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Hair of Dog Bar vs. 70's CBGBs & The Golden Gai Quandary

Off to Tokyo's Shinjuku for meetings. While Shinjuku has many charms, for us on this very day Shinjuku is going to add up to something like massive shopping + grilled meat and cold beers + some dark alleys full of oddly themed 5-10 seat local bars called the Golden Gai.

The Golden Gai is probably the coolest bar district you will ever feel shy and apologetic about visiting. Here’s the thing: it’s amazing and one-of-a-kind. But then comes the tricky part: for decades it has been the local-est of local bar scenes, and in “mini” form no less. These “mini” bars literally have no more than 5-10 seats and it would be almost impossible to fit more than that. No kidding. Imagine for a moment being one of the local patrons who has been escaping here for decades from your crushing 14 hour per day salaryman work existence. Then one day … gradually … then, suddenly … shockingly … every Travel Channeler wants to add your 5-seat safety zone to his or her adventure bucket list.

After several years of dealing with the foreign influx by just charging the hell out of tourists with randomly decided astronomical service charges, a limited amount of bars have opened their doors to foreigners with more transparent “table charges” of 5 or 10 US bucks per person. You can tell which bars are open for your business by the entry charges written on chalk boards just outside the door.

The Fried Rice Golden Gai favorite? “Hair of the Dog” (HOD) Bar. Fried Rice being a brand born in the Lower East Side of New York City, we have a real soft spot for the 70’s CBGB’s Bowery punk scene, and you can get it all here at the HOD. Seedy red walls, low lights, plenty of whisky and Television, the Dead Boys, Iggy Pop and Blondie blasting the crackling sound system make for a volatile, attractive mix. If you’re lucky, way-more-punk-than-anyone “CEO” Thor (below) or our wonderful blonde bartender who spoke perfect Japanese will transport you back in time to the Bowery’s cultural golden era, spinning your head with a cocktail of whisky and the Ramones while you lean over to chat global finance with a salaryman who is just having his post-work Asahi at 11pm. Makes all those meetings worthwhile.

Shinjuku at Night