A night on the town in Tokyo is an experience unlike any other. New York might be the city that never sleeps, but Tokyo doesn’t know the meaning of the word! Whether you’re looking for a quiet dive, a groovy nightclub, or an elegant cocktail bar, you’re guaranteed to find something that tickles your fancy.
Every district in Tokyo has a distinctive atmosphere, which gives it a large and diverse nightlife scene. To help you get started on planning, we present our quick guide to traveling around Tokyo at night. Below, you’ll find out more about the flavors of each neighborhood, and how to spend your evening.
The Tokyo Metro is one of the most convenient public transportation systems in the world, but it doesn’t run 24 hours. Most train and subway lines suspend service from midnight to 4:00 am. In some areas of Tokyo, you might have to resign yourself to waiting in a cafe or checking into a capsule hotel. That is, unless, you happen to be in one of these areas.
Shinjuku: Tokyo’s Red Light District
Day or night, Shinjuku is always buzzing with people. Heading out of the Kabukicho Exit, there are four main places to enjoy your time. Along the skinny alleys of Omoide Yokocho, you’ll find a collection of ramshackle watering holes that can fit less than ten people inside.
A fifteen-minute walk from here takes you to Golden Gai, where you can quietly drink inside of historic post-war era buildings. If you’re looking for something more lively, head to Kabukicho or Shinjuku 2 Choume.
The infamous Shinjuku Kabukicho street is Japan’s largest red-light district. Home to over 3,000 entertainment businesses, including the Robot Restaurant and love hotels, it’s worth exploring but keep your wits about you. The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) own a few locations here!
You can find a similar vibe near Shinjuku 2 Choume (pronounced Nii-Cho-May), which is Tokyo’s small but bustling gay district. Dragon Men and Arty Farty are the go-to dance clubs, and drag queens serve you at Campy Bar.
Shibuya: Where to Find Rocking Clubs and the Best Bars in Tokyo
Under Shibuya’s neon lights, the streets fill with echoes of laughter from gaggles of young Tokyoites looking for their next haunt. With so many options for bars, clubs, arcades, and more, Shibuya is one of the best districts to party in if you miss the last train.
Travelers love seeing the Hachiko statue, scrambling through Shibuya crossing, and shopping in fashionable boutiques. The local establishments are very accessible if you don’t speak Japanese. Even the smallest hole-in-the-walls have English menus and sometimes English-speaking staff.
On any given weekend, you can find clubs featuring local and international DJs playing a variety of genres. The stylish Contact features multiple dance floors and mostly spins techno and house. If you’re looking for a little more genre variety, check out WWW X, which brings together pop, alternative, and EDM under one roof.
Roppongi: Where You’ll Find the Best Nightclubs in Tokyo
In the post-war era, government officials from Allied forces lived in Roppongi, and several businesses began to pop up to offer them leisure activities. Nearly a century later, and Roppongi is the most famous entertainment district in Japan, attracting locals, expats, and travelers alike.
Roppongi is a hodgepodge of glitzy nightclubs, jazz venues, art museums, and a fair share of seedy places. On the same night, you could enjoy contemporary works by Japan’s foremost artists at the Mori Art Museum and stumble into a dive serving a few grizzled characters.
On the top floor of the Roppongi Roa Building, the club V2 Tokyo has one of the hottest dance floors and offers a view of Tokyo’s skyline. If you want a homier experience, try the Two Dogs Taproom which has 24 craft beers on tap and an all-you-can-drink option. For something a little more refined, check out Motown House, which has a relaxing atmosphere and plays your favorite (you guessed it) Motown hits until morning.
Ginza: Spending Your Tokyo Night in Style
Ginza is well-known for its department stores and Kabuki Theater, but at night, you won’t find crowds thumping along the pavement. Most of this neighborhood’s nightlife takes place on the upper-floors of seemingly conventional buildings. Behind nondescript doors, you’ll find some of the most exclusive bars and clubs in Tokyo catering to an affluent clientele.
