Translated by Charis Messier
Slip 70 Years Back in Time at Shinjuku’s Memory Lane!
Written by OsawaKimie
Shinjuku's Memory Lane, a small but remarkable street that has remained largely the same since the 1940s. We find out what makes it so memorable!
Only a short five-minute walk from Shinjuku Station’s West Entrance you will find men in suits wandering around with their neckties loosened after a hard day at work. That street is known as Shinjuku’s Omoide Yokocho, or Shinjuku’s Memory Lane. One step into Memory Lane instantly brings the smells of delicious food and alcohol to tickle your nose, accompanied by the lively sounds of people enjoying lighthearted conversation.
Memory Lane is an incredibly popular spot for tourists who want to "enjoy a place that feels like the Japanese underground". Today we will be introducing you to the charm of this shopping street that overflows with remnants of the past, as though time has been halted there for the last seventy years.
History Behind the Little-Known Shinjuku Memory Lane
Not only is Shinjuku’s Memory Lane filled with bars, it is also lined with a variety of street stalls and restaurants selling tasty treats ranging from Yakitori, kushiyaki (grilled food on skewers), sushi, ramen, yakiniku (grilled meat), and other mouth-watering foods. It has remained this way since it was first established in 1946, directly after World War II. During that time, the street stall owners set up shop with only a wooden panel separating their doors. They mostly sold household goods that helped residents having a hard time securing supplies due to the war.
With over 70 street stalls and restaurants lining Memory Lane today, it is hard to believe that the street is only 30 meters (98.4 feet) wide and just barely 80 meters (262.5 feet) long. Although the area has reduced in size with the continuous construction around it, this shopping district marked by street stalls separated by wooden panels is still holding its own today.
The street is dyed crimson by the flickering light of nearby Japanese lanterns. The flow of people is endless into the late hours of the night, because the majority of the stalls are open from 4pm until late.
What is the Source of the Mouth-Watering Scents Wafting Through the Streets?
Seventeen of the seventy shops that line Memory Lane are Yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurants. The juicy smells of yakitori waft through the narrow street, enticing any passersby.
There is a surprisingly large variety of yakitori, which is the perfect snack to go with your alcoholic beverage of choice. Tourists can relax and easily order their food, as a number of shops include English menus.
Memory Lane’s charm lies in being able to enjoy delicious food, while being entertained by the casual conversations between the regular customers and the shop owners. The cozy environment warmly welcomes any first-time customers and puts them at ease.
A modern city landscape checkered by skyscrapers unfolds before you the moment you make your way out of this reminiscent old town street. Being a hotpot of cultures, Shinjuku is brimming with charming discoveries with every visit. Why not take a side detour while you shop and sightsee to have a taste of one of Shinjuku’s many facets, surrounded by the casual ambiance that flows through Memory Lane?
Shinjuku Nishiguchi Omoide Yokocho (Shinjuku’s Memory Lane)
Address: Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Nishi Shinjuku, 1-chome 2
Business Hours: Depends on the Restaurant
Closing Days: None
Wi-Fi Spots: None
Credit Card Acceptance: Depends on the Restaurant
Useable Languages: Japanese and English (for some of the shops)
Multiple Language Menus：Depends on the Restaurant
Nearest Station: Shinjuku Station (JR Yamanote Line, JR Chuo Line, JR Sobu Line, JR Saikyo Line, JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Toei Shinjuku Line, Toei Oedo Line, Keio, Odakyu line)
Access: 5 minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station West Entrance
Price Range: Depends on the Restaurant
Phone Number: +81-3-3364-3235
Official Website: Shinjuku Memory Lane Official Website