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Shomben Yokocho

Listed under Squares, Streets & Urban Spaces in Tokyo, Japan.

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Since the 1950s Tokyo, indeed Japan as a whole, has often pursued a policy of rapid and large-scale modernisation. Outsiders may lament what has been lost, but perhaps constant renewal and rebuilding are ingrained into a culture whose religion tears down and reconstructs its major religious site every 20 years. For those who want a flavour of downtown Tokyo of old - without having to resort to theme parody - look no further than Shomben Yokocho.

Better known as Piss Alley (proper drainage systems were installed relatively recently), Shomben Yokocho is a tiny backstreet by the west entrance to Tokyo’s Shinjuku station and the sprawling Odakyu department store. It can be easy to miss as you are swept along by the sea of shoppers and commuters.

Pull up a stool at one of the many yakitori (chicken skewer) stalls that line the alley and eat and drink with a generally friendly crowd. Old timers, businessmen and young hipsters mingle. There is a cosmopolitan edge to proceedings as well - they may look Japanese at first glance, but workers in Shomben Yokocho’s establishments are just as likely to hail from China or Korea.

For film fans, if you ever wanted to feel like you were Deckard in Blade Runner, here’s your chance. Ridley Scott drew much inspiration for his sci-fi classic from the streets of Shinjuku.

Written by  Joseph.

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