We could hear him from 2 blocks away. He was singing at the top of his lungs, a high-pitched, off-tone drunk voice that had seen better days (or nights). It was 10 in the morning and we were wandering in Golden Gai, Tokyo, a one-of-a-kind neighborhood comprising about 200 miniature bars. Most of them were closed, I guess except for the one from which we could hear hints of the previous night’s karaoke. I couldn’t help but wonder how it was possible to still be singing with such energy, after no doubt sung the night away. We were definitely in Tokyo! A hardcore-partying Tokyo, that is.
We had wandered the tiny alleys of the Golden Gai district the night before, wanting to test bar-hopping the Tokyoite way. It had been a really cool experience, but I had chosen not to take photos and just enjoy the night, so I wanted to come back to photograph the area and see how it looked in daylight.
At night, the Golden Gai is dimly lit, and has a certain sinister look to it. It’s, actually, not at all impressive: a glimpse of Old Tokyo where everything looks run-down and shabby. By day, it is completely dead, except for that karaoke singer and a tiny lady watering her plants. I only took a few snaps, but I think you can quite well sense the gloomy atmosphere in my photos.
The Golden Gai is a fascinating area: difficult to reach, it is tucked away in a residential part of Shinjuku, the glitz neighborhood of Tokyo. For pedestrians only, the six narrow alleys make for a unique space, where the teeny tiny bars (most can seat 6-8 people only) are cramped one on top of the other. Most of them are private, catering only to locals, and some of them ask for a cover charge (between 500 to 1000 yen, 5-10$). The most fascinating aspect of it all is that you never know what is hidden behind the doors. Will it be a Ramones-themed bar, or a cat-themed one?!