The Yurakucho Yakitori Alley is not an easy place to find and searching for it during a cold, rainy night in Tokyo with cold wind blowing your umbrella in one direction when you want to go another doesn’t make the task easier. But you persevere because it is one of those offbeat ‘hole in the wall’ places that is hard to find, satisfying you greatly when you finally find it.
But let me correct myself… the Yurakucho yakitori alley is not a hole in the wall. More accurately the alley is lined with tiny yakitori bars under the train tracks of the JR Yamanote Line. The bars are so small that they can fit only a few tables inside and on dry nights, the space outside these closet-size bars accommodate a few more tables with alcohol crates as makeshift chairs to sit on.
I overheard some foreigners on the next table a bit shocked with the menu offerings. On top of the regular pork, vegetable and chicken parts, the menu offered the giblet, usually the parts of the chicken found in its cavity like the gizzard, heart and liver. In the menu too were intestines, and skin if that is your fancy.
Coming from the Philippines, instead of being shocked, I found that there were a few more items lacking in the Japanese yakitori menu that are otherwise available in the chicken/pork bbq found in the Philippine streets such as chicken necks, chicken butts and chicken feet. Pork ears otherwise known as walkman were also missing.
I looked around and found that the diners were an interesting mix dominated by the Japanese still dressed in their business suits, Europeans dressed too smartly for a rainy night and tourists like us dressed for a casual rainy, cold night dinner. This yakitori alley is a very rustic place and one wonders why it is so popular despite its simplicity and ruggedness. I realized that the attraction lies in the fact that while the rest of Tokyo has become the ultra-modern metropolis that it is today with its sky-reaching, neon-lit metal and glass skyscrapers and superlative robotics technology, the yakitori alley has maintained its traditional charm offering hungry and thirsty customers not just barbecued delectables but also a unique, organic experience.
After tasting everything on the table and paying for an expensive barbecue dinner, we were off to explore the nearby posh Ginza district by night. Now where’s that trusty umbrella of mine?