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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Tokyo Nightlife
Tokyo Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
It’s in the evening that Tokyo really comes alive. Busy every night, the vibrant Roppongi district has a profusion of clubs, bars, and discos, visited by the smart ex-pat crowd as well as servicemen from the US military bases. Shinjuku, on the other hand, has a more Japanese scene, with an incredible range of eating and drinking places, from huge beer halls to small intimate theme bars, clubs, cinemas, massage parlours and Japan’s largest gay scene.

Dress codes are not overly strict. Entrance fees to clubs are expensive but normally include a couple of drinks. Cover charges are general in izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) and bars. Drink prices depend on the surroundings and vary from the reasonable to the expensive. If in doubt, inquire before ordering. If you are tempted by 1 of the city’s many ‘hostess clubs’, be advised that a beer in the company of a beautiful companion can easily cost ¥10,000. Tokyo’s gay bars are dotted in the Shinjuku 2–chome area. They are usually wary of foreign customers and it's best to explore them with a Japanese companion. Many major hotels have ‘sky bars’, offering striking night views of the city.

There are no specific licensing hours in Tokyo, however the minimum drinking age is 20 years. Admission fees and opening times differ widely and the Tokyo nightlife scene is constantly changing – for listings of what’s on and details about the latest hotspots, visitors are recommended to check the English-language Metropolis or Tokyo Journal.

Bars

For a characteristically Japanese ‘pub’ experience, izakaya offer beer, sake and a large variety of Japanese dishes. The most accessible to foreigners are the chains, Tengu and Murasaki. Both have many locations throughout the city and have a vibrant atmosphere, rational prices and convenient picture menus.

For a more international scene, go to Roppongi and visit the brash, foreigner-friendly Gas Panic, 3–15–24 Roppongi. At nearby Castillo, 6–1–8 Roppongi, the non-stop disco classics mean the small dance floor is usually busier than the bar. For a pint of Guinness, try The Tokyoers, 3–28–9 Shinjuku, or experience rock‘n’roll Japanese style at the very loud and sordid Rolling Stone, 3–2–7 Shinjuku.

Las Chicas, 5–47–6 Jingumae, Harajuku, is a stylish bar/restaurant complex; the leafy courtyard is a fantastic place to drink on a summer’s evening. Bar Isn’t It?, Roppongi, Minatoku, opposite the Shibuya Bunkamura art centre, is a favourite hangout and has the added appeal that all food and drinks are ¥500. For a more sophisticated experience, try Hotel Okura’s Highlander, 2–10–4 Toranomon, a trendy bar offering a selection of more than 200 whiskies, or the New York Bar, a sophisticated jazz bar situated on the 52nd floor of the swanky Park Hyatt Hotel, 3–7–1–2 Nishi-Shinjuku.

Casinos

Casino gambling is tightly controlled in Japan and although there are now moves towards liberalisation, venues are still very restricted. Central Tokyo’s only casino is situated in the Tokyo Dome complex, 1–3 Koraku, Bunkyo Ku. This casino is open to non-members, however Westerners might find the blackjack and slot machines fairly tame. The dress code is smart – a jacket and tie are mandatory for men. The minimum age for entry is 20 years and a passport will be necessary.

Clubs

Club Asia, 1–8 Maruyamacho, Shibuya, hosts major DJ events and ‘The Ring’, a monthly gay/straight dance party. Take a break from the dance floor and surf the internet in an adjacent room. The Liquid Room, 1–20–1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, is a stylish venue for live events and 1-off club nights, while Velfarre, 7–14–22 Roppongi, is a large multi-level disco palace with a dress code and an expensive admission charge. The slick Lexington Queen, 3–13–14 Roppongi, is favourite of the showbiz/model crowd and an excellent place to spot celebrities, or you can join the hip student crowd at the progressive venue, Yellow, 1–10–11 Nishi-Azabu. For a different rhythm, try Salsa Sudada, 7–13–8 Roppongi, for a thrilling mix of cocktails and Latin sounds.

Live music

Tokyo’s local pop and rock scene revolves around ‘live houses’ – dark disco-like clubs with a small stage. Club Quattro, 32–13 Udagawacho, Shibuya,  and Crocodile, 6–18–8 Jingumae, Harajuku, are among the famous names. Milk, 1–13–3 Nishi-Ebisu, a trendy, indie rock music venue, is a club/live house hybrid. Tokyo’s best jazz venue is Blue Note, 6–3–16 Minami-Aoyama, which often attracts quality international acts. The 2 main venues for major rock acts are The Budokan, 2–3 Kitanomaru-Koen, Chiyoda-ku, and Tokyo Dome, 1–3 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku. Tickets are expensive and should be booked well in advance.