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Tokyo Inside: The Secret Bars of Gorudengai

September 10, 2007

One of the most fascinating and unexpected places in Tokyo is Gorudengai. Just 5 minutes walk from the west exit of Shinjuku station through Kabuki-cho, one of the most screaming and flashy places of Tokyo, the promenader suddenly enters a silent little path framed with the deep green of trees and ferns.


Soon after you reach the central gate of Gorudengai. Actually it is much more fascinating to discover this place by night. I have spent some of my most exciting nights there. But for the sake of better pictures for my “Gorudengai Audio Website Project” I visited this mysterious district this time during daylight. By night you really shouldn’t try to take pictures here. You’ll see why.


Gorudengai, which means “Golden District”, is nothing more than just five rows of tiny two or three story houses. Each of them shelters a bar that is just as big as two towels. There are all together more than 180 bars – on a ground of roughly 3000 square meters! I believe it’s the biggest number of bars on such a small spot in the world. And each bar differs completely from its neighbors so that you have a beautiful cluster of individualistic micro-bars. Inside there is no social or whatsoever wall, it’s so narrow, hot and loud that nobody remains unnoticed and unattended.











Gorudengai was built as a housing project in post-war times but was quickly colonized by bohemians, prostitutes, black market and – Yakuza. The district was and is still famous for being one of the most dangerous places in Japan. A few years ago still many people got killed here, either knifed or shot. So don’t be surprised if Japanese people are often not really keen on going to the dimly lit alleyways where Death also seems to be a frequent guest. But the truth is that the population of Gorudengai has been totally exchanged since the Bubble economy imploded and rent had become affordable to young people and artists.


The best way to got there first time is to be introduced by some established customer anyway. Because even though it seems to be a paradise island for dreamers and drinkers from the allover the world it’s indeed mostly populated by a kind of aborigines who prefer to stay there alone with their peers. This is also the reason why cameras are formally prohibited by some signboards at the entries of the quarter. Some insiders admit that this is the dilemma of Gorudengai: The bar owners want to attracts more customers; but at the same time they share the taste of their established guests for the secret and conspirative atmosphere of the place.



This door poster is at least explicit:





It’s my hobby project to setup a Japanese website with the map of Gorudengai and to make it audio-interactive with iSound, the technology of our company Audiantis. That means any user will be able to “listen” into the bars, e.g. their playlists, barmen, guests, ambient sound, live etc. It will be fun!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ted permalink
    September 11, 2007 3:09 am

    Hiya Regi!…Pleased to have a blog to read that is actually interesting!…Especially happy to read recommendations for bars to drink in!…
    Cheers from Shibuya….

  2. April 16, 2011 5:37 am

    Hi my friend! I wish to say that this article is awesome, nice written and include approximately all vital infos. I¡¦d like to see more posts like this .

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