An exciting city, one of the best things about Tokyo is how lively and colorful the nightlife is. Your evening can begin by visiting the comforts of an izakaya with its familiar ice-cold drinks and grilled skewers, maybe have a cocktail or two in a high-end Tokyo bar, sing in an all-night karaoke pub (Lost in Translation-style), or dance the night away in a hole-in-a-wall Tokyo bar while listening to the soft beats curated from the spinning discs of the DJ. Tokyo is home to some of the most diverse, bustling, and definitely most one of a kind nightlife there is. It can be overwhelming with so many choices but the key to finding the right Tokyo bar is knowing where you want to drink, what you want to drink and what kind of crowd you want to be in. But whatever it is that you seek, there are always Tokyo bars just around the corner.
Whether you just want to unwind after a loaded day at work, or maybe just want to find solace in the drink you’re holding, drinking alone has its perks. For one thing, you become aware of your surroundings and your thoughts. A perfect Tokyo bar for deep thoughts would be Bar Kokage. It opened in 1977, and was the top choice for novelist and former Suntory employee Takeshi Kaiko. This classic bar has an ageless charm, one of the reasons why people keep coming back after their first visit. Their signature drink, Kaiko Martini is a winner, a gin cooled to minus 25-degree Celsius. With their lavish décor and fine architecture, the atmosphere is perfect for having a drink and relaxing to the tunes of fine jazz playing in the background. It’s the perfect place for those who want to find some quiet time for themselves while enjoying the beauty and delicious taste of a fine martini.
A bar can also be a great place for a date. Get romance brewing and have a drink or two over thoughtful, sweet conversations with your date in Angels’ Share. Its name was derived from the belief that every year, a portion of maturing drinks evaporate and this lost portion is said to be drunk by angels, hence the name “Angels’ Share.” With its classic décor, rich brown color palette, and glasses sparkling in cabinets, it’s the best Tokyo bar to go with your partner to have a drink. The friendly bartenders behind the counter will even help you choose a drink for the night.
If a finely crafted cocktail is what you’re looking for, Tokyo has endless choices of bars you can choose from; one of them is a master’s bar. It’s not for casual boozers because these barmen make some of the most elaborate and one-of-a-kind drinks in the world. For a carefully crafted drink, Tenderly is a great place to start. It’s a privilege to be served by the bar’s resident bartender, Yuko Miyazaki, who makes mixing and making classic cocktails look like a walk in the park. She’s a local sensation and holds bartending classes at Tenderly bimonthly. If you’re visiting during sakura season, better ready yourself to queue up as early as five in the afternoon because it can get pretty crowded in the bar. Miyazaki’s Adagio, one of her classic mixed drinks, is said to have the most amazing balance, even reportedly bringing people to tears with its perfection.
A drink in hand and a breathtaking view is one of the little things in life that should be savored. Whether you’re burned out from work or just want to spend some quality time alone or with company, nothing beats a beautiful view in front of you while you chug your beer or sip a cocktail. The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon Restaurant & Bar is the best place for such a thing. It’s located on the 13th floor of the hotel, with fine tables and chairs outside, overlooking the quiet and peaceful state of the city. French food is served and with a fancy selection of fine drinks and a view that’s breathtaking, it’s no wonder a lot of people come here. It can be challenging to make a reservation but once you’re in, you probably won’t want to leave right away, so you can savor every moment at the bar. You will enjoy the few hours of uninterrupted beauty of the city at night at this Tokyo bar.
There are lots of bars in Tokyo and whether you’re coming in alone or with some friends, a drink and some conversation is always a good mix. Bar Branche is the kind of bar that you’d want to go back to over and over again. The place is beautifully bold in hues of brown and cream, where there’s a glowing gold in color of an elegant lamp in the door. This Tokyo bar is no longer a newcomer in the neighborhood and has been serving sophisticated rare bottles of wine and quality cigars for years. It gives off that natural laid-back vibe to its guests, making them feel comfortable in their seats while they drink and relax. Head over to the counter and order up some of their best bottle of wine or maybe some cocktails to beat the blues.
If you’re a craft beer connoisseur, you’ll be more than satisfied by the beer bars in Tokyo. Some of them import beers from other countries while some brew their own or support the local microbrew scene. The legendary Popeye, originally a Western izakaya, is the place where beer drinkers and enthusiasts go for that perfect ice-cold brew. They have more than 70 types of tap beers, all produced in Japanese breweries. You can sit with your group at one of the tables around the establishment, but if you really want to find out more about your beer and meet some new people, the bar is the best place to sit. There, the knowledgeable staff will serve you unique but delicious drinks.
Movie lovers will feel right at home at Bar & Cafe Big Fish, tucked away near Koenji Station in west Tokyo. As you descend in the basement, you’ll enter a retro American-style bar, complemented by gleaming neon signs and rustic wood. With a large flatscreen TV on one wall, a projector screen on the adjacent wall, Big Fish is the perfect spot for movie watching, and they occasionally screen films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Shape of Water. They have both Japanese and English menus, which feature themed drinks, like their “Redrum” mojito. The patrons know the bartenders well, and chat about their favorite films.
Japan is not only known for its famous sake (rice wine) but also for whisky. Over the years, Japan has bagged a lot of top prizes when it comes to whisky competitions, rivaling even Scotland, so you can probably tell that Japanese people know good whisky. Bar Plat operates its business in the backstreet close to the station, filling up people’s glasses with some of the highest quality whisky in the city. They have been doing great business when it comes to whisky, long before it reached its current status. If you’re swinging by this beautiful place, don’t forget to order their popular Ichiro’s Malt, a product of Saitama’s Chichibu Distillery. What’s more, it’s a locally grown malt so it’s one of the finest whiskies out there.
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling and as far as inclusivity is considered, the LGBT community in Tokyo definitely delivers. Everyone is welcome in Shinjuku Nichome, Tokyo’s gay district, whether you’re straight, gay, or non-binary. Opposite the famous Bar Goldfinger, Café Lavanderia is an activist hangout which was once visited by Noam Chomsky, where you can browse books, enjoy live music and film screenings, and have some drinks (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic). With English and Spanish speaking staff, it’s a comfortable space for foreign visitors in Japan to gather and converse about everything under the sun, while accosted by the owner’s cats.
Lastly, if you’re into themed bars and video games, there’s an otaku bar in Tokyo for you. Geek out at 16Shots, a themed bar that’s an otaku’s paradise, supplied with games and toys. While enjoying your ice-cold beer, you can play games on their 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System, which you can’t find anywhere else. They also have cheat codes handy if you want an extra boost. 16Shots also encourages patrons to bring their own games to share, a great way to make new friends.
Quench your thirst with these bar hopping experiences in Japan!