West Shinjuku is a showcase of sleek, modern high-rises. East Shinjuku, by contrast, is a low-rise mishmash of department stores and restaurants, which are gradually replaced by movie theaters and hostess clubs the farther north one moves. And if you find yourself surrounded by street hawkers instead of shoppers, chances are you've hit Kabukicho.


Yet on the eastern edge of the animated mayhem that is Kabukicho lies a relatively quiet, still-undeveloped area called Golden Gai. It became a haven for freedom fighters and thinkers of the '60s who, pressured to conform to the system, resorted to the only appealing career option left: to open a bar. So it was that disgruntled poets and artists became the mamas and papas of tiny salons, where like-minded spirits would gather to soothe their bruised ideals.