When you get off at Oimachi Station in Shinagawa, one of the first things you will notice are the department stores and shops you are used to—but if you walk 30 seconds from the station, you will encounter a place where you have slipped back in time.
Some areas of Oimachi have not changed much since ancient times. Small shops line the narrow alleys and you can hear lively voices. Here, small shops began to line up shortly after World War II. The area has since expanded but it retains its old-time charm. Join the locals in the pub alley (Azumakoji), where about 200 restaurants lined up during the peak period of the Showa '40s (1965～1974). The area has changed little since then.
Treat yourself to a good old Showa-era fun night out at Oimachi Yokocho! Yokocho is the Japanese word for any side street, but—more often than not—it also envisions a narrow, often pedestrian-only alley lined with small pubs and shops that can seat only a handful of patrons at a time. Most often frequented by locals and salarymen recharging after a hard day’s work, these yokocho are often a fount of traditional foods and drinks—not to mention a great time.
Some popular dishes of many yokocho include kara-age (fried chicken), yakitori (chicken skewers), motsuyaki (grilled pig organs, like liver and heart)—but nowadays many other foods are becoming a staple to any yokocho, this is especially true of Oimachi Yokocho. Visitors to the area will find bargain sushi that doesn’t skimp on the quality, and even some small bistro cafes serving prosciutto, coffee, and cake sets. Explore the area to find your postwar delight, whether you want gyoza (potstickers) or fusion cuisine, there’s sure to be something to satisfy. There’s no question that Oimachi Yokocho has something for everyone.
Then there’s the matter of drinks. Beer is the beverage of choice for most of the long alleyway, with various shops boasting the best deal of a cold glass. If you’d like a taste of history why not try Hoppy? It’s a postwar non-alcoholic drink meant to taste like beer when the real thing was in short supply; why not try it mixed into shochu (Japanese distilled spirits). Of course, there’s also no shortage of traditional Japanese sake. Whatever it is you choose to down with your meal, you’ll be satisfied with the many options the area has.
After dining at the pub of your choice, be sure to check out the many other charms of Oimachi. Do keep in mind that many of these small shops will not accept credit cards and be sure to carry your cash. Another point to note is that many establishments do not allow photography of other customers, so keep the selfie sticks to yourself. Regardless of any local rules, Oimachi is a great place to spend any amount of time and the yokocho is sure to warm your heart and spirits.