Shinbashi is a tight little Blade Runner-esque sliver of Tokyo close to where I recently stayed in Japan. It’s also a densely packed street food haven especially popular for quick cheap lunches and afterwork drinking binges with a mind boggling number of yakitori restaurants, late night noodle bars and hole in the wall drinking establishments. If this frenetic slice of Tokyo living had a motto, it might be “eat, drink and be merry (and then drink some more) but don’t miss your train or make it back to the office late!”
I was only in Tokyo for a couple of nights (with just one of those spent in Shinbashi). Needless to say, I did not get enough of that town. And when (there’s no if about it) I get back there, there’s a good chance I’ll make a beeline to Shinbashi. However things turn out, I’m positive I’ll visit the area again at least once during any future visit.
What I liked most about Shinbashi – even more than the fab food, and believe you me, the food I had was indeed fab – was the evocative feeling of the place. Even though the air is thick with super modernity and elements of cutting edge urban living abound with backlit signage and advertisements for everything everywhere and trains zipping past overhead, there was still something age-old and village-y about the place. The lanes cutting across Shinbashi were smoky and shadowy (but as with most of Japan extremely safe). Each small eatery or bar seemed like some ancient tavern or medieval inn.
At HinomaruShokudo – the one small eatery I checked out during my all too brief breeze through Shinbashi – that same moody vibe seemed to follow me in the door. It was a cosy little place where despite the seemingly impassable language barriers I managed to “chat” with the other patrons and staff without interfering too much with their plans for an inexpensive evening catching up over some yakitori.
In addition to the social cheer, Hinomaru turned out to be a smart choice for sampling some local dishes. Tastiest item of the night? Definitely the hatsu (grilled chicken hearts), but the everything from the grill was delicious. The sashimi sampler wasn’t half bad either. And washing it all down with some crisp Asashi was a charm.
Cool atmo, friendly folks and great food! Score. Within a short walk of sleek and shiny Shiodome, upscale Ginza, and the famous Tsukiji fish market and bucolic Hamarikyu Gardens, Shinbashi is also a really convenient “base” for exploring central Tokyo with well connected Shinbashi train station and the Shiodome Metro station both nearby.
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Photo: Chris Osburn