The quaint, unassuming neighbourhood of Sangenjaya, located on the outskirts of the thriving Shibuya, is exactly what you would expect of an Old Tokyo neighbourhood that isn’t on the usual A-list of places to visit.
It’s relatively quiet, its number of new skyrise commercial buildings are competing against thousands of older-style residential structures, and the (lack of) crowds are usually made up of locals perusing the familiar streets in search of antiques, heading to work at the Carrot Building, or adventures souls who have wandered out of the main districts in search of some unique food fare in one of Tokyo’s well-hidden gems.
If you were to spot a foreigner in the mix, chances are, they’ll be looking to head to Sankukai Chitai, the hidden yokocho in Sangenjaya that draws high numbers of office employees and locals looking for some rambunctious fun on the daily, without fail.
Sankukai Chitai – The Hidden Yokocho (Alley) In Sangenjaya
If you’ve heard of the word yokocho before, chances are, you would have heard of Golden Gai in Shinjuku, which is probably the most famous one in Tokyo.
In Japanese, yokocho simply means ‘alleyway’, however the street meaning of it describes a small, usually tucked-away network of hidden laneways and streets that have packed to the brim with bars, izakayas, and other small eateries.
They’re normally open from late-afternoon or night time and operate until the early hours of the mornings. Most of the time, you’d be looking at rubbing shoulders (literally, because any establishment at a yokocho would be roughly the size of your bedroom) with salarymen looking to drink away their work stress.
You can expect to come across bars selling all sorts of local beers and brew, izakayas, a variety of small restaurants selling street and bar foods such as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers of all types of foods), oden (a small but incredibly warming hotpot full of vegetables, fish cakes, eggs, and more), gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), takoyaki (octopus balls), and even blowfish!
As with most yokocho, Sankukai Chitai has shops located right next to one another, so if you’re the type who is painstakingly indecisive, you could choose to go bar-hopping instead of settling down at one bar for the night! It’s a great way to sample a bit of everything, and that way, you can make many more friends along the way.
Lastly, even if you’re not a drinker and the food doesn’t quite interest you, Sankukai Chitai is still well-worth a visit. It’s got distinct traditional Japanese décor elements such as bright red lanterns, strings of luminous ambient lighting, cherry blossoms .
King Kong in Tokyo?
Sangenjaya is also home to this huge gorilla statue that you will find on top of a Family Mart. We explain how to get there here: King Kong Tokyo.
How To Get There?
Sankukai Chitai is a short 2-3-minute walk from Sangenjaya station which sits on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi line and Setagaya line.
From Shibuya station, take the Den-en-toshi line and alight at Sengenjaya station. It is 5-minutes (1-stop) away. Take North Exit A and head down Setagaya-Dori Avenue. Take a left at the first small alley you come across (tip: you will walk past Ikinari Steak before hitting this alley). From there, you can begin your tour of the Sankukai Chitai yokocho.
If we’re going to be honest, a stroll through Sankukai Chitai is a great way to unwind (or wind up!) after a day of exploring Tokyo’s wonderful neighbourhoods.
It’s for all the elements of a recipe for a fun night out: a vibrant but chilled atmosphere, delicious traditional Japanese food fare, lots of fun and funky drinks selections (and of course, the regular stuff for those who just want a Sapporo!), and a small but warm and inviting local crowd.
It’s close by to many popular attractions and main cities enough so that you won’t need to factor in any major trekking, and to be able to experience a yokocho is something that’s distinctly Japanese, so we highly recommend adding this to your itinerary!