Even though Tokyo has so much to offer in broad daylight, it might also be interesting to have a look at its “dark side”. To do so, I would like you to get on the night train with me to discover how endless is the world of entertainment in the Japanese capital.
If you have been wondering how and where to party in this city that never sleeps, look no further, you are at the right place.
Before starting I would like to add a little clarification. I am not listing all the types of nocturne establishments here, but just the ones I think the most relevant or where you will be likely to go to the most.
Now, are you ready for a Tokyo by night tour? Please fasten your belt and get ready to take off.
To enjoy nights in Tokyo, there are 3 main districts you have to know, depending on what you are looking for: Shinjuku (more accurately Kabukicho), Roppongi and Shibuya.
Tokyo’s hotspot Shinjuku hides its own red-light district known as Kabukicho, which is northeast of Shinjuku. You will be able to find a lot of businesses related to the sex industry along with the amazing bars of the Golden Gai (which I will talk about later in this article).
Roppongi offers stunning places to party and the customers here I mostly foreigners or local looking for strangers. This area remains globally more expensive but some of the clubs there are definitely worth it.
Finally, Shibuya, which is the place to be to party hard. There is a huge variety of bars with a versatile choice of clubs. According on what you listen to, there is something to suit all tastes.
Let’s start with the basic, bars, which in Japan could come in different shape.
First, you have the izakaya: the typical Japanese bars where you will share snacks with your friends in a traditional ambiance. I highly recommend them at least once to immerse yourself into the daily Japanese life. In fact, this is the place where you will be the most likely to notice colleagues getting together for a drink after a hard day of labor.
“Shirubee” will parfectly fulfill its mission if you want to try one of those bars. Located not far from Shibuya, in the charming district of Shimokitazawa. Their beef and potato stew served with garlic bread is a must try to accompany your drink (of sake of course!)!
Golden Gai’s Bars
As I mentioned above, there is a place you really do have to visit: the Golden Gai and its bars.
You do not need my help to find a decent normal bar since you know what it is and just going to one of the 3 districts I advised, you will be able to find a collection of them. Nevertheless, Golden Gai is a must seen by its particular architecture. In fact, Golden Gai literally consist of 100 square meters of stacked bars. It is really impressive and if you check the map of the area at the entrance you will right away understand what I am talking about. All the bars are quite narrow, only able to welcome a few customers but the ambiance is charming and warmful. Several important things to know though; some of them unfortunately do not accept foreigners, and some others may ask for “charge fees” at the entrance (from 500yen).
Since each bar with its bar tender will bring you a unique experience, I do not have a particular recommendation for this place, just try them all if you dare!
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Another kind of night place you probably know: the pubs. Of course, they exist in Tokyo too. If you are too lazy to change places, this is a good way to enjoy as much as you can in a same environment since they usually open earlier than bars. Also, they will play some music to allow you to dance! A famous chain of pub in Tokyo is Hub. You will find several of them everywhere in Tokyo but I would recommend the one in Shibuya to be close to some “after parties” (just in case).
If you have already traveled a bit around Japan, you have without the shadow of a doubt noticed Japanese people are pretty talented in reproducing specific themes or ambiances. In attraction parks for example, the attention paid to details is breathtaking. From the landscapes to the performances of actors, nothing is left to chance. If you like to dive in a whole universe out of reality for the time of a drink, I would suggest you the theme bars. You will for example be invited to play the role of a prisoner in jail or a patient in asylum.
For a first time, I would advice the Lockup* (website only available in Japanese). I won’t say more about it to preserve the surprise, just give it a try. It is something to do once with friends.
Again, there are plenty other kinds of bars like standing bars etc. But the point here is not to list them all but to have a quick glance at what already exists in Japan and what to do tonight!
I could have put this kind of establishment with the other bars, but it deserves its own section since it is quite unusual. First of all, even if you could go there as a woman, girl’s bars are mostly for a male clientele. The purpose here is to hourly pay to talk to cute Japanese bartenders girls. Of course, in addition to the hourly fees, you will have to pay your drinks. Some of those bars could also offer you diverse activities like darts, billiards and all. It is seen as a direct concurrent of the hostess clubs, but in a cheaper version.
For that kind of service, as for the following section, the best place to go is Kabukicho where you will have a wide offer.
