The History of Piss Alley
Starting out as an illegal drinking quarter in the late 1940’s, the narrow side street quickly became a prime spot for cheap drinks, yakitori, and cabaret style hostess bars. Due to the lack of restroom facilities, patrons were known to wander off and relieve themselves on the nearby train tracks, and it did not take long for Piss Alley to earn its name. The area provided a social space for local residents who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford such luxuries as meat and alcohol in an impoverished, post-war economy.
The atmosphere remained largely unchanged until 1999 when a fire tragically destroyed most of the restaurants and shops in the alley. Fortunately, the local government decided to rebuild the area exactly as it had been, preserving the “old Japan” vibe that had come to be cherished by locals and travelers alike. To this day, a visit to Piss Alley feels like stepping back into the Showa era.
What to eat
Visitors are hit with the smell of barbecue smoke and charcoal the moment they step into the alley. Yakitori is king here, served by almost all of the restaurants in Piss Alley and nikomi, a thick, hearty stew made of beef tendon, intestines, and vegetables is a close second. Vegetarians are advised to eat something before arriving, as meatless options will be quite limited.
What to drink
In case the name “Piss Alley” doesn’t make this obvious enough, this is not a place for fancy cocktails or imported wines. The booze here is bountiful and cheap. Japanese beer, highballs, sours, shochu, and sake are available at every restaurant for a reasonable price.
This commonly used Japanese word translates roughly to, “this brings me back”. It is used whenever people are feeling nostalgic, and locals will use it in reference to just about anything. Older regulars of Piss Alley keep coming back to the area for this feeling and this is why local government continues making an effort to preserve the area’s authentic look and feel.
A favorite among thrill seekers and food critics, Asadachi (literally, “Morning Wood”) offers some of the most outrageous menu items in Tokyo. Featuring frog sashimi, horse penis, pig testicles, grilled salamander, and other oddities, this is one experience not to be missed by travelers with an adventurous palate. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the various “stamina foods” on its menu, traditionally believed to boost sexual performance and prowess, amongst other things.