When I first moved to Japan in 2009, Golden Gai was a pretty quiet place. You wouldn’t see so many people in the alley even after sundown on a Friday. If you would have spied in any of the bars you would have seen one or two patrons drinking and talking with the bartender, but it was also common to see some empty establishments. It was also very hard for someone who didn’t speak Japanese to get serve or to feel welcome in some of the pubs.
Now it’s very different, Golden Gai is in every tourist guide book and youtube videos about travelling to Tokyo. You often see a sign on doors that can read “ English OK!” and the streets are crawling with tourist. It’s great for business, but not so much if you are trying to capture photos.
But thankfully there are other areas in Tokyo similar to Golden Gai that are still unknown. One of those is near Oimachi Station, it’s not as big as the Golden Gai, but it feels even more cramp. It really has that undercity vibe to it. I would even say it reminds some photos I’ve seen from Kowloon before they destroyed it.
There’s also Harmonica Alley in Kichijoji. Contrary to Golden Gai, this area sees some activities day and night, since there’s also some shops and restaurants but still has this old Tokyo vibe.
Another great area to take some photo is around Nakano Station. Definitely not as cramp as the other neighbourhood listed in this post, I like the maze-like streets of Nakano. There’s also some great eatery to discover and the best Camera shop in Tokyo, Fujiya Camera.
There are many other hidden areas like those in the city, but I want to keep some secret. Also, it’s part of the fun to discover them by your self!