The Golden Lights of Tokyo's Past in the Dark of Night

By Christina Kim - April 26, 2016


Nightlife scenes are just like veins running through the cities, making up the main stream in the life defining characteristics of the urbanscape map.
They are every bit of city lifestyle and it is hard to imagine any major city without the vivacious chaos lasting through the day and all the way even in the dark of night.

It is therefore expected that Tokyo, one of the most modern cities in the world would be bursting with the vibrant lights emanating from its different form as they joined the glitter of the stars in the dark velvety skies in the night.

The Japanese are known for their hours; working through the day and even the night, which makes their nightlife more than just mere company to the fall of darkness but the essence of their very lifestyle.



Pubs, bars and entertainment centers litter the capital city in their various districts, forming the wallpaper of the city from the moment dusk sets in and offering the subsequent part following a long day which would probably commence from dawn.

Urbanites are no strangers to such nightly scenes which are often synonymous with fun and all about letting one's hair down as they enjoy laughing over food and drinks with friends and co-workers.

It is very much the very definition of a modern lifestyle.

It is not unusual to hear of nightlife in cities, definitely.

What's unique though, is when that very definition of urban modernization is also where the historic past stood.

Of course, every person, place or thing has its past from where it stood, but when the whole city screams of sleek modernization with hovering sky touching structures and technology advanced to make the rest of the world gasp, it is hard to imagine that there is still that tiny bit left untouched breathing and living in the present.

A place where you could still see in its form and not entirely existing only on the pages of the history textbooks or encyclopedias.

The Golden Gai in Shinjuku is that very place.

It is the very reason I picked, out of all the night spots even when I am not a night owl to visit for the interesting feature.

Its oddity would be a sure telltale sign; with the narrow alleys and tiny shops enough to fit less than ten people in them and even a light gasp of breath could be picked up by the walls of at least three shops consecutively.




At a glance, and that is all you need for Golden Gai is just that tiny street which is exactly that hole in the wall standing right amidst the urban grayscale towers sketching the silhouette of one of the most bustling districts in the capital city of Tokyo.

This is where the remains of the Tokyo stand.

The tiny alley, the minuscule shops and the unpretentious shop owners serving their regulars as they stick to their conventional styles are the only part left which tells of the modern city's past.

This was what Tokyo used to look like.

Golden Gai is unique because it is the only one undestroyed by all the catastrophes which hit the city; surviving the natural disasters and even the World War as though it is invincible against the calamities.

*At the time of this post, there was a fire which struck the Golden Gai last weekend, which had caused quite a damage to this last of Tokyo's historic past*

Brave the hostility of the regulars-only zones, though there are many already opening up their doors (well, their doors are all open anyway) to tourists which one could tell from the English menus welcoming outside their shops, to take a walk and glimpse into the old facade of the world's most modern city today.



It will be an experience and that picture memorable to take away from a trip to Japan's capital.

Magical, who would have thought, that this tiny alley is that gateway to Tokyo's old appearance before its major cosmetic facelift to its modern contemporary outlook.


Yes, surreal, but this is the place where you don't need a time machine to traverse between the past and the future to see for yourself.

It is just like being in Back to the Future, only you are right in the limbo of history and contemporary in the very same spot.


All underneath the bright and golden hues of the hanging lanterns lighting up the dark of the night in the alley...

That is the magical part of the Golden Gai~



Location featured:
Golden Gai (Golden District - 新宿ゴールデン街 ) , Shinjuku, Tokyo

More information:
Opening hours: 7.00pm until midnight
Best time to go: 7.00pm or after 10pm for the bars

What to look out for: 
Hole eateries and local culture


Prices could be on the steep side and there are some places which only serves regulars.
There are English menus provided in some of the restaurants/bars.
Some bars do impose cover charges as with most bars worldwide.

*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal opinions and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.

Art Direction and Photography Styling by Me.
Photos/Videos all belong to me and are copyrighted.
Please kindly ask for permission if you need to use any of my images.

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