Shinbashi Yokocho Guide to Dining like an informed tourist
Shinbashi is a station on the Yamanote line. The Yamanote line is famous for wrapping a large loop around Tokyo and stitching together the number one, two and three busiest train stations on Earth. Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station and Ikebukuro Station. There are currently 29 stations on the Yamanote line and Shinbashi is one of them. This Shinbashi Yokocho guide is here to help you get your bearings and dive into one of my favorite parts of Tokyo.
Shinbashi is often hailed as a heaven for salarymen. While the area does have its fair share of office workers anyone can enjoy it. If you like cheap food, enjoy a good drink and have a pulse than Shinbashi is for you. The Shinbashi Yurakucho Gado Shita is a massive collection of tiny restaurants and bars all running along and under the elevated train tracks between Shinbashi Station and Yurakucho Station. There are Yakitori places, Izakaya, Korean restaurants and more standing room only bars than you could ever visit in one trip to Tokyo. This Shinbashi Yokocho guide is here to help you dip your toes in with some good advice. You are in for a treat here though so once you’ve arrived just let the evening carry you away.
Step 1 – Exit Shinbashi Station
You’ll arrive at Shinbashi station on the above ground JR Yamanote Line or the underground metro trains on the Asakusa Line or the Ginza Line.You’ll want to be in the area by 6PM at the latest because it can get crowded. For the purpose of this guide simply make your way to the Steam Locomotive Square on the western side of the station. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see a 1940’s Steam Locomotive. It was placed there in 1972 to commemorate 100 years of Shinbashi’s rail history. It’s a popular meeting spot. You will see drunk dudes in suits passed out in front of it later in the evening, usually on Friday nights.
Side note, it is very rude to take photos of passed out salarymen. RESIST.
Step 2- Touch Know Me
Tocuh Know Me is an excellent place to start night of drinking and eating in Shinbashi. First, let’s discuss the name of this place. 立ち飲み, pronounced “tachinomi” means “stand, drink”. Touch Know Me is a play on the Japanese word for “standing room only bar” which sounds like “Touch Know Me”. Tachinomi. So, welcome to Touch Know Me, and I’ll thank you to keep your hands to yourself.
The barman/waiter here doesn’t speak a word of English but is super hospitable none the less and a great laugh. I asked him how he broke his arm and he answered “whiskey”. My kind of people. He makes you feel real comfortable and even with limited English he can offer some decent advice on the area.
Also, they have some delicious yakitori. It’s about .90 USD for a skewer and it is just what you need to kick off the night. There is a very real chance you will lose track of time here with the cold beers, cheap yakitori menu and constant parade of people walking by. To find Touch Know Me head south from the Steam Locomotive Square. Keep the train tracks on your left. You’ll pass by the Karasumori Ticket Gate for Shinbashi Station. Shortly afterwards you will cross a tiny street with a traffic light. Cross the street and shortly after on the right you will see Touch Know Me. If you use google maps it will show you the location of a separate, larger annex they have which is also nearby however for this Shinbashi Yokocho Guide you want this smaller one by the train tracks.
Step 3 – Cross the street
Almost directly across the street from Touch Know Me and a little towards the north you will see Shichibei. You’ll recognize it right away with its red gingham table cloths and tiny tables. The atmosphere here is awesome and a great stop for drink number two. Great place for a photo as well. They only serve tiny snacks here so this is more drinks and nibbles than a full meal. Definitely worth a stop.
Step 4 – Time for dinner
We’re going to head back north of Shinbashi Station for dinner. Have your camera ready along the way as there is so much to look at in this area. Very Instagram friendly. Head north away from Shichibei and Touch Know Me with the train tracks now on your right. You’ll pass the Steam Locomotive Square and eventually you’ll find yourself underneath a very large overpass. Underneath all of these train tracks and roads is the entrance to Shinbashi Yokocho. You’ll see lanterns and signs. Find a doorway and head in. Dont be shy, people here are friendly and the more lost you look the more likely they are to help.
Unlike some of the other Yokocho in Tokyo (alleyways filled with bars and tiny restaurants), Shinbashi Yokocho is completely enclosed. You are under the train tracks. The ceiling is the underside of the Yamanote Train lines. It’s very cool. Inside the Yokocho there are several restaurants and food stalls all set up under one roof and all serving different foods. From here out you can wander around from shop to shop snacking and drinking. We sat down in the center of it all by the gyoza restaurant. In this area you can order from the stalls you aren’t seated at. Simply flag down one of the laminated picture menus and order away. This Shinbashi Yokocho guide is here to get you started. With this much variety I cant claim to have the best advice. Just start eating. Everything we had was excellent and cheap.
From the gyoza stall we ordered basic gyoza and a cheesy version with cilantro on it. The cheese was fried until hardened on the griddle and then the gyoza fried and steamed on top of it. Major bonus points.
From the Chinese food stall we ordered Mabo Nasu. This is stir fried eggplant in a slightly spicy black bean sauce with ground pork, garlic and chili. Like Mabo tofu with eggplant instead of tofu.
From the skewer shop we ordered cherry tomatoes wrapped in thin slices of pork belly, skewered and grilled. Careful with these, explosively hot. Please use this Shinbashi Yokocho guide responsibly. No drunken, burnt tongues please.
Step 5 – dont miss your last train home
This is a data plan friendly Shinbashi Yokocho guide, much was eaten but not photographed. Cheap high balls strike again. We also ate a massive plate of boiled peanuts served in the shells, more gyoza and a kimchi tofu dish. There is so much to see, do, eat and drink in this area. It is one of my favorite parts of Tokyo to start a massive night on the town or to simply hop around and nibble lightly for several hours. Dont over plan this one. These chefs will take care of you. Even if you dont know what you ordered it will be cheap and delicious at best and cheap and interesting at worst. Aside from beer you can find plenty of red or white wine as well as TONS of whiskey. This is definitely high ball territory.
Shinbahsi Yokocho Guide – Quick Recap
Arrive at Shinbashi Station before 6pm. Most places will close around 11PM or before midnight. Some will stay up open but food service will stop.
Follow Signs for Steam Locomotive Square to orient yourself and take a photo
Head North Along the tracks from Steam Locomotive Square for drinks at Touch Know Me standing bar
Cross the street for drinks at Shichibei (sign is in Japanese but the shop as outdoor tables with red gingham tablecloths, cant be missed.
Head back south towards Steam Locomotive Square and continue until you come to a large underpass. Turn right and look for Shinbashi Yokocho.
Find a space to sit and continue eating and drinking.
Dont miss your last train home.