Under the Yurakucho train tracks


One of the most interesting aspects that makes Tokyo "Tokyo" is the hundreds of eating and drinking establishments located in hidden spots, along alleyways, or under train tracks. As hidden or secretive the location may appear to be to someone who does not live in this city, these establishments are everyday joints that locals frequent. Under the JR Yurakucho train tracks are a long stretch of yakitori restaurants, ramen spots, and bars from the northern to southern sections of the tracks. On weekdays especially, it is a popular spot for salarymen after work before catching the train home as part of their everyday commute. Establishments are found on the outer side of the tracks facing the main road. More treasure troves of drinking and eating spots that are not visible from the main road can be explored on foot as you make your way underneath the tracks and into pedestrian tunnels and alleyways. Our November visit here is cold but there is no stopping the Japanese from enjoying a night out with friends outdoors. Friends, food and drinks (Highball is a popular choice among the salarymen) are all that matters.

We explore the maze of alleyways and decide on a random spot that catch our eyes. It is 9pm and most tables are already filled but we manage to score two seats at an outermost corner section of the tightly spaced restaurant. At 10pm, the place is completely filled. The late comers have to settle with the standing corner tables. Besides biru (beer), people are drinking glasses of Highball one after another. Everyone is happy. Funny conversations seem to be taking place all round as evidenced by the atmosphere, voices, and laughter.

We order items of yakitori to go with our beer. The grilled reba (chicken liver) remains one of the best liver items I've had- it is very lightly grilled on the outside so that the inside remains rare to medium rare. Topped with a pinch of fresh root wasabi, the texture and flavor of the liver is very memorable. The enoki-wrapped chicken and tsukune (ground chicken), though a seemingly safe choices, are not boring because they are done so well. Our favorite is the bacon-wrapped chives with its perfect balance of saltiness from the bacon and natural flavors from the chives to balance out the bacon. The Japanese sweet potato fries are so addictive with beer, they're a must-have.

Though primarily a night spot, there are some establishments that are open in the day. Breakfast one morning for us is at a standing-only ramen shop under the JR Yurakucho train tracks- we pay at the vending machine, hand our tickets to the man behind the counter, and wait for our shoyu ramen and side of kare raisu (Japanese curry rice). One will never go hungry in Tokyo.

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