TOKYO: Airbnb & Piss Alley

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TOKYO was brimming with life when we arrived. Throngs of people zoomed past us to make it onto the next train, while we carefully navigated our way to our airbnb with our luggage in tow. Our humble home for the next 6 days was located 2 minutes away on foot from Shin-Nakano station, which is only a few stops away from the central Shinjuku.

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(photo from airbnb website)

We rented a room for two with a heater and a cozy comforter to keep us toasty during the tailend of winter. Not to mention, there was ample space for our luggage and railings to hang up all our clothes. There were three other rooms in our flat, some of which were occupied by tourists like us. Amongst us, we shared a small dining area with kitchen appliances, teabags and coffee left for us by our host. There was a bath/shower area with a separate toilet, and even a washing machine and drier. I highly recommed this clean and cozy Airbnb accommodation that won’t break the bank.  Thanks to Chang for recommending it to us!

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After settling down, we couldn’t wait to get out there to get a taste of the city. We made our way to Shinjuku and were greeted by the bright lights and indecipherable signs.

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We were lured into one of the rows of restaurants with displays of bento meals and the delicious scent of rice bowls. We got our first fill of authentic tempura and katsudon respectively. The shrimp was fat and juicy with a generous topping of tamago on their reknowned soft and sticky rice, and a side of miso soup, tofu and pickled veggies to get you fully satisfied.

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A short walk from there took us to a tiny street under the bridge, famously known as Tokyo’s very own memory lane, or Piss Alley. Historically, it was a place where criminals came to drink and feast on exotic street food like pig testicles and frog sashimi. It got its name because back then, in the 1940’s, there weren’t any decent urinals, so people would relieve themselves along the alley or by the train tracks. Today, it’s just about the best place you can get your yakitori skewer fix, with rounds of beer and soju.

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The narrow streets, decorated with red lanterns immediately fill up with salarymen and tourists alike. Heavy smoke wafts through the air, and most of the stalls are fully occupied. We take a seat at the next one that says “with English menu.” Still quite full from our bento dinner, we order a Sapporo to share, but the waitress politely convinces us to have some yakitori, aside from munching on the complimentary edamame she puts on our table.

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One bite of that mushroom-wrapped meat sent us straight to foodie heaven. The chewy mushroom goes perfectly with the juicy, smoky meat, and just the right amount of teriyaki sauce. Seated right in front of the bartender, we wanted a taste of the drinks he’s been mixing. But it was a bit of a struggle to place our order due to the language barrier. Google Translate advised us to say “koketeru”… “uhm, cocktails? mixed drinks..? hmm.. not beer!”

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“Ah! Not beer.” and shortly, we had one of the most interesting drinks we realized we could create at home whenever we’re missing this place- shochu and oolong or green tea, served according to your choice of hot or cold. They also served us up some sour, which actually tasted like green apple iced tea.

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We were curious about the number of other stalls around us, so we decided to try the one where a lot of foreigners were eating. We were able to sample a little pot of hot sake and it was amazing! ’twas my first time to try sweet rice wine, perfect for keeping warm in the last few days in winter. However, we still preferred the food in the previous stall, because this one was a tad bit too salty, not to mention the touristy price of 450 yen per stick. We enjoyed ourselves nonetheless and headed back home shortly, since we had a long day ahead of us at the happiest place on earth.

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