The Ultimate Guide to Tokyo Nightlife
No matter what you’re into, rest assured Tokyo has a bar for it.
Greater Tokyo is home to over 39 million people, enough to rank it as the world’s largest metropolitan area. But it’s not just bigger than the rest, it’s also better—especially when it comes to nightlife. The culture here lives to work hard and play hard. Once the evening hours approach, Tokyo’s residents are thirsting for a good time, one which most often lasts for a long time. The city, in turn, opens up to reveal a rich collage of colors, scents, and sounds, where everything and anything is possible well into the early morning hours. It’s merely a matter of how—and where—you want your night to unfold.
Tokyo’s landscape is sprawling, sure, but it’s also overwhelmingly warm and inviting. Break it down by neighborhood, and you’ll find it surprisingly manageable. In Roppongi, for example, night owls navigate a dense maze of jazz clubs, upscale bars, and art galleries. International Shibuya, on the other hand, is home to some of the city’s most popular nightclubs. In Asakusa, it’s all about savoring local flavors at the many food stalls lining the promenade that leads to the ancient Sensō-ji temple. And Golden Gai is an entire mini-village packed with izakayas and quirky standing-room-only bars known as tachinomi that give way to cozy vibes and world class highballs.
Japan might be known as the Land of the Rising Sun, but when it comes to its capital city, things get a lot more exciting once the sun sets. Here are a handful of places you won’t want to miss the next time you find yourself tackling Tokyo after dark.
A massive space spread out over three floors of prime Shibuya City real estate, Womb offers an electrifying experience each night of the week thanks to regular themed parties. The venue holds up to 800 revelers and has served as a launchpad for many local artists on their way to becoming global superstars. And depending on when you arrive, you might see someone who has already achieved that status—including Fatboy Slim, Dominik Eulberg, and Anja Schneider, to name a few recent performers.
Hidden on the 9th floor of a nondescript Shinjuku highrise is, perhaps, the best high-concept cocktail bar on the planet. Ben Fiddich is the brainchild of proprietor Hiroyasu Kayama, and watching him work behind the stick of his six-seat bar is a performance much more akin to Kabuki theater than mere drink-making. He moonlights as a farmer, often integrating ingredients he’s grown himself into his imaginative bespoke specialities. He distills his own Absinthe, and muddles his own Campari-variations to produce a Negroni unlike any you’ve ever tasted. It’s hard to overstate the impact that Japanese bartending has had on the global drinks scene in the 21st century, and this place is at the tip of the spear, pushing the envelope one pour at a time. Just make sure to reserve your spot well in advance: Seating is supremely limited. What’s more, Hiro-san is frequently far away collecting new flavors for the bar from some far-flung corner of the earth, and the bar does not open without him.
Suspended 39 stories above Chiyoda City, this loungey newcomer has already established itself as a premiere nightlife destination—and head bartender Keith Motsi is the one to thank for this outcome. His drinks list reimagines classic preparations such as Martinis and Manhattans as something far superior. The former is dialed up with Japanese gin and vodka, and modified with the addition of bitters derived from Japanese cypress. The latter is rendered in-house with Japanese whisky in place of American rye, then topped with a gold leaf garnish. Motsi is a veritable magician when it comes to hospitality as well. Blend his bonafides with the convivial vibe of this playful parlor and it’s easy to understand why it came in 20th in this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars list within months of opening.
Throughout the last century, the Shinjuku district of Tokyo has been built up as a contemporary patch of glass and steel towers stretching towards the sky. Yet amid the modernity, Golden Gai remains a conspicuous holdover from a bygone era. It exists as a series of alleyways, chockablock with an alluring array of hole-in-the-wall bars. Some sit on street level, some perch in attics only accessible via steep staircases; some specialize in highballs, others have curious themes such as, say, ‘80s horror movies. Barca is a particularly cozy den dedicated to Madeira. You don’t need to have any specific destination in mind, as this magical maze of watering holes is quite simply a Brigadoon for barcrawlers.
In an area renowned for live music venues, this one sticks out in a crowd. Music Bar 45 is a cozy (read: small) space. And in a jazz club, that’s much more a feature than a flaw. Drinking alongside no more than 20 other musical enthusiasts, you can vibe out to world-class performances from 7 pm until super late every night save Sunday. Cocktails here are rather run of the mill—don’t expect anything too elaborate—but they do boast a respectable selection of craft beer, whisky, and vinyl to enjoy between live sets. You might have to struggle to find the space, as it’s tucked away on the second floor of a brick-clad commercial walkup, but once you do, you’ll certainly be rewarded for your efforts.
The Room bills itself as a venue for music, drinks, and gathering, and it delivers admirably on all three—which is probably why they cater to some celebrated clientele. An independent jazz club owned by an actual musician, the stage here is typically occupied by talented players specializing in the improvisational arts. And speaking of improv, the bartenders do a darn good job of whipping up bespoke cocktails to fit your mood (more than likely, that means relaxed). When the stage is empty, you can still count on live DJ sets to keep the good times rolling.
You didn’t think you were going out in Tokyo without hitting up a karaoke bar, did you? The ultimate late-night “drinking sport” was born in Japan back in 1971. Today, its capital city is home to hundreds of venues dedicated to the, um, art form. But they’re not all created equal, of course. Karaoke Kan Shibuya, our pick, is conveniently located in a bustling part of town, offering dozens of private rooms complete with couches, flatscreen TVs, multiple mics, and as many watered-down cocktails as you can stomach. All the essentials you’ll need for an unforgettable evening belting out Toto’s “Africa” on repeat.
Okonomiyaki isn’t just a cuisine, it’s a way of life. And at this Shinjuku spot, they are definitely living it up. Their specialty savory pancake consists of cabbage and housemade crispy noodles, griddled to perfection and topped with sauces and shredded proteins. Here they’re doing it the authentic way: Hiroshima-style. They’re also plating some spectacular fish cakes, not to mention a ponzu stew studded with wagyu tendon. Are you hungry yet? If you’re having a late night in Tokyo, you most likely will be. Thankfully, this neighborhood institution keeps serving the sizzles until 5 am every morning. Bring some friends, as this menu is best enjoyed in good company. And while you're at it, don’t sleep on the house Sochu cocktails.
It’s hard to believe that this 24-hour onsen sits within a stone's throw of the busiest train station in the world. Yet despite its hyper-centralized spot, Thermae-Yu remains a fortress of solitude. It’s actually something of a spa complex, featuring dozens of hot spring baths, stone saunas, treatment rooms, a salon—even a bar and restaurant. The surrounding district of Kabukicho is the epicenter of entertainment, so there are ample ways to get wound up around here. But when you’re ready to wind down, this is undoubtedly the best destination in town.
Down by the docks of Koto City you’ll find Toyosu, the largest fish market on the planet. It opened in 2018 as a replacement for the famed Tsukiji Market, at a cost of roughly $5 billion. What exactly will you find in a $5 billion dollar fish market? Well, if you come in the late morning and early afternoon, you can eat your way through all sorts of food stalls, offering some of the freshest fish around. But if you arrive just after the bars close at 5 am, you’ll get to feast your eyes on one of the most sensational seafood spectacles imaginable: the live tuna auction, where the world’s largest and most expensive bluefin changes hands. And though you can watch it all go down for free from the upper deck, you can get even closer to the action by booking a spot on the interior viewing platform, with reservations available up to a month in advance via Toyosu Market’s website. Because nothing sobers you up after a long night of drinking quite like thousands of pounds of raw fish.