Monday, September 7, 2009
Yurakucho Yakitori Alley, Tokyo
Chiyoda Ward: home to over 36,000 businesses employing over 888,000 people, at least according to the stats I just found elsewhere on the Internet. I could be wrong, but at least it should give you the gist of this central location in Tokyo.
It's the nesting place of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, the electronics wonderland that is Akihabara, and the insanely overpriced Ginza.
But while Ginza is Tokyo's most expensive and "fashionable" district (at least for designer brand types with fat wallets and not so much imagination) and home to brand-name stores like Chanel - and Ginza in fact competes for the title of the world's most pricey real estate - right next door there's down-and-a-wee-bit-dirty Yurakucho... home of the infamous Yakitori Alley and some awesome faux old skool Japanese movie posters as well.
And an alley it truly is, situated only five minutes from Yurakucho JR Station under the railway tracks, boasting a series of roadside shacks and open-air grottos with makeshift names like "Tanuki" (raccoon dog) that are the complete antithesis of Ginza's glitz and supposed glam.
Yakitori literally means "grilled bird", and here you'll discover every possible part of a chicken (meat, liver, skin, gizzards, heart, cartilage) shoved on wooden skewers, along with other treats like shitake mushrooms and okra. Believe it or not, it's all delectable. The liver is the part I generally demand, and you can get it dry and salty or with special sauce; your choice, depending on the mood.
A throwback to old Japan, these places are the most informal eateries in Tokyo, incredibly atmospheric and down-to-earth, great meeting places, and the best way to see how many Japanese salarymen and office ladies spend their summer evenings: Indulging in yakitori, huge mugs of beer, sake, riotous fun, falling off plastic stools, and some good old fashioned rabble-rousing.
Then you can check out the posters round the corner.