Many of these stylish places like Ginza Tender and Orchard, serve classy and inventive cocktails. Genius is Tokyo’s most luxurious club with an open floor plan and private lounge areas. If you’re looking for somewhere a little easier on the wallet, you can bar hop along Ginza Corridor. Here, you’ll find festive pubs and restaurants along one long street.
Tokyo Off the Beaten Path: Spots in Tokyo that the Locals Love
Although markedly different in reputation, Ginza, Roppongi, Shibuya, and Shinjuku all have one thing in common—travelers love these areas! If it’s your first time in Japan, you don’t want to miss seeing these places at least once. However, if you love finding “hidden gems,” try branching out into other neighborhoods.
Surrounding most major-to-medium sized stations, you’ll have no problem finding restaurants, karaoke joints, and quintessentially Japanese-style pubs. These days, young and trendy Tokyoites prefer areas like Kichijoji, which is consistently rated as the most desirable neighborhood to live. Anime and manga lovers are migrating away from Akihabara to Nakano Broadway. Meanwhile, hipsters and independent music lovers spend their time in Shimo-Kitazawa.
You can make your night out in Tokyo an immersive Japanese experience by going to these types of places!
Izakaya: Drinking in Traditional Japanese-style
Japanese izakayas don’t look, smell, or feel anything like a pub you’ve been to before. Specific layouts depend on each shop, but you’re likely to find places where you take off your shoes and sip sake on tatami floors in private rooms. People love these places not just for the decor, but also for the prices. Most traditional Japanese pubs offer all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-eat plans.
Tachinomi: Standing-only Bars
Drinking in a bar that doesn’t have any chairs might not sound appealing at first, but believe us when we say you’re going to have an excellent time! At a tachinomi, the pours are stiff and budget-friendly, making them the perfect place to either start your night or stop by while you plan your next destination. Not to mention, since you’ll be standing so close to the other patrons, you’ll quickly strike up conversations with new friends.
High Rise Bars: Drink in the View of Tokyo
If dashing around every noisy nightclub isn’t your idea of a good time, you can leave the streets behind—by several stories! In the swankier parts of Tokyo, you can find high-rise hotels with chic bars and large windows. As soft music plays in the background, you’ll take in the city view and relax with a highball or a glass of Japanese whisky.
Karaoke: Belt Your Favorite Tunes in Privacy
If you never liked singing in front of strangers, Japan is the country for you! Most karaoke places feature private booths for you and your group. You can also order drinks and snacks to your room to keep the party going.
Ramen: How to End Your Tokyo Night
If you’ve spent your evening trying all of the essential cultural experiences, don’t forget to end it that way with a piping hot bowl of ramen. For Japanese people, nothing closes out a night on the town better than slurping down some oily noodles. Although it isn’t the healthiest snack when you already have a belly full of beer, your tongue will thank you for it!
Japan is one of the safest countries in the world for foreign travelers, but it isn’t without its share of crime. Although rare, there are some reports of establishments scamming people, especially tourists, out of their money.
In the most notorious scheme, employees stand outside of a business trying to attract customers. If you go inside, you might find yourself paying an extravagant bill riddled with hidden fees.
Not all clubs and restaurants advertising their menus outside are running rackets. To be safe, though, it's better to avoid these places unless you know the area very well. Besides, if they need to work hard to drive up foot traffic, it generally means the food and drinks aren’t tasty. However, if you find an otoshi (お通し) charge on your check, don’t call the police.
In many izakayas and tachinomis, the waitstaff will bring a small snack with your first drink. This is an otoshi appetizer, which costs around 200-500 JPY (about US $2.00-5.00). You can’t refuse it, the server won’t explain it, and you have to pay for it even if you don't eat it.
Think of the otoshi as a cover charge. Even though it might not seem like a fair deal, it’s a great way to try traditional Japanese food!