“OmoideYokocho’’ [Memory Lane] sometimes also called ‘’ShonbenYokocho’’ [Piss Alley] is nestled against the northwest corner of the worlds busiest train station, just a few minutes walk from the forest of modern and post-modern skyscrapers, Omoide Yokocho provides a delightful journey back in time to the gritty post-World War II days when hard-pressed, down-but-not-out Tokyoites gathered in ramshackle makeshift buildings for cheap, hearty food and drink after a hard day’s work rebuilding the shattered nation. In 1946, the area around Shinjuku Station was still marked by pockets of rubble from the heavy bombing raids of 1945. From the few remaining food stalls and small shops, selling miscellaneous daily goods, clothing, and shoes, a black market called “Lucky Street” emerged in the area.

In 1947 when the Japanese government started to enforce strict regulations on controlled goods, including flour, many shops selling udon noodles, ramen, and other flour based products in the market switched to cheap meat products such as Yakitori (grilled chicken)and Motsu (stomach of cows and pigs) instead of flour-based foods. This style of food became the prevalent offering in the area, and up to the present there are many food stalls that still provide these same cheap-meat dishes. Over the decades a wide range of other offerings of hearty Japanese foods have been added to the mix. However, the same small lightly constructed open fronted food-stands packed in cheek-by-jowl remain, evoking the Tokyo nightlife of those hard-scrabble days. The area gained its pungent nickname from its earlier lack of toilet facilities, a situation which has now been remedied.

Until 1959, when a redevelopment plan for Shinjuku area was adopted, there were more than 300 shops and stalls in this area, after which many were ordered to close due to their illegal occupation. About fifty shops and stalls remain, and these continue to offer the endless stream of hungry, thirsty visitors the hearty comfort food and drink associated with the Japanese urban nightlife.

Most of the stalls and restaurants in Omoide Yokocho are open everyday and late into the night.

Piss Alley ca 1960's

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Seidensticker, Edward. Tokyo Rising: The City Since the Great Earthquake. New York: Knopf, 1990. Print.

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C. Kusanagi and C. Laurier