the top things to do in Shinjuku.
What to eat in Memory Lane Tokyo
As you explore the captivating labyrinth of Memory Lane in Tokyo, expect quite the assortment of gastronomic delights. From the comforting warmth of ramen to unusual skewered meats, there is an abundance of options here.
Memory Lane has a diverse selection of dishes to please every palate. Try yakitori, motsuyaki, ramen, oden (nabemono), seafood, oysters, and eel, as you immerse yourself in the lively izakaya scene.
A must-visit establishment is Horaiya, founded in 1947 as the first Motsuyaki in Omoide Yokocho. Treat yourself to fresh offal, expertly charcoal-grilled and served with their speciality sauce, or if you're feeling bold, savour it as sashimi.
Next, head over to Sushi Tatsu, the only sushi restaurant in Memory Lane, owned by Murakami, the director of the Omoide Yokocho Association. Known for their meticulous attention to toppings and sushi rice, Sushi Tatsu also offers delectable homemade, thick-grilled eggs prepared in the traditional style.
So, what should you eat during your visit to Memory Lane in Tokyo? The short answer is: everything, as it's nearly impossible to go wrong with a Tokyo restaurant. Opt for authentic yakitori, meat skewers that allow you to push yourself a little out of the comfort zone. If you don't mind what the locals call gourmet treats here, be brave and go to Asadachi for frog, loach, and snapping turtle. There are plenty of offal specialised restaurants here on Memory Lane which sell pork tongue, chicken liver and all sort of more outrageous sounding items.
Make sure to check the official website for all the restaurant information with precise location.
And if you're unsure of what you're ordering, simply wash it down with some sake or an ice-cold beer. No matter what you choose, your journey through Memory Lane promises to be a flavourful and unforgettable experience.
What should I order in Omoide Yokocho
As I already mentioned, there are 60 small restaurants here, each of which specialises in specific items. The main reason people come to Omoide Yokocho is to order yakitori. Yakitori translates roughly to grilled bird. I do recommend that you get out of your comfort zone and try Motsuyaki which is broiled offal (internal organs) or Motsunikomi (offal stew).
If you're keen on seafood, order oysters, eel skewers and sushi. You can find ramen, oden and hot pot restaurants where you can order comfort foods that's filling and warm. The beauty of Memory Lane is that you can even find donburi rice bowls, curry and soba here.
When in doubt, politely ask for omakase which translates to I leave it up to you. Just know that sometimes omakase means being served several courses and comes with a higher price tag. Not all establishments on Omoide Yokocho will have this options, but most will very likely accommodate. Very important, to remember, is you do say omakase you basically tell the chef that you trust them entirely, and you will need to eat everything put in front of you.
Things to know about Omoide Yokocho
There are a few things to know about Memory Lane in Tokyo.
- Few Toilets - There are very few public toilets here and the line is usually long. Don't wait until the last second to go, because you might wait in a long queue.
- Cash only - There are still many stores that accept cash only. Take some Japanese yen with you. There are some banks with foreign cash machines around Shinjuku Station
- Rules - Each restaurant has its own rules. Some restaurants have just a basic course (like Kabuto restaurant). Also, you can only have three drinks max in Kabuto because it's one of the most popular restaurants in Omoide Yokocho. This is to give everyone who is waiting the opportunity to sample the delicious food too.
- Seating fee - Some restaurants have an appetiser fee (seating fee). This means that you normally need to order one drink and one dish per person.
- Time limits - Some restaurants only allow 90 minutes seating time, again, to encourage other people to try the food as well. But with so many eateriers around, you can find plenty of places to try new dishes.
- No smoking - There is a strictly no smoking rule on Memory Lane. There are designated areas so please make sure to respect them.
How to get to Memory Lane Tokyo
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station West Entrance
Address: 1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan
Hours: Open 24 hours
- JR Shinjuku Station
- Odakyu Line Shinjuku Station
- Keio Line Shinjuku Station
- Seibu-Shinjuku Line Seibu-Shinjuku Station
- Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line Shinjuku Station
- Toei O-Edo Line Shinjuku Nishiguchi Station
Where to stay near Omoide Yokocho
You will want to stay as close to Shinjuku station as possible. Shinjuku is a large ward in Tokyo with so many fantastic hotels and accommodation options. You will find luxury hotels but also affordable and simple budget accommodations.
For a complete breakdown on all important areas in Tokyo and reviews of my favourite hotels, read my where to stay in Tokyo article. I talk about different areas and why they are most suitable for your type of travel style and budget. I also recommend my favourite hotels in Tokyo organised by budget.
