Drunkard’s Alley is short strip of tiny bars just east of Shibuya crossing. Considering how close it is to that hectic crossing it is surprisingly calm and laid back. Each of the mini bars could hold a maximum of 5 people and generally there is a charge just to sit down in one of the places(between 500-1000 yen) but that comes with little snacks and forced conversation due to drinking in a tiny shed with multiple people.
The first place we stopped at had a bartender that spoke perfect English and he served us crickets, fermented rice, and squid. Also several sake options because if I’m eating bugs I need something to wash it down.
The crickets were delicious and rather sweet, I had a 2nd bowl. The squid was pretty decent. I was not a fan of the fermented rice though, the texture was a bit strange to me. This bar was apparently owned by an 85 year old woman who is typically the bartender but was off that night. She has had regulars coming in for over 50 years and that is pretty common for a lot of the bars in this alley.
The 2nd place we went to had an English sign and advertised Japanese whiskey, so we were sold.
Here we ate the duck and stuffed mushrooms. The duck was amazing and melted in my mouth. The bartender here says it sells out pretty early on in the night though. The mushrooms were also very good but I’m also a sucker for mushrooms. In this bar I found myself talking to a Japanese man and attempting to use a translator app on my phone. It went alright, he loves “American Hollywood” and he is pretty into Nicholas Cage movies, so we got along well. He also like to cheers a lot so the evening gets a bit blurrier from here. This bar also offered sake and whiskey flights with explanations of each which was also pretty cool.
Drunkard’s Alley is a pretty fascinating place. The aesthetic is a very cool blend of traditional Japanese with a bit of steampunk/Kowloon walled city vibe. The food was interesting and generally very good but the style is more tapas-like and pretty expensive so don’t expect to fill up. It is called Drunkard’s Alley though so I suppose even getting food is a bonus.
Overall, definitely worth a visit. It is convenient to Shibuya station even if you just want to walk through it and see it. The cost is somewhat high but the added friendliness seems to make it worth it to me. The only real downside is I didn’t actually see that many drunkards.
Side note-we ended up doubling back to the first bar to check in(and eat more crickets) and the older lady owner had shown up and taken over to a full bar of regulars and they seemed like the happiest people in Tokyo right then. Must be a good life, I’m going to look into the cost of owning a tiny bar as a retirement plan.