Leading the way under the rumbling train tracks, Rory Dent salutes Daitoryo (which means “president” in English), a storied izakaya pub at an intersection of Ueno’s smoke-filled alleys packed with bars and eateries serving up grilled chicken and pork skewers, Japanese tripe stew and a variety of other cheap, small dishes — not to mention plenty of booze.

“This place (Daitoryo) got its license in 1950,” the British tour guide explains as we stroll around this bustling neighborhood in the capital’s Taito Ward. The shopping and entertainment district is crowded with locals and tourists alike, but it’s nowhere near the levels of congestion seen at such tourist magnets as Harajuku’s Takeshita Street or Asakusa’s Sensoji temple.

“This area is the birthplace of postwar Tokyo — it’s unpretentious to the max,” he says. “It's not hard at all to find somewhere interesting in Tokyo that’s not full of people.”