- Best luxury hotel: Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
- Best mid-range hotel: The Blossom Hibiya
- Best budget hotel: Tokyu Stay Shinjuku Eastside
For more hotels and reviews, I recommend using booking for accommodation in Tokyo.
1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City📞 Contact
Shinjuku-nishiguchi Sta. (Directions)🕥 Opening Hours
Monday: Open 24 hours
Tuesday: Open 24 hours
Wednesday: Open 24 hours
Thursday: Open 24 hours
Friday: Open 24 hours
Saturday: Open 24 hours
Sunday: Open 24 hours
More Tokyo tips
- When planning your first trip to Japan, make sure to check the dos and don'ts.
- Learn what to pack for Japan to ensure you have the perfect wardrobe for every season.
- When planning your first trip to Tokyo, consider the best time to visit Japan. Keep in mind that cherry blossom season is a lot busier and more expensive.
- Booking your activities in advance is highly recommended to avoid queuing and ensure availability, especially for popular attractions.
- While Japanese food is excellent everywhere, a food tour can take you to lesser-known gems and off the beaten path izakayas for a unique culinary experience.
- If you plan to stay longer in Japan, check out our Japan itineraries with details on where to go and how to plan the perfect trip. For this, invest in a JR Pass to save money on JR trains.
- Customs and manners in Japan can be unique, so make sure to familiarize yourself with our Japanese customs and manners book. It contains fun Japanese illustrations and crucial information on how to behave in various scenarios when visiting Tokyo.
- Don't forget to also check how to behave in a Japanese restaurant.
- Stay connected with a pocket Wi-Fi device or prepaid SIM card. Renting or buying in advance will help you use navigation apps, translators, and do some extra research on the go. You can pick up the device at Narita or Haneda airport, or have it delivered to your hotel reception.
- While Tokyo's public system can be overwhelming, using Google maps makes it super easy to get around. The metro lines are colour-coded for ease of use and Google Maps even tells you in real-time the next train, the best car for boarding, and where to make connections.
- While cards are widely accepted, many small establishments still prefer cash, particularly in older neighbourhoods. Major banks in Japan now accept international cards for cash withdrawals. Don't forget to check how expensive is Japan to know what to expect.
- Knowing a few simple Japanese phrases can go a long way. For those serious about learning Japanese, check out Japanese with Aimee and use the code YCTRAVEL to get a 10% discount on the course.
Are you ready to visit Memory Lane in Tokyo? Leave a comment below and let me know what are you going to eat and drink during your first visit!
Frequently Asked Questions about Memory Lane
What is Omoide Yokocho known for?
Omoide Yokocho is a narrow Tokyo alley known for its over 60 eateries, mainly motsuyakiya (offal restaurants) and yakitoriya (chicken skewer restaurants) crowded together in about 2,000 m2 of land.
Omoide Yokocho or Memory Lane has a long and rich history dating to post-war Tokyo. Originally a place for black market supplying scarce goods, the lane was destroyed by a fire in 1999, then re-emerged as Memory Lane. Today, it is a lively destination where locals and tourists gather to enjoy affordable street food.
How much does Omoide Yokocho cost?
There is no entry to Memory Lane, however some establishments charge a small seating fee (or appetiser fee)
The cost of eating in Omoide Yokocho can vary depending on what you order and where you dine. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay around ¥250 to ¥1,000 (roughly $2 to $10) per dish. Alcoholic beverages like sake or beer may cost an additional ¥500 to ¥800 ($5 to $8) each.
Some gourmet treats will be more expensive, a bowl of ramen will be a little over ¥1,000 and if you go for Omakase Sushi at Sushi Tatsu, expect to pay around ¥3,800.
Will I find vegetarian food in Omoide Yokocho?
Vegetarian food can be more challenging to find in Omoide Yokocho, but it is not impossible. Many izakayas offer vegetable-based dishes, and you may come across tofu or vegetable skewers at some yakitori stalls. For example, Horaiya has a special which is tomato and cheese skewer. Mayukichi offers kimpira gobo (burdock root cooked in sesame oil and soy sauce) and morokyu (cucumber served with moromi miso). Taro offers vegetable skewers, Komatsu has broiled veggies, Nogataya served potato salad, Fujinoya has grilled eggplant.
If you are a vegetarian, it is a good idea to hop a little to try a bit of everything in different restaurants. If you can't read or speak Japanese, learn Bejitarian de onegaishimasu and wait for the chef to offer you the veggie options.
Is the food good?
The food is fantastic! Some of the restaurants on Memory Lane have been in existence in the same family and passed down for generations. Food in Omoide Yokocho is high quality, authentic and delicious. Chefs here developed their recipe for sauces and cooking techniques for many years, which is why the dishes are so special and unique.