Golden Gai is an area of Shinjuku that has fought off modernization with aplomb. The bars in the five or six narrow streets that make up Golden Gai look like they would collapse with the faintest shudder, yet they are well-known for being frequented by musicians, artists, and other celebrities. It used to be the case that these establishments would only welcome regular patrons (new-comers would need to be “introduced”); however, the area is far more open these days and many bars have English signs outside to pull in tourists.
Despite its down-and-out appearance, it is not the cheapest of places: drinks are typically about ¥1,000 and there is usually a ¥1,000 seating charge (so unfortunately bar hopping would prove expensive). But Golden Gai is a must if you want to experience all sides of Tokyo—the old and the new.
There seems to be perennial talk of Golden Gai being marked for demolition, but no doubt this lively little area will still be thriving many years from now, standing resolutely as the world changes around it.