For years now I’ve been semi-regularly passing by, and invariably through, Shinjuku’s famous Omoide Yokocho, or Piss Alley as it’s also known. Most of the time there’s nobody of interest to photograph, but now and again a scene or someone in particular stands out and I attempt to get a shot. Efforts that have resulted in a growing number of images, and these monochrome suited ones make up a small series of sorts — one that hopefully captures some of the alley’s atmosphere and character. Or perhaps more accurately, former atmosphere and character, as the huge increase in visitors to Japan over the last few years has understandably changed the area somewhat.
Now, whether that change has been good or bad is debatable. Yes, it’s not quite like it was, but at the same time it could also be argued that the drinking spot’s renewed popularity has allowed it to survive in a city that demolishes and rebuilds both regularly, and unemotionally. It should also be noted that some of the photos have been taken fairly recently, so in many ways it’s still the same, it’s just different that’s all.
Should you wish to see more photos of Japanese bars (and drinkers), these and many of others can be seen on my portfolio site, here.
I love that area, though there did seem to be a lot of people with Gopros running around there the last time I visited (a couple of years ago). Is that younger fellow the main man at Kabuto these days? I never got to see the elderly fellow but I really loved the bald guy!
There are many more now. Still fairly quiet during the day to be honest, but come the evening it’s absolutely jam packed with drinkers, as well as people taking photos like me!
He seems to be. Only really see him and sometimes the slightly older lady. Sadly not seen the old fella for a while now.
The umbrella and girl with pigeon photos are wonderful.
Thank you. Must admit, the pigeon photo (whether in colour or black and white) is one of my favourite photos ever. A lovely moment that I feel very lucky to have seen, let alone photographed.
This is a very cool series. You have captured such great atmosphere and people. I don’t mind if it has changed. I want to drink there! 🙂
Thanks! Regardless of how much it has or hasn’t changed, it’s an interesting place to see and experience, so you definitely should try and visit.
Great pictures, that really feel like the good old times….
I used to love Omoide Yokocho, but in the last few years it seems to have changed from kind of a hidden gem to one of the major tourist destinations in Tokyo. The last time I’ve been there the vast majority of people were foreign tourists, to the point that locals seem to avoid the area more and more. I don’t mind seeing a few tourist (after all I’m one of them myself), but the fun thing of places like these was always to mingle with the locals (or Japanese tourist), enjoy some good food and drinks and try to have a conversation with the tiny bit of Japanese I know and the tiny bit of English they speak.
Thank you. The black and white definitely adds to the atmosphere and feelings of nostalgia.
Yeah, I know what you mean. The crowds really are something in the evenings. Feels more like Shinjuku station than a drinking place sometimes. During the afternoon is generally different though. Much quieter, and mostly just older fellas enjoying a few drinks.
That is a fascinating series, with so much to look at.
The umbrella one is a past favourite, and the 2:20 lamp one is a new favourite as I’d not seen it before.
The pubs of my youth had a grime and charm that was lost forever when they started to tout for the yuppie trade.
Sad how the success of an establishment can ruin it.
Thanks. It really is a photogenic spot. So many little details. And same here, the umbrella shot is one of my faves.
But yeah, a real shame how pubs, areas and the like can change due to success or apparent progress. Not always for the worse of course, but always sad to see real charm and character disappear.
Boy howdy! Look at all those big smiles, all that whooping it up, hootin’ and hollerin’! They should have called it Barrels of Monkeys Alley.
Haha, that’s a very good point. Not exactly the jolliest set of drinkers, are they?
A surprising amount of people there are on their own, so that explains it — somewhat!
Colin Stanners says
In a few of these pictures, the hanging lights are frightening from both an electrical and food safety point of view.
They are, but that all adds to the experience.