There are lots of places that one might think of taking the kids to dine in Japan. Sushi-yup. Tempura at a fine establishment-okay. Yakitori (also known in our home as meat on a stick) sounds great. But how about down a dark alley, filled with Japanese Salarymen drinking, smoking, and eating simply to abate the nausea, oh and is also known amongst locals as “Piss Alley”? HELL YEAH, BRING IT!
I don’t know where I first read about Yakitori Alley. On a food blog I am sure. I tend to think of myself as a minor foodie, not seriously a real foodie like some of the blogs I read (like Eating Asia which is hands down my blogging crush, but I digress) and I love to think about places to eat when I am traveling. I am also blessed with kids that love food almost as much as I do. They still have issues, sometimes veggies are about the worse thing ever, and other times that dish we ate a week ago just isn’t palatable anymore, but you know they eat more than white bread and peanut butter. That is a win in my book any day.
If you do a search for Yakitori Alley, a few hits come up, including one under the train track somewhere out of downtown Tokyo. I have been told by my Tokyo friends that Piss Alley, is the best and original Yakitori Alley, but then who knows? All I care about is can I eat good food, is it reasonably priced and can the kids dine with me?
Honestly, there are times when Yakitori Alley is a bit rough. Well, it can be depending on the time of night. I have been there a few times, late on a Friday after a few too many myself and lets admit it is not a family friendly place. But, a Monday night at 6pm, no problem. In fact, a Saturday night at 7pm was also just fine. The Salarymen are still mostly well behaved, the karaoke crowd has not yet appeared and frankly, there are seats available in tiny shoebox sized stalls ready to serve.
So, what will you find? Some crazy stuff, like, chicken gizzards, hearts and livers. You will also see grilled chicken butts, or in Taiwan they are known as the “strawberry of the chicken”. But more standard fare is also available, like chicken wings, roasted veggies and of course, for the moms and dads, a cold beer.
Okay, my minor rant of the day, are those families that travel overseas and then only eat at McDonalds. Sure, I may crave a Starbucks like the best of us and I know, I know, I fall into that trap. But isn’t travel itself about expanding the view? Looking beyond your own borders and experiencing the world and the food of the place you are in. What fun is it to spend thousands of dollars to travel all the way to Tokyo to have pizza for dinner? Oops, in full dislosure, we did have Pizza in Tokyo and it was frankly great….. but we also ate Sashimi at the fish market, ate Sushi in Roppongi and of course ate meat on a stick in Shinjuku at Yakitori Alley.
I guess I think that finding those places where locals go is the best place to enjoy food. While Yakitori Alley is becoming more popular with the tourist crowd, most of the patrons are still Japanese. The waitstaff speak minimal, if any, English, but that is okay. You aren’t here for the conversation anyway are you? Point to a few items sit yourself down and prepare for one of the best meals of your life.
Bring cash however, most of the places only accept cash and a few have English menus if you ask.
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And even more food posts over on Wanderfood Wednesday on Wanderlust and Lipstick.