Image 1 of 1

GOLD GAI 22.JPG

Masayuki Era stands behind the bar at Albatross G in Golden Gai, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Customers wander past bars in the Golden Gai district of Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Golden Gai was once notorious as one of Tokyo's most frequented red light districts and began life immediately after World War II as an extension of the black market area around Shinjuku station, which also includes the little alley of bars and eateries known locally as Shonbenyoko-cho. Due to its low rents and relative seclusion, the area was a magnet for all sorts of illegal activity and was an extension of what is known in Japan as the "mizu shobai", which is often rendered in English as the "floating world" but literally means the the "water business". During the period immediately following Japan's occupation by the Allied Forces, illegal activities, such as prostitution, in the area was outlawed, and the tiny establishments were taken over by proprietors, mostly women known as "mama-san",  who dedicated their business energy into selling drink and cheap but good food.  Over 200 watering holes are now in operation along the maze of alleys, largely occupied by artisans, writers and musicians.