Omoide Yokocho – Yakitori Alley

Posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 1 Comment

Omoide Yokocho - Memory Lane
My First Glimpse of Yakitori Alley

Omoide Yokocho (Yakitori Alley) is one of my all-time favorite places, not just in Japan, anywhere in the world. If you ask me what to do or where to go in Tokyo, Japan, I will send you there.

Omoide Yokocho translates as “Memory Lane.”  It is an interesting look into what Japan was like in the 40’s and 50’s. Omoide Yokocho is a narrow alley crammed full of very small yakitori joints. “An alley full of yakitori joints!!!” you say.  “Are you kidding me? I am so there!”

“Wait. What is yakitori?” This is where I shake my head and wonder what is wrong with you. Yakitori is only the greatest invention since the invention of food.

Disclaimer: Yakitori is, BY FAR, my favorite type of Japanese food. “Sorry sushi, I love you too, but you’re not number one.” I am indeed a “Yakitori Freak.” This has been well documented. Okay, back to answering the question at hand.

Yakitori is grilled chicken, although you can also get grilled pork, beef and even veggies. There is no rice to be found and no fish either! The meats are cut into small, bite-sized pieces and put on a bamboo skewer before being grilled on a charcoal grill (traditional) or a gas grill (more modern). One skewer is about 2-3 bites and you order by the skewer.

Yakitori Grill in Omoide Yokocho
Some Fresh Skewers on the Grill

All parts of the chicken are available, including wings, breast, thigh, heart, liver, skin, cartilage and a few others that don’t generally appeal to many Westerners. I would recommend looking at my quick yakitori tutorial (available soon). It is good to be familiar with the names, in Japanese, of the parts you’d like to try. Many of these places don’t have English menus or even much English speaking staff. It’s really good to get a tasty chicken thigh with spring onion (negima), instead of a not-so-tasty chicken tail (bonjiri). Of course, you may be the type of person who likes chicken tail, in which case, by all means knock yourself out.

Watching the Grill
Yakitori Chef Keeping Watch over My Dinner

Omoide Yokocho - Yakitori Alley
Getting Ready for Dinner

Back to the alley.

Some of the tiny yakitori bars only hold 8-10 people. Others are for locals only. Don’t expect to get served at these. They simply won’t let you in if you’re not Japanese. But, it’s all-good. There are heaps of little yakitori bars to choose from, many with friendly staff all yelling “Irasshaimase!” which means “welcome.”

I suggest just going for it! Pick a place, grab a seat and start ordering. They may look like funky hole-in-the-wall spots, but the food they make is savory and delicious and goes perfectly with an ice-cold Asahi or three. If you are a fan of street food, you will have an amazing time bar hoping in this unique alleyway. I almost forgot to mention, it is rumored that Omoide Yokocho was one of the inspirations of the set designs for Ridley Scott’s movie “Blade Runner”.

So now that you can’t wait to get to Yakitori Alley, you are probably wondering exactly where it is. It is located near Shinjuku Station, just west of the Yamanote tracks. Ask any local and they can point you there.

A final piece of advice, go there after 7 pm. Many places aren’t open before then and the alley looks fantastic at night.

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Comments

  1. Another great post Algis!! It’s funny that you mentioned Blade Runner because that was the first thing that I thought of seeing these pictures!! Any eyeball manufacturers?

    Patrick

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Hi, I’m Algis

Algis

I have an insatiable wanderlust which takes me to some crazy places where I try strange foods, pretend I'm a local and talk with elephants. Keep reading...

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