Nestled in the middle of Shibuya’s towering skyscrapers, neon signs and bustling commuters lies Nonbei Yokocho. I would have walked right by it if my friend, who grew up in Tokyo, hadn’t been leading the way. After turning down the unassuming street, I realized that we weren’t taking a shortcut but instead stepping into Tokyo as it was over 50 years ago.
Paper lanterns lit the way to yakitori shops and small bars. We ended up with pints of Asahi at my friend’s favorite spot, almost filling the hole-in-the-wall to capacity. The bartender didn’t speak a word of English, but my friend translated what he deemed important to share – that he’d seen Jimi Hendrix perform and wants to visit Sweden.
Late evening turned to early morning before we even checked the time. After saying arigatō and sayōnara to the bartender, we made our way back to the bright lights and fast pace of this 21st century city.
On my last night in Tokyo, I went back to Nonbei Yokocho. It had slipped my mind to take pictures the first time around and I didn’t want to leave without capturing a few snaps.
I spent some time walking up and down the street passing teenagers, businessmen and restaurant staff on a cigarette break along the way. We were all from different cultures and backgrounds, but smiled and nodded as we walked by each other. They knew I was in on the secret. They were glad to have me. And we all hoped I would be back.