Finding an expat bar in Tokyo that isn’t a loud sports pub or sleazy club can be difficult. For a completely different night out try going to Shinjuku, but avoid the main streets and head instead to Golden Gai, in the Kabukicho district. Hidden down one of the narrow streets among the tiny shanty style bars is Araku, a friendly Australian-owned bar that stocks quality wine and beer from down under.
For those unfamiliar with Golden Gai, the small cluster of alleys was born in the postwar era as the home of countless one-room ‘comfort dens.’ These days it is populated by tiny bars, each with its own unique vibe and group of regulars. It can be difficult to gain entrance to many of the Golden Gai watering holes unless you know the manager or staff, but at Araku anyone is welcome. To find Golden Gai, just ask anyone on the street in Shinjuku—it’s as well known to most Japanese as Roppongi or Shibuya. Araku is located on the G2 street of Golden Gai—look for a red sign and then head up what is very possibly Tokyo’s coolest staircase, with its walls and ceiling covered in red shag carpet. Once inside visitors will be greeted by the bilingual staff and welcomed into the cool, laid-back atmosphere. In addition to the standard list of cocktails, Araku serves imported drinks and interesting food that would be hard to find elsewhere in the city. I had just come from a long day at work and was famished, so co-owner Tracey suggested I try the most substantial food item on the menu…what she described as a ‘bouncy burger.’ In an Aussie bar that could only mean one thing: kangaroo.
I have eaten some strange things in Japan, but this was my first marsupial. The dark, lean, gamey meat makes for a surprisingly good burger (¥900), and the homemade tomato, mustard and mayo sauce was a great accompaniment. Other imports flown in from Australia include a plate of three mini Vili’s pies (¥900), and even Vegemite on toast (¥300). The bar also serves party plans for ¥4,000 per person including drinks and light food. To really feel at home, Australians will love the chilled VB and Coopers beer or a glass of Aussie wine from the carefully-selected wine list.
Open daily, 8pm–5am
(closed Sun and for occasional private parties)
2F Goldengai G2,
1-1-9 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
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