JAPAN TRAVEL: Harmonica Yokocho in Musashino, Tokyo — Hidden Treasure Trove of Food and Nightlife
Harmonica Yokocho (Alley) in Tokyo contrasts nicely with the fancy neighborhood that it resides in. Places like this are called yokocho in Japanese, a set of alleyways where some of the city’s most precious gems are safely sheltered—small shops, modest restaurants, teeming ramshackle pubs.
Harmonica Yokocho is located in Kichijoji, a quaint yet hip and modern district in Musashino City. The district encompasses shopping streets, fancy dining attractions, and lovely boutiques, which make this part of the city radiantly attractive especially for young people. If you’re simply walking along the north side of Kichijoji Station, you probably would not realize that there is a place like Harmonica Yokocho in this otherwise trendy community of Tokyo.
Before it became the dining and drinking hub that it is today, Harmonica Yokocho used to be a flea market that operated after World War II. Now, there are still small cozy stores and snack shops open during the day, but it is at night that you can see Harmonica Yokocho fully come to life, when the small signages and red lanterns flicker softly and the narrow alleys start to be filled with people.
Harmonica Yokocho is not that big, but the first entry may be a bit intimidating—you transition from a hip and radiant district to a claustrophobic warren of dimly lit alleys—especially when you are not familiar with getting around its intersecting pathways. However, that feeling is easily overcome by an air of inclusiveness and anonymity. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air—everyone is a stranger, no one is scrutinized.
Harmonica Yokocho is not just a place for a round of alcoholic drinks. There are also delicious yet cheap restaurants and snack shops to explore. The bars and restaurants are a mix of tight and stuffy spaces and cozy ones. If you want to mingle with other people, grab a chair at one of the buzzing pubs. If you want a laidback dining, enter an enclosed restaurant.
If you’re going, go with the expectation of mixing with locals and sitting (or standing) closely with other diners. The environment is not fancy, but it is surely one of the best places to experience modest local living and tradition so well preserved.
How to get there
• Nearest Station: Kichijoji Station on the Chuo Line (approx. 30 minutes from Tokyo Station)
• Harmonica Alley is just a 1 to 2-minute walk from the North Exit of Kichijoji Station.
Address: 1-2 Kichijoji-Honcho, Musashino, Tokyo
Written by Rei Leaño
This first appeared in Philippine Primer English magazine’s Vol. 32 – November issue.