In this guide, I bring you seven of the coolest, most awesome alleys in central Tokyo that offer some of the most incredible food you’ll find in Tokyo.
Technically this article is more about “food alleys” than “street food” alleys, mostly because in Tokyo (and Japan for that matter) you won’t really find alleys full of sprawling street food markets like much of SouthEast Asia.
It’s just not the Japanese way.
That’s not to say there are none, but they aren’t so vast the entire alley appears to be one large street food market.
You’ll find more street markets than you will street food shops.
But there are many alleys with some amazing izakaya and some are standing “bars” where you order, eat, and drink all while standing at a little window area outside the shop — kind of half in the alley.
That said, food trucks and street food are on the rise and you can learn why right here.
Except during festivals
During festivals, especially in the summer, there are TONS of street food vendors — and it is exquisite.
It’s pricey. It seems like pretty much everything is at least ¥500, with a ¥600 price tag more common these days.
But I really do love the festival food in Japan.
From grilled beef short rib on a stick to fantastic, buttery Hokkaido baked potato (with a pan-grilled version also available) — there’s a lot to truly enjoy.
Okay enough about festival food, let’s dive into a few “food alleys” I think you’d really enjoy during your time in Tokyo.
Nakano Sun Mall
The Nakano Sun Mall is an “open-air” mall leading up the Nakano Broadway is not only full of delicious food stalls itself but if you cut down any of the little alleys along the main walk — you’re in for a full maze of treats.
This area of Nakano is absolutely LOADED with an incredible variety of izakaya and small mom and pop restaurants.
I call it a maze because once you’re off the main walkway of the Nakano Sun Mall you enter a labyrinth of alleyways.
And it seems like every 5-10 steps there is a new enticing shop that very well could be your favorite food during your entire stay in Tokyo.
Ebisu Yokocho is a covered alley filled with glowing akachochin (red paper lanterns) adorning a lively mix of pubs and food stalls.
Again, it’s not “street food” as you likely imagine from all those cool cooking shows on Netflix.
Rather, it’s amazing dinging experiences packed into an alleyway (or two).
Make sure to visit late, as most of the shops are closed until evening (start time — and are open all night into the wee hours of the morning.
Sake, shochu, and beer served with fantastic yakitori, oysters, ramen, and much, much more.
Even if you’re picky, there’s something here for you.
If you’re looking for more things to do in Ebisu, check out my thorough guide “Things To Do In Ebisu.”
Shinjuku Golden Gai
Shinjuku Golden Gai is a lot like the Nakano Sun Mall recommendation. It’s a maze of remarkable little pubs and eateries that will wow your taste buds.
Shinjuku is a busier location than Nakano so you’ll quickly discover there are more shops here — along with more crowds.
Tourists are drawn here to for the global popularity of this area — so if you’re looking to avoid them, maybe head to the Nakano recommendation, there seem to be fewer tourists there.
Areas like this are the sort of thing that makes or breaks your trip to Japan. Golden Gai is a fantastic experience you won’t find anywhere else.
And if you’re into punk music, or just want a super cool unique experience, check out “The Hair of the Dog” bar. You won’t regret it.
If you’re looking for more to do in Shinjuku, check out my guide “Things To Do In Shinjuku” — it’s packed with a TON more for you to discover in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo.
This is the last area I’d like to point out.
You may have seen a whole bunch of “walking Tokyo” videos where they explore the Tsukiji Market and enjoy all sorts of “street food” and vendors selling seafood.
You may have also heard the Tsukiji Fish Market closed and moved operations somewhere else.
But… there’s more to the story.
The Tsukiji Fish Market may have moved, but the “outer market” area is very much still intact. And all those wonderful videos showing off incredible food are still relevant (mostly).
There has been a big shakeup of the little mom and pop shops in the area — many weren’t happy the inner market moved.
But that doesn’t make the Tsukiji Market area any less awesome to check out.
Okay, I know I said Tsukiji was the last one. But here are a few that will also show you a great time. 🙂
- Ueno Ameyoko Street – this isn’t completely a “street food” like experience, but there are several delicious vendors with some outside eating spots.
- Shimokitazawa – this area has a really nice string of music bars where you’ll find good drinks, friendly company, and of course — delicious food (plus good music too).
- Shibamata – if you want a break from the modern, urban bustle — and see some of the more traditional sides of Japan — check this area out. Lots of amazing shops, cobblestone streets, and old-Japan architecture.
Have you found a cool little alley tucked away that has amazing food? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about it. Thank you!