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An other mastodon of night entertainment is the Host Club. As strange as it sound, while all over the world it is more common to see this kind of services for men, in Japan Host Clubs are really popular among women. It also exists for men (Hostess Clubs) but because we talked about Girl’s bars in the above section, I will exclusivity talk about Host Club here (even though it works pretty much the same way for Hostess Clubs).
Head to Kabukicho (again) and I am sure you won’t miss to see dozen of huge billboards with androgynous men faces. Each billboard usually represents a Host Club and each “cute” face displayed represents an offer from this Club. You have read it well, an offer. In the manner of Girl’s bars, host clubs sell company.
The first time you will enter a host club, several of those ikemen (good-looking man) will come to you and spend some time with you. It will be your mission to chose the one who fits you the best. Once chosen, the host will entertain you and talk to you during the time you will pay.
They will eventually ask for your Line ID or other SNS to keep contact and send you messages for your birthday and other occasions (especially if you are a loyal customer).
However, if you do not want to spend a fortune and just have some fun occasionally, the trick here is to never go to the same club. Indeed, if you go to one of those places for the first time with a flyer distributed in the street, you will have a huge discount along with (sometimes) nomihodai (all you can drink). In that case, the range of price will be from 2000yen to 5000yen. Otherwise, be ready to pay your night from 20000yen to more because a lots of various “unexpected” taxes will be added to your bill (including the fact you chose your “permanent host” from your last visit).
An other interesting establishment which I have really learnt to love since in Japan is the karaoke. Do not worry, this service is affordable for all, and for both women and men.
As a European, I knew karaoke like a some kind of bar where you had to sing in front of strangers on horrible songs you have not even decided on. Here the concept is totally different. Even karaoke like described above exist too in Japan, the karaoke places I am referring to now are the ones where you rent a box for some hours with your friends and only your friends. Once installed, you will have a tabled available for you to pick the songs you like. No worry, there are songs in Japanese and in English. You can even consult on some karaoke’s websites the list of songs they have. In this box, no need to care too much about your singing skills since you are here to enjoy a warm moment with your friend. Depending on the karaoke picked, you could have all you can drink with the possibility of bringing your own food and drink. Some others will provide you snack to order. To do so, you will generally have a phone in your rented box from where you will make your order. A few minutes after, they will bring you what you asked for.
This is also the perfect place to spend an entire crazy night with your friends from early evening until late morning, or just as an after party.
In my opinion all karaoke offer the same kind of service quality but I would recommend Shidax* (website only available in Japanese) because of its pretty decent food for a karaoke chain.
Finally, if you are on fire what is the climax of a mad night? Night club. You all know what it is and Tokyo offers so many choices that it could be difficult to pick one. Too many choices could be confusing so let me select 3 of them which won’t disappoint you.
Villa Tokyo 六本木
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Located in Roppongi, the legendary club Feria that stood here back in the day, is a tough act to follow. But Villa picked up the torch with brilliance. The price is quite accessible: 1000yen for guys, including a drink and free for girls (still with a drink included). There are plenty of rooms to choose from; apart from the basement dance floor, there is a nice balcony on the 4th floor, and a laid back bar on the 2nd with a fancy beer pong table. The dance floor itself is crowded, in a good way, with a decent gender ratio. Music selection is good, and the sound and light system is impressive. You could even see a juggler on stilts. However, be ready to queue a bit in front of the entrance especially during weekends.
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An other club I would recommend if you want to party on week days is Atom Tokyo club situated in Shibuya.
Nevertheless, you have to be warned on couple of things, the price is quite expensive, 3000yen with one drink only and no re-entry allowed. Once you know that, you will appreciate the place since it is always crowed no matter what with a lot of different dance floors acoording your taste.
Let’s conclude with the king of the night clubs in Tokyo: AgeHa. If you are a pure “paripi” (Japanese for party people), no doubt this place is for you.
Because It is far from the 3 main districts I recommended you (and far from from everything actually), there is a shuttle bus going there from Shibuya (click here for more information). This is the biggest club in Tokyo. It offers three dance-floors, a pool area, numerous bars and chill-out spaces, and the best sound system of the capital. Of course, do not forget your ID card because you would not be send back to Shibuya with your tail between your legs. Be also careful, it is not always opened so have a look at the official website for the events.
Voilà! I hope you enjoyed this little review of the main places to go to in Tokyo if you have ever wondered how to party! Please do not hesitate to share you discoveries in the comment section to make a proper update of this article if needed!