Friendly to Locals and Visitors Alike
Truth is, the scene in Golden Gai has changed a lot in the last couple of years as more visitors have discovered the place and as some, at least, of the 200-odd bars in the area look for new clientele. One popular blogger recently called it “One of the most poorly kept secrets of Tokyo”, which sounds about right.
These days, there are a lot of visitors meandering the alleys between the bars, looking for places to drop in for a drink. This hasn’t “ruined” the place in my opinion, though twenty-year regulars may disagree.
What this means for you is that you should feel totally comfortable and confident visiting Golden Gai and, while there are still many establishments that will only welcome people who can hold a conversation in Japanese, some others are happy to host the international crowd.
So go to Golden Gai. Start perhaps at the large karaoke bar near the entrance called Champions where you will likely see a large crowd of young visitors. Then spend some time and walk, and pop your head into any place that catches your eye; the narrow stairs to second-floor places can be intimidating, but there’s some real gems upstairs! You’ll know soon enough if you’re welcome. If you don’t find anywhere that speaks to you, then Albatross can be your “safety”: I’ve been there many times, and while the bartender doesn’t speak much (any?) English, it’s a friendly place and you’ll likely meet others from the international set. Albatross has two floors, so don’t be turned off if the first floor is packed.