Memory Lane in Tokyo is a name which pops up in pretty much any Tokyo itinerary guide. Some, refer to it as the Piss Alley, which will inevitably make you avoid it. Who in the right mind would want to visit such place right in the heart of Tokyo? A trip down the Memory Lane in Tokyo is most certainly not what it seems. A narrow street, home to around 60 small bars is a place where locals continue to go to. Memory Lane in Tokyo is not a dirty, dodgy street in some forgotten neighbourhood, but it's a charming little place, full of history right in the heart of Shinjuku. And as with everything Japanese, there is a story awaiting to be told, of how Piss Alley has become one of the best things to do in Tokyo.
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What is Memory Lane in Tokyo
Memory Lane or Piss Alley has roots which date back to the 1940s post-war Tokyo. This was the place known for black market traders. With time, the area metamorphosed from a dark alleyway full of street vendors to a place of permanent structures. In 1999, a fire destroyed the area and the whole maze needed to be rebuilt. As the original Piss Alley got destroyed, a new, more modern name emerged: Memory Lane.
Contrary to all beliefs, Piss Alley was never dirty, but a place of resold goods and other items which helped Tokyo residents recover from the war. Such products were difficult to find in a post-war Tokyo and it was here, on Piss Alley, that many could find black market traders who sold essentials.
Today, many enjoy a walk down the Memory Lane. In fact, almost every evening you will find many salarymen dressed in suits, in pursuit of a great and cheap bite to eat. Memory Lane has recently become a major tourist attraction in the hope that travellers can get a sense of how it's like to eat like a local.
What to do in Memory Lane Tokyo
First things first, you should probably visit Memory Lane after dark. It looks more charming, and the smoke coming from all bars really makes this place an atmospheric little street. Have a walk, take it all in, figure out what you like. You will notice some establishments have English menus displayed on the door, but try and find something which you actually like. Remember that these places will have few seats and it will feel like stepping into someone's very smoky kitchen. If you know Japanese, this is one of the best places to mingle with locals and get to know a few people. If you don't know Japanese, you might want to consider getting a guide so they can show you around. After all, a proper Tokyo pub crawl is always a good idea.
There are several things you can do when visiting Memory Lane in Tokyo. The obvious one is walking around and taking some really epic pictures. Drinking Japanese beer and sake is always a good idea, especially because after a couple of glasses you might even get the courage to engage with other locals. You might find a few salarymen on the floor, having difficulties getting up. Worry not, as they will be soon sober enough to continue their journey. In fact, this is probably the prime example of why capsule hotels in Tokyo became a thing. They are cheap and convenient and offer quick and easy shelter for salarymen who had a bit too much to drink or missed their last train home.
Memory Lane in Tokyo is home to over 60 food stalls and in Japan's capital this can only mean one thing: you should eat as much popular Japanese food as you can.
What to eat in Memory Lane Tokyo
So where should you go and what should you eat during your visit to Memory Lane in Tokyo? The short answer is: everything as it's very difficult to go wrong with a Tokyo restaurant. For an authentic meal, go for yakitori which are meat skewers. You can get a variety of skewers to try a little bit of everything. Back in the days, you might have found odd items for sale in the area, such as animal organs and intestines. This is not the case today, but you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can perhaps try horse meat or other oddities which in some parts of the world are deemed unethical to eat.
Do you still have a sense of urgency to try something outrageous in Memory Lane? Head over to Asadachi, which offers bizarre menu items such as frog sashimi (yuck?!) or horse penis (erm...).
If you are not sure what you are ordering, best to down it with some sake or a cold beer. Some places will sell Hoppy, a retro drink which tastes very nice.
Information on Memory Lane Tokyo
Shinjuku Nishiguchi Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku’s Memory Lane)
Nearest Station: Shinjuku Station (JR Yamanote Line, JR Chuo Line, JR Sobu Line, JR Saikyo Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Oedo Line, Keio, Odakyu line)
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station West Entrance
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!