Omoide Yokocho: Tokyo’s Most Iconic Izakaya Alley

Guide to Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho in Tokyo

Despite its seemingly hidden location right next to the train tracks in Shinjuku Station’s northwestern side, our good ol’ Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁) is a consistent staple of any top landmarks list in Tokyo and definitely one of the most featured places in social networks. 

It has it all: a historical alley with a smokey and mysterious aura right in the middle of Tokyo’s busiest district; a charming ambiance with paper lanterns and decorations that change along the season; an unsophisticated offering that feels just right between casual eateries and local bars where one can mingle with locals. It’s the ideal place to stop for a fun and quick bite while exploring Shinjuku.

Check also: 1 Day Itinerary in Tokyo: SHINJUKU & 20 Best Things to Do in Shinjuku

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

What is Omoide Yokocho?

Omoide Yokocho (思い出横丁), literally meaning “memory alley”, is a tremendously popular cluster of around 60 minuscule izakaya bars and restaurants, as well as a few other shops. Here, the main offering is grilled yakitori skewers and broiled offal, but you can also find noodles or sushi. 

The birth of Omoide Yokocho is directly linked with the war bombings that completely destroyed the market that used to be in this place before the war. From the rubble, a black market and underground drinking area emerged. As a nod to these times, where infrastructure was scarce and walls on the verge of collapse, the alley was also known as “piss alley”. As unflattering as it sounds, it’s still kind of an endearing callback to its origins. 

Strict postwar controls over many products drastically affected the businesses at the time, so many of them resorted to deal with beef and pork innards or chicken, as those items were not as strictly controlled. This is how these products became popular and continue to be a basic staple of the alley nowadays.

What to do at Omoide Yokocho

Eat, drink and be merry

That’s the whole point of the place, really. Most stalls open during the afternoon but at lunchtime there are some places open as well, so save for the morning, any time is ok to grab a quick bite or maybe just wind down with some drinks and grilled skewers at the end of the day. 

There are some ramen and soba/udon stalls, as well as a couple of sushi or curry restaurants. The grill and smoke odors coupled with the light of the red paper lanterns add to the unique atmosphere for an unforgettable meal. 

More info: Tokyo Bar Hopping: the Best Drink Tour in Shinjuku at Night

<<Book your Tokyo Bar Hopping Nightlife Tour here!>>

Be mindful of patrons and other visitors when shooting

This is one of the most photogenic and charming places around Shinjuku, so it’s only natural for visitors to try to get the most of the charming setting. Just keep in mind that restaurant owners and some patrons will not appreciate being treated like zoo specimens. One of the wonderful things about this spot is the way it’s managed to keep its own character despite being one of the hottest tourist hotspots in the area. Do your part in keeping it that way.

If you need to exchange currency, this is your place

Currency exchange at Omoide Yokocho

The north-western side of Omoide Yokocho, facing Otakibashi Avenue, has several currency exchange shops lined one next to the other, so this is a very convenient place in case of need. Since there are several places, their exchange rates are quite competitive! In my own experience, Ninja Money Exchange tends to have the best rates without charging fees, but you can just compare yourself the rates offered at each place.

More info about Japanese currency: Japanese Currency: A Guide for Travelers

How to get to Omoide Yokocho

The subway station Shinjuku-nishiguchi on the Toei Oedo line is right next to Omoide Yokocho, but there’s also Seibu-Shinjuku on the Seibu line or the massive Shinjuku Station on the close vicinity. 

Tourist attractions near Omoide Yokocho

We’re talking about Shinjuku, so the entire area can be considered one huge tourist attraction in itself. But here’s some of the main highlights you shouldn’t miss nearby:


Kabukicho, Shinjuku

Kabukicho (歌舞伎町), sitting on the other side of the train tracks and just 5-min away on foot, we can find Tokyo’s notorious adult entertainment district. Filled with bars, karaoke parlors, 18+ establishments, extravagant places like Godzilla Road or one-of-a-kind attractions like Samurai Restaurant, it’s the kind of place that you just cannot miss for the most uniquely “only in Tokyo” experience. 

More info: Kabukicho: Tokyo’s Red Light District, a Survival Guide

Shinjuku Golden Gai

Golden Gai at night

Shinjuku Golden Gai (新宿ゴールデン街) is a treasured enclave located 11-min walk from Omoide Yokocho, famed for its warren of bars, each with its own character. This historic district boasts well over 200 mini bars, where the small space create an intimate atmosphere among its patrons and provide a valuable glimpse into Tokyo’s post-war culture. As such, it attracts a diverse crowd seeking the warmth of its narrow alleys and the charm of its wooden storied establishments.

More info: Shinjuku Golden Gai: A Bohemian Haven in Tokyo

Giant 3D Cat

Giant 3D Cat in front of Shinjuku Station East Square
© cross space

If you’re familiar with the viral images of a giant 3D cat in Tokyo that have been making the rounds all over the world, look no further! All you have to do is cross the tunnel under the tracks next to Omoide Yokocho and you’ll be greeted by Shinjuku’s beloved new mascot lounging around between advertisement sets. 

Since its inception in July 2021, this cleverly designed digital billboard has become an instant magnet for visitors, a huge hit in social networks and has turned the Shinjuku East Exit Station Square into one of the most popular meeting spots around the area.

SOMPO Museum of Art

Sompo Museum of Art
© Sompo Museum of Art

Part of a striking collection of buildings just 5-min walk west from Omoide Yokocho, SOMPO Museum of Art (SOMPO美術館) is located at the base of Sompo Japan Building, one of the most iconic skyscrapers in Shinjuku. The greatest highlight of this architectural gem is one of the originals of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Series in addition to being a memorial for the works of Seiji Togo, one of the most prominent Japanese artists of the 20th century.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building South Observatory

Located 15-min on foot from Omoide Yokocho, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎) is an impressive complex west of Shinjuku where the headquarters of the Metropolitan Government are located. Built in 1990, the striking design from architect Kenzo Tange was inspired in Paris’ Notre Dame and was meant to be a local cultural landmark.

But the main attraction both among tourists and locals is the free observation decks on the 45th floor of each tower, with panoramic views of the city (and even Mt. Fuji on clear days) and open everyday from 9:00 to 22:00.

[Note: At the moment only the south observatory is open, the north observatory is currently closed until further notice.]

More info: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings

A small treasure born out of necessity and forged in the fire of tough times, Omoide Yokocho still retains the best of the Showa Era nostalgic feelings, amid the incessant development and rapid growth of everything around it. It’s a small miracle this beloved unglamorous corner still survives to this day but hopefully it continues to do so for a long time. 

▽Subscribe to our free news magazine!▽

For more information about area guides and traveling in Japan, check these articles below, too!

▽Related Articles▽

▼Editor’s Picks▼

Written by

Photographer, journalist, and avid urban cyclist, making sense of Japan since 2017. I was born in Caracas and lived for 14 years in Barcelona before moving to Tokyo. Currently working towards my goal of visiting every prefecture in Japan, I hope to share with readers the everlasting joy of discovery and the neverending urge to keep exploring.