by

When most people think of Tokyo, they have a very specific idea in their heads: a thriving, ultramodern megalopolis. You probably think of the million time-lapse videos you’ve seen of Shibuya Crossing.

But that’s not telling the whole story about Tokyo. Tokyo is too enormous to have just one identity. The many different districts of Tokyo have wildly different personalities.

There’s one place in particular, in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, that has a really distinctive feel and personality. It’s a place that’s sometimes called 思い出横丁, or “Memory Lane”; but I prefer to use its other name: 小便横丁, or “Piss Alley.”

Piss Alley is about as far away as you can get from the Tokyo that most foreigners get to see. If you’re an otaku, you might go to Akihabara, a bright, colorful district of Tokyo with lots of open spaces. Piss Alley is virtually the opposite: it’s a cramped, dingy place that’s more of a local hotspot than a tourist destination.

Don’t let the name scare you off. Piss Alley is named for its early years, when it was a shady destination for criminals to get their drink on. The place wasn’t very built up back in those days, so instead of using a toilet, people just relieved themselves wherever they could.

Photo by Sho Ikezoe

Nowadays, you won’t find people peeing on the streets (well, not generally), but Piss Alley has retained a lot of its local charm. It’s a series of small shops stuffed as tightly as possible into narrow alleys usually only wide enough for one person to walk through. Some people have said that Piss Alley reminds them of a scene straight out of Blade Runner.

The Food of Piss Alley

There’s a lot of drinking spots in Piss Alley, the kind where you pull up a stool, have a beer and some excellent yakitori. The restaurants are really cramped (I’m not entirely sure how people move around), but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Within Piss Alley, there’s also some pretty strange food too. The most notorious restaurant in Piss Alley is Asadachi, a restaurant with a name that roughly translates to “morning wood” (ask your parents, kids).

The food served at Asadachi isn’t the kind that you enjoy with your coworkers and wash down with a super dry beer. Instead, it’s more like folk medicine; stuff that’s supposed to improve your virility and cure various ailments.

Photo by pelcinary

So what kind of food do they serve at Asadachi to give you some asadachi? Here’s a small sampling:

  • Frog sashimi
  • Pig testicles
  • Soft-shelled turtle
  • Still-beating frog’s heart
  • Grilled salamander
  • Snake liquor

Some of the food is straight up killed right in front of you to assure freshness (how else are you supposed to get a beating frog heart?). The menu changes a bit depending on what’s fresh, but you can expect that no matter what you get, you’ll probably consider going vegetarian.

Photo by pelcinary

Read More: Relive a night of post-war Japan at these Shinjuku bars

Header image by maaco

  • Ben

    Certainly looks like quite a ‘poetic’ place, if that’s the right term for it. Outside looks quite beautiful in its own, dark way, and the commercial aspect looks nuts, but thoroughly interesting. I would relish visiting there for sure :)

  • ZXNova

    Kaeru Sashimi, seems legit.

  • HorrorChan

    Mountain oysters… Do not want. I’d go for the grilled salamander though.

  • hurr durr why can’t I names

    Imagine the dares that have probably taken place there. It’s more like Fear Factor than a restaurant

  • jirugi

    dat snake liquor frog sashimi combo

  • Mashimaro

    Relieved themselves wherever they could! Like Nishinari-ku in Osaka! One of the first things I saw there was a guy taking a leak on the street.

  • Wendy

    I haven’t been to piss alley, but the better yakitori spots I’ve been to are cramped. Same for some ume sobu in the summer and sake. I also like that some of these less touched restaurants simply serve you what they have for a fee and u can add on if u so choose. Definite perk in its unique way. Wish I’d read this article earlier… Heading home from shinjuku .

  • Hinoema

    Ok, how many people saw that last picture and immediately thought “Roasted… newt!!!”

  • Brittney Howdyshell

    Plus 10 points to Tofugu for the Bladerunner reference.

  • DAVIDPD

    Try looking up “Horumon”. That’s the good stuff.

  • CelestialSushi

    Well… good to know which spots to avoid if I don’t want to see something like that o_o

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1037403194 Dharma Mauricio

    EW EW EW EW EW EW EEEEEEEWWW! Still-beating frog hearts!!! How can they do this to those poor poor animals?

  • nagz

    dawww… brilliant article, but it ended too soon :)

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    There are some videos on YouTube of the Asadachi chefs preparing the frog and I can’t bring myself to watch them :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Sorry about that! What else would you have liked to see?

  • http://www.facebook.com/IcEteee Ethan Pham

    do they speak english? i meant the vendors? :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/albert.martino.3 Albert Martino

    have you had a hamburger recently? visited a slaughterhouse?

  • http://www.facebook.com/albert.martino.3 Albert Martino

    no, you speak english, dey no speekee engrish in leturn.

  • Cole Bearden

    Couldn’t agree more lol

  • Cole Bearden

    couldn’t agree more lol

  • Emi

    So pleased I already ate. =(

  • Emi

    For me, that would be a no, and another no.

  • http://twitter.com/Japanese4Morons Japanese4Morons

    Cool!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1037403194 Dharma Mauricio

    I’m actually a vegetarian, so no.

  • pachi’nko

    :D more food!

  • David

    I totally didn’t believe this place was called piss alley.

    But there I was not three nights ago and someone was talking on his keitai with a friend who was confused where ‘piss alley’ was. I had to remind the guy that the place is probably easier to find as ‘Memory Lane’. His buddy showed up a like two minutes later after seeing the sign. :)

    But, yeah. Piss alley. It’s, like, actually a thing!

  • http://twitter.com/jamieism Jamie Lynn Lano

    I’ve always been curious about the Asadachi restaurant. It’s too bad that they allow smoking, though, so they lose mine, and probably a lot more business. I’ll probably never get to try them out, sadly. :(

  • Stomach

    Before we travelled there late last year, my husband and I read a lot of stuff about what to expect in Piss Alley and were quite looking forward to it.

    Needless to say, we were thoroughly disappointed. Apart from the sign, it’s the same as about a dozen similar nearby alleys, and there were like two shops which sold non-standard/common cuisine. Everywhere else was selling the same old standards just the same as in the rest of the entire suburb.

  • spike spiegel

    they tasty they keep on beatin on the way down

  • http://www.tysonwilliams.com/ Tyson Williams

    I will be in Tokyo in May this year, must visit it for some Frog sashimi

  • http://www.myqute.com/blog kelly

    So many awful things but I guess only a video can you see the frog’s heart still beating in a bowl. Ripped when the frog is alive? Poor frog! In other parts of Asia, they are just chopped in half. :/