Most of my project material will be gathered either in or near Shinjuku train station. Near Shinjuku train station is a rather unique little area called The Golden Gai. It is situated a few minutes away on foot from the East exit of Shinjuku station. It’s a well-known spot for its buzzing nightlife. Though what fascinates me is how the area is architecturally arranged. The area is made up of a simple network; six alleyways which are connected by even narrower alleyways. Incredibly over 200 bars, clubs and eateries are squeezed together.
For me, it’s a very important part of Tokyo as it provides the viewer with a small glimpse of Modernist Tokyo. Miniature like two-story buildings and narrow alleyways are just a few charismatic features of this remarkable area. In today’s Tokyo, most of the surrounding buildings in the Shinjuku area have been redeveloped, roads have been made wider and the conurbation stretching well into the suburbs. The Golden Gai stands alone surrounded by this concrete post-modernism overload. The buildings practically touch each other and are no more than a few feet wide. Most of the buildings have a simple two-story structure. The structures generally consist of a bar on the ground floor and a flat or another bar on the first floor. A steep staircase separating the stories. Each bar caters for half a dozen in one time at the very most. The buildings are elegantly dilapidated and at night the alleyways are dimly lit, resembling dirty and misty back streets in Victorian London times but not as menacing. The area is frequented by a bohemian society. Artists, writers, musicians, film-makers, poets and actors descend on its bars. Most of the bars only welcome regular patrons though some bars try to attract ‘Gaijins (foreigners) by adding price lists and menus in English. It’s very quiet during the day and early evening as most of the bars open around 9p.m. Below are a few snaps I took early one Sunday morning. Very different from images you might expect of Tokyo. No neon, no people, no colour, no gadgets etc. Sadly there are very few places like this that still exist in Tokyo.