Let’s Go on a Bar Hopping Tour in Noge, the Heart of Yokohama’s Drinking Scene!
Yokohama's famous bar district, Noge, is densely packed with popular izakaya (Japanese-style taverns), tachinomiya (drinking spots where customers stand), and other various other types of bars and bistros. For this reason, it is quite uncommon to see customers in this area staying at a single bar for the whole night, as most people usually go to several spots in succession. Tasting the original menus and sake offered at different establishments allows you to experience different atmospheres as well. While this area is definitely recommended for bar hopping, the sheer number of drinking establishments can be overwhelming, so seeking the help of a Japanese guide who knows the local area very well is highly recommended! There’s no need to worry if you don’t know which bar to enter, what to get, how to make a reservation, or how to order what you want. Just follow the guide who is fluent in English and Japanese, and communication won’t be a problem at all! Enjoy the area and savor the local alcoholic beverages to the fullest by taking part in the Noge Bar Hopping Tour!
Feb 08 2021
*This article was written in collaboration with the Kanto District Transport Bureau, local municipalities, and local railway companies.
About the Noge Area
Noge is a neighborhood within Yokohama, a city to the south of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture. It can be accessed by Sakuragicho Station, an approximately 40-minute ride from Tokyo Station via the Keihin-Tohoku Line. Noge Alley, which we’ll be exploring, is also within a 5-minute walk of Sakuragicho Station on the Yokohama City Subway Blue Line and Hinodecho Station on the Keikyu Line. If you’re coming via the Minatomirai Line, you can get off at Bashamichi Station and walk for 10 minutes.
During the Second World War, the Noge area received heavy damage in the Yokohama Air Raid, and about 40% of the area was turned to rubble. Later, important land, properties, and parks were seized by the American occupation government. This part of Noge managed to escape seizure, and consequently became a lively area for nightlife, where local residents gathered.
The alley shown in this photo lies just behind the main street, and it is home to more than 600 drinking establishments of all sizes. Their lights turn on at night to dazzle customers with their brightness. Old establishments were the center of this area a long time ago, so the majority of the customers in the area used to be men and elderly folks. However, the opening of a string of new shops with more of a modern, hip ambiance in recent years has led to a jump in the number of women and young people descending into the area for a drink.
That said, the area still has an old charm that you just can't find at drinking areas in the West and is a perfect example of a classic Japanese izakaya drinking area.
*In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, measures are currently in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Alcohol disinfectants that customers can use are set up at the entrance of each establishment.
Meet Up: JR Sakuragicho Station South Exit
On the day of the tour, the guide will be waiting with a sign at the South Exit of JR Sakuragicho Station (the South Exit is where you can find the post office). Even if you’re coming via the Yokohama Subway or Keikyu Line, make sure to head to the JR station to meet with the group.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were asked by the guide to sanitize our hands and have our temperatures taken before the tour began. After making sure that everybody in the group had no problems, the fun Noge Bar Hopping Tour commenced!
An Izakaya in a Renovated Warehouse: CHACOAL STAND
CHACOAL STAND is an izakaya that may be housed in a restored warehouse, but the style of the warehouse has been beautifully preserved, thereby making its façade and interiors extremely unique compared to the many other izakaya in the area. Even though it only opened in 2016, it overflows with a nostalgic and comforting atmosphere. These sorts of retro restaurants and bars have recently been gaining steam in Japan. CHACOAL STAND has two stories, the second floor holding a spacious area that can fit a large number of people.
The izakaya is operated by an offal meat ("motsu" or "horumon") store, which means here you can enjoy a wide selection of offal meat, grilled on binchotan (white charcoal), to accompany your drinks. Although it's not common to eat offal in countries like the United States or the UK, or even see it for sale at the grocery store, we highly encourage you to try it here. You'll be surprised by just how flavorful and delicious offal meat can be when cooked the Japanese way!
It offers an extensive menu of alcoholic beverages and food. Apart from potato salad, "motsuni" (offal stew), and other must-have snacks in every izakaya, they also serve delicious dishes unique to CHACOAL STAND, including the “Nikumakikushi no Buta Tomato” (pork skewer with tomato), which was specially recommended by our guide. They also offer a variety of photogenic sour cocktails - search “CHARCOAL STAND NOGE” on Instagram to take a look!
*In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please wear a mask, have your temperature taken at the entrance, and sanitize your hands when entering the establishment.
A Long-Established Yakiniku Izakaya: Taimu
Taimu is a veteran yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) izakaya with tatami seats that will make you nostalgic about the old Japan. “Tatami” refers to a traditional Japanese flooring material, woven from rush grass, making this is one of the best places to experience true Japanese izakaya culture. The izakaya offers standing tables outdoors, and chairs and tatami indoors, so you can choose the style that you like best!
