The collective of 21 small food counters cum watering holes is known as Ebisu Yokocho. Located just minutes from Ebisu Station is this lively alleyway filled with bright, retro style lights and signs. Prices are affordable; for a night out with friends plan to spend around 2,000 yen per person for food and drinks. What makes this spot special is the range of food stalls within steps of each other: yakitori, gyūtan (beef tongue), oden (hot pots), kimchi and okonomiyaki (Japanese grill-it-yourself pancake) are just some of the culinary delights to be devoured.
While yokocho can be found all over Japan, Ebisu Yokocho offers a taste of traditional Japanese culture with a young atmosphere. Ebisu is densely concentrated with swanky boutiques and residential areas. It is during the nighttime when Ebisu really lights up. The glare of the neon signs marking this tight passageway of tiny restaurants stands out amongst the other restaurants and watering holes in the area.
Return trips to Ebisu Yokocho are recommended as the vast array and style of each food counter is worth a visit. Or do one better and bar hop from one food stall to the next. Locals meet nightly to sip beer and freshly crushed ginger highballs. The unpretentious atmosphere is obvious with the clever milk crate and bench seating arrangements. The chefs stand behind their food counters, which are just about three to five square meters in size, while wait staff mill about to take orders. Each micro-restaurant is styled in the fashion of the restaurateurs’ choosing, which makes for an eye-popping vision. This alleyway is a lesson in juxtaposition. Here one can find the Chinese small-plates restaurant featuring an abundance of colorful lanterns and hanging tassels situated just meters from the mushroom specialty shop with toadstool style seats.
Food stall hours vary, with most opening at 5 PM and throbbing with life until 4 AM, well past the final train home. Expect to arrive by 8 PM at the earliest for a more energetic atmosphere when the potent fragrance of cigarette smoke and grilled meat fills the air. You can choose your dining experience by type of food or simply by whichever food counter looks to be the most popular. Expect to make some new friends because as the alcohol starts flowing, nomunication begins!
Yokocho: alleyway on the side of a main street
Nomunication: a portmanteau for the Japanese word nomu (to drink) and communication