Golden Gai

We’re back in the streets of Shinjuku heading towards the Golden Gai area. Umbrella up and we’re trucking through the downpour. There are lots of cool little bars in the area around NUTS and I’m falling in love with it. Tiny places that only accommodate 6-10 people and serve small plates. Looks like perfect little ambient spots for a night out with your close friends.

About half way to Golden Gai and the shops are getting frisky. There’s a few exotic dancer places with naked dudes on the signs. Another place is a male sex shop. Are we in the gay red light district? Looks like it. Maybe we’ll stop in somewhere on the way back, practice our amateur pole routines.

We get to the main road and wait for a crossing. Lots of shops and restaurants here that look interesting. We’re waiting to cross the street and we spot a coffee joint called Jonathan’s Coffee. Ya, i could use some of my own coffee actually. We dip in to grab a cup but there is a line going up the stairs. Is this the Tokyo equivalent of a Denny’s? Nah we don’t wanna wait, on to Golden Gai.

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Being that it’s the Saturday before Halloween we are passing a bunch of people on the street in costumes. We’re feeling a little under-dressed. Maybe we should have brought our brunch outfits with us. We come up on a group of three guys in great Minions outfits and Queenie just has to get a pic with them. Maybe they’re zombie minions? They’re super nice and are more than happy to get a group shot. Great costumes.

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Around the corner is Golden Gai. It’s a series of small alleys between buildings that have tiny bars at street level and up super narrow stairs to second floor spots. Man these look super cool. We zigzag up and down the alleys looking for a spot to hang. There are sooooo many bars here, it’s crazy.

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We just jump into one called Kenzo’s and go up the small staircase and emerge into a tiny little leopard print themed bar. We’re greeted with multiple “Hellos!” and a small group of three rearrange where they’re sitting to let us sit down. The room is decked out like a safari and there is a wall of random dvds from decades ago, like The Neverending Story. The bartender is nice and welcoming. She seems too young to serve alcohol.

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We grab a seat and the Babytender brings over some snacks. They’re these weird sweet and cheesy flavored bread crisps. They taste like a sweet cheetos. Tastes odd but I can’t stop eating them. Despite being the smallest bar I’ve ever been in, you are still allowed to smoke. In fact there are more ashtrays in the room than seats. One of the locals lights up and so does our teenage bartender. So no smoking on the street, but smoking in tiny enclosed spaces?

The only other non-Japanese person in Kenzo’s is a Scottish girl with a super thick accent, made thicker by her apparent drunkenness. Her clothes suggest an Art History major. She wore a raspberry beret.

We start asking about costumes and past costumes. I mention that I went as Braveheart a few years back. Well, William Wallace. She’s never seen it but knows what I’m talking about, “I’m sure with the hair…”, “Yeah, that’s basically why it happened”. I refrain from yelling Freeeeeeedom as it seems she’s not actually digging the whole concept at all. In fact that’s the end of the conversation, she switches back to talking to the two locals she was sitting with before we got there. Thanks Mel Gibson.

We turn to the smoking side of the mini room and start talking to them. They are super polite and want to talk but don’t speak much English. I point to the action figure above the bar and ask who it is. The guy is super pumped about it. “Ahhhhhh that is. Strongest….”, “Monster?”, “Yes! Strongest monster Ultra Man! ZETTON!” and then him and Babytender do a bunch of kung-fu looking arm waving and energy blasting moves, they start giggling. It’s pretty great. “ZETTON!”

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Those two are drinking something interesting looking so we ask what it is. “Sochu green tea”, “Sochu green tea? really? Can we try it?”, she holds up her fingers, “Two?”, “Hai”. Wow it’s pretty good! Goes down quick too. For my next one Babytender suggests oolong tea. Hai! Damn, that’s good too. Looks like we found our new drink.

The Scot and her local friends are leaving now. They’ve warmed up post Braveheart comment and are asking about our trip. We decide it’s time to go too and find a place to eat, it’s getting on 10pm. I get Babytender to snap a shot of us in her little leopard room. Queenie grabs the leopard napkin dispenser. Arigato Babytender, have a good night. Seems like fire codes aren’t really a thing here. We descend the micro stairs back into the rain.

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Around the corner is a really good looking Korean food spot. They have grills to cook up meat and veggie platters on and they have hot pot too. We slip inside and grab a table. The ‘English’ menu has some interesting options on it, like ‘The Womb’? We go for a hot pot and I take my leave for the restroom.

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Ok, let’s talk about Japanese toilets. How the hell do they work? They’re like little space ships. I go into the bathroom and take a leak. Afterwards I can’t figure out how to flush the damn thing. There are a million little buttons and they all make little whirring sounds and something happens but none of them flush the fucking toilet. There are multiple bidet buttons. You can hit the front, direct bullseye, or the backside of your ass. You can crank up the pressure on it too, 5 levels of water pleasure to choose from. You can dribble water into the toilet, I guess to help make you go or maybe drown out sounds. I think you can set the temperature of the seat. I think you can also jump through a worm hole up to a zillion light years away. I pressed every damn button and watched this contraption perform ass magic but the thing wouldn’t fucking flush.

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I get back to the table and ask Queenie how the future toilet 5000 works and she tells me there’s a lever on the right side you push, just like any other toilet. What the hell? I guess since the seat was up I couldn’t see it? Anyways, Queenie has a good laugh at me, “So you didn’t flush it?”, “Well, I pressed a bunch of buttons and dribbled a ton of water in there that I think was supposed to wash my ass. So I watered it down”, “Oh Bee! number 1 or 2”, One! One, thank jeebuz.

Another thing here we’ve seen a couple of times now is a drink they call a Highball. I usually think of a highball as just a type of tall tumbler glass but here it is a Whiskey and soda. There is an add for something called a black freezing highball on the wall behind Queenie so we point and order up two of them.

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The hot pot hits the table and it is a giant bubbling cauldron of spicy, cheesy awesomeness. Assorted veggies and sausage, chicken and pork. It’s delicious. May actually go down as the best hot pot so far. It’s also massive and we don’t get through the whole thing. We order another sochu green tea to help put it down.

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Afterwards we go back to Golden Gai. We meet some euros on the street coming out of a bar. One of them is pretty drunk and having a tough time with the stairs. He’s coming down backwards and can’t see where to put his next wobbly foot. “Look at this guy, backwards down the mini stairs. You have to moonwalk out of the bars here.” They both start giggling and he almost slips when he gets to ground level. We point up the micro stairs, “Any good?”, “Yeah man, head on up and grab our spots.” And so we do.

It’s another tiny bar called Hip bar. Just 2 other people at one end and a goth looking girl on her phone at the other. We grab some seats and order up a sochu green tea and I ask about Japanese whiskeys. They lead me to one they recommend. We were getting pretty saucy at this point though and I can’t remember what it was.

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A couple drinks in and we’re about done. It’s getting on 3am now and we’ve basically been up for 24 hours at this point with just a shit-sleep on the 14 hour plane ride here. It’s amazing we’re still alive really. So we take the micro stairs back into the rain.

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On the way back to NUTS we pass by a place called Taiwan bar that Queenie needs a pic of.

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Back to our mini room and we’re totally spent. Hit play on the New Urban Space Time machine for some sexy french jazz while we brush our teeth and then crashitty crash crash.

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