Incidentally, the sign outdoors reads “B-Kyu Center Noge Taimu” (B級センター 野毛 大夢), where B-Kyu (B-grade) refers to less fancy, down-to-earth, hearty, and affordable popular cuisine. Think of this as a spot for comfort food, beloved by locals.
The appetizer we tried was called “kibinago” (silver-stripe round herring), a typical small fish in Japan. Grill it over the coals and it will turn into a delicious, crispy delight that is the perfect accompaniment to a drink. In Japan, there are several small fish like kibinago that are delicious when eaten whole, so eat it like the Japanese, head and all. It might seem a bit daunting at first, but you'll find it surprisingly easy to eat. Kibinago is a common dish in the western island of Kyushu, but in the Tokyo area it’s quite rare.
Out of many dishes in this izakaya’s menu, our guide specially recommended the Cream Cheese Kimchi. It was a completely novel combination of “katsuobushi” (dried bonito shavings), cheese, and kimchi, and it was surprisingly delicious!
There’s nothing like sinking your teeth into a juicy chunk of grilled meat or seafood, and if you have alcohol to chase it down with, your happiness will surely double. The seafood platter with fresh scallops, "sazae" (turban shell), and large clams and the meat platter with wagyu beef, lamb, and offal were delicious and a definite must-try!
Yakiniku restaurants in Japan generally focus their offerings on meats, particularly beef. It’s novel and interesting for this yakiniku joint to offer items like seafood and lamb!
There is a special standing bar area outside the izakaya, where we saw quite a few people drinking. Some customers preferred to relax and drink alone, but there were also regular customers who chatted with everyone at the bar. You might want to try striking up a conversation with a local, but the language barrier can sometimes make it very intimidating. Don't worry! If you’re wondering what to say, starting with an “osusume wa arimasu ka?” (do you recommend anything?) can be a great way to break the ice and lead to some great memories!
*In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please wear a mask when entering the store and disinfect your hands at the entrance.
An Oden Izakaya: Torinichi Sakaba
After drinking hard and indulging in a lot of meat at the first two izakaya we visited, we needed to give our stomachs a little rest. For this, a bowl of warm "oden" (a dish of various ingredients stewed in a savory broth) would be perfect. Oden is a traditional Japanese stewed dish, with a broth-based on katsuo (bonito) or kombu (kelp) and ingredients such as daikon radish, hanpen (a fish cake made from pounded ish and potato), and tsumire (dumplings of minced fish). To people coming from countries like the UK, it may seem strange to eat stew at a pub, but it can be a surprisingly great way to end a night of drinking and is the Japanese way! Thus, our final stop of the night’s Noge Bar Hopping Tour was at an izakaya specializing in this comfort food.
Here, the drinks menu is hung on the wall, and customers can freely choose what they want. The only food they serve is oden, so all you have to do is put a checkmark next to your desired ingredients on the simple, handwritten menu and give it to the staff to order.
The single term “oden” conceals a great amount of regional variation in seasoning and ingredients. Oden from the Kanto Region (which includes Yokohama) usually features an intense broth flavor, but this izakaya’s house recipe is comparatively light and (unusually) simmered from chicken bones. Daikon radish, egg, tsukune (chicken meatballs), tofu, and other ingredients are softly simmered in this oden broth. To eat, just take the oden ingredients you want into your own bowl, sprinkle them with green onions, and savor the wonderful and unforgettable flavor of homemade oden. The menu is only in Japanese, but of course, your guide is there to explain everything in English!
By sitting around a small table and drinking alcohol while chatting, we were able to blow off our exhaustion from the day and relax our minds and bodies.
*In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, please wear a mask when entering the store, and go through a temperature check and disinfect your hands at the entrance. Other stores in the Noge neighborhood are also putting similar coronavirus countermeasures in place.
Get Your Fill of Noge’s Local Izakaya!
It’s a common dilemma when traveling: you want to avoid simply sticking to restaurants in major tourist destinations, where distinctive local charm is wanting. But even if you find a spot popular among locals, you feel self-conscious about entering. Even so, it is a rewarding experience that is worth a try!
Noge Alley is lined with numerous izakaya that keep their lights shining at night to give a warm welcome to hungry (and thirsty) customers. Each establishment in Noge has its own unique selling point, extensive drinks menu, delicious food, and affordable prices that will satisfy every age and every need. So, how about booking the Yokohama Noge Bar Hopping Tour to experience Japan’s drinking culture through unique Japanese taverns with a professional Noge guide?
Things to Do in the Area
Around the Noge area, there is a wide variety of shopping facilities and spots where you can enjoy the nighttime scenery.
1) Go Shopping Before the Tour
MARINE ＆ WALK YOKOHAMA
Yokohama World Porters
2) Marvel at Beautiful Illuminations Afterwards!
Yokohama Landmark Tower Sky Garden
Go shopping during the day and go on the Noge tour later, and you can enjoy a perfect day of fun in Yokohama!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.