Yokocho (side streets) are narrow alleys lined with a myriad of smokey izakaya (Japanese pubs) and bars tucked in the backstreets of Japan’s busy cities. You can expect to be squeezed in with the locals, knocking back a cold beer or three and enjoying a no-frills, laid-back atmosphere late into the night. Over the last few years, we have seen a boom in the new “neo-yokocho” in Tokyo. They’re bigger, a little more stylish and tend to be in the comfort of a building rather than on street level.
Head to one of these five new Yokocho in Tokyo’s metropolis for a unique Japanese dining experience.
Asakusa is an iconic area of Tokyo with its rich history and culturally significant attractions. After taking in the sights at Senso-ji Temple and exhausting all of the shops along Nakamise Dori, why not carry on the party at the newly opened Asakusa Yokocho.
On the fourth floor of the Tokyo Rakutenchi Asakusa Building, you can find this matsuri (Japanese festival) themed yokocho neon-lit and vibrantly colorful. There is a choice of seven different eateries, from izakaya-style plates at Rocky Kanai to fun Soju-based cocktails at Korean restaurant Hanmart and freshly grilled yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) at YuraYura.
Asakusa Yokocho also holds regular events, performances and there’s even a kimono rental store on-site if you want to look the part while dining.
Shin-Okubo is a hot spot for Korean foodophiles, dubbed Tokyo’s Korea Town, where you’ll find all things related to South Korea. Think Korean beauty products, K-Pop record shops, Korean grocery stores, and many restaurants.
While you can get lost meandering the streets of Shin-Okubo, the new Kankoku Yokocho has all the vendors you need in one place to curb your Korean food cravings. It’s the first Korean Yokocho of its kind in Tokyo, with the atmosphere mimicking that of a Korean night market.
You can expect local comfort foods like tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and gimbap (seaweed rice roll) from Chunhyangjeon as well as Korean delicacies like yangnyeom gejang (spicy marinated raw crab) from Seafood Pocha Yeosuban Bada.
Just a stone’s throw away from the plush Toranomon Yokocho sits Kotora Komichi. Located in the basement of the Urban Toranomon office building, it’s hard to miss as you’re greeted with a vivid red tori gate entrance, pinwheel-lined walls, and soft paper lanterns lighting up the space.
Kotora Komichi aims to reintroduce the izakaya with a modern spin. Amongst the 12 restaurants, you can try foods from all over Japan. So whether you want to indulge in Kyoto-style creamy sea urchin pasta with ikura or fry off tender jingisukan (mutton slices) at the Hokkaido counter, there is plenty to relish at Kotora Komichi Yokocho.
Shibuya Yokocho (at Miyashita Park) will transport you across Japan through regional dishes and drinks. It’s like a cross-country drive for your tastebuds and a must-visit for any serious foodie. The interior oozes old-school charm with soft-lit retro lanterns, traditional kumade (Japanese good luck ornaments) and a giant portrait of a sumo wrestler hanging from the wall.
There’s a specialty menu with a mix of dishes from all 19 eateries, so sit back, relax and enjoy the culinary journey across Japan. It’s open all day so expect an everyday food festival.
Upmarket food halls have established themselves in the Tokyo food scene, toying with the essence of street food-style dining with a sophisticated touch.
While Eat Play Works is not a Yokocho by definition, the interior is designed so you can meander through the slim slither of a building, distinguishing the blurred lines between each of the pocket-sized eateries, almost imitating Tokyo Yokocho backstreets—just a tad fancier!
Based in Hiroo, with 17 small-scale restaurants to choose from, this complex is pushing a new era of informal fine dining. There is an amazing selection of food: vegetarian and vegan Middle Eastern dishes at Salam, Catalonian small plates at Sant Pau’s gastro bar or innovative Mexican cuisine at Oxomoco. It is a place to indulge in some of the world’s best chefs’ creations in a modern atmosphere that uses the city’s past for inspiration.