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Gado Shita Culinary Adventure

Gastronomic paradise under the rail tracks

Gado-shita is the name Japanese use for local restaurants or passages under the rail tracks. It literally means "under girders". Places like that are very common in Tokyo. I chose to visit one next to Hibiya station. The train tracks stretch all the way down to Yurakucho station and are packed with popular eating spots. The place is known for its great local cuisine and a vast choice of small old-fashioned restaurants and drinking spots.

It comes alive in the evenings, when all the tiny alleys are lit by red and yellow lanterns and chefs work their magic in open-air kitchens. Meat sizzles on the grill, clouds of steam rise over the big pots of ramen and everything gets ready for the feast that will last untill the late night hours. There are a lot of canteens to choose from. They are lined up on both sides of the rail tracks and in arcades underneath. Narrow alleys are squeezed in the middle, directly beneath the railway. These small alleys are full of bars with a true local feel. Some of them are open 24 hours. Bigger restaurants have their menu in English, while traditional shops offer one particular type of food and their staff speaks only Japanese. Tables, chairs and benches are arranged close to one another. Guests usually sit together, keeping very small distance. It might be intimidating at first, but I assure you that atmosphere of those places is unforgettable. In Gado-shita you can find almost every type of food, including strange ones. Rare specialities like dried ray wings, grilled Ika (squid served with guts), Japanese flying squid served whole, Shirako (cod sperm), Namako (pickled sea cucumber) are common here. Another surprise for the western palate are horse fillet, "fresh chicken" sashimi or beef tongue. It is wise to observe what locals eat and trust them with their choice of dishes.

The district is mostly visited by the working class. The majority of customers are men who go to the same places every night. It contrasts with modern neighbourhoods surrounding Yarakucho. Its uniqueness evokes the traditional old beauty of Tokyo. Gado-shita is full of life during weekdays. On weekends it gets relatively quiet. If you are looking for a charming old Tokyo neighborhood it is definitely the place to see.

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