Japanese culture, for the most part, is subdued, dignified, respectful and conformist. The sea of grey-clad suits and ties dutifully head to the office each day in a tsunami of organised chaos that might fool you into thinking this translates past 6 pm. It does not. Breaking all misconceptions, drinking plays a large role in Japanese culture and when they go, they go hard. This is your ultimate guide to a night out on the town without breaking the bank - Tokyo edition.
Easing Into 6pm With Boutique Brews
Japanese craft beer is a thriving niche with countless boutique breweries and bars establishing themselves as the perfect starting point to a night out that is uniquely Japanese. Chains such as the Craft Beer Market has multiple locations across the city and boasts a great selection of local brews including Hitachino, Coedo, Baird, and Minoh. For an alternative, what better way to get acquainted with the Land of the Rising Sun then authentic sake that doubles as culturally and alcoholically rich? The Meishu Centre Tokyo-Sake Tasting Bar is the pinnacle in local Japanese rice wine. Specialising in over 500 versions ranging from banana to melon, these are sourced from independent traders nationally so you're guaranteed a boutique tipple. Better yet, the bar is stacked to the ceiling with vintage sake bottles offering a uniquely Japanese vibe.
Shibuya Dinner Date at 7pm
For mouthwatering dining that is conveniently smack-bang in the middle of some of Tokyo's most iconic nightlife, there's nowhere else to go but Shibuya. Brave the lines at Sushi-no-Midori for incredible bites that won't break the bank. For fresh seafood head to Kaikaoya by the Sea but remember to make a reservation on weekends! Afterwards, head to Nonbei Yokocho, otherwise known as 'Drunkard’s Alley' in Shibuya. You guessed it, this area is a maze of winding backstreets that hides some of the city's top hole in the wall bars for a drink or two...or three.
Robot Restaurant Modern Mayhem at 8pm
Next, head a few metro stops over to Shinjuku. Located in Tokyo's Kabukicho Red Light District, the Robot Restaurant is a heavyweight in the city's nightlife. Chances are is that if you stereotype a night out in Tokyo, you're going to come up with something similar to this. Literally, everything you need to know about this place is summed up in one of our favourite venue reviews of all time - "...like watching a live taping of the Power Ranges with the help of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Kungfu Panda crew, while celebrating the win in Brazil's Carnaval Rio style". If this doesn't scream a night out in Tokyo, then nothing else does.
8pm Alternative - Karaoke Sesh
Nothing in the world is more disappointing than someone who thinks they're too cool for Karaoke. Nothing. This is Tokyo after all. It's pretty unsurprising that as the birthplace of Karaoke, it's practically a national sport in Japan. The most common way to sing your heart out is in Karaoke boxes - whole stores dedicated to great music, great snacks and terrible singing. You'll be asked how many people you have, generally charged by the half hour and sometimes required to fill in a short form before being led straight into the belly of the country's favourite past time. Major chains include Shidax, Big Echo, Cote D'Azur or Karaokekan and usually offer a fair selection of English songs as well as costumes if you're after a Sailor Moon vibe.
Niche Nightclubs & Classic Clubs From 10pm
Whole pages could, and have, been written about quirky Tokyo clubs. Whether you're after Cat Bars or clubs with walls lined in dildos - we love them all and there's definitely no shortage of unique experiences. Whatever your style of clubbing, Tokyo does it bigger and better. For awesome techno, you should head to Contact in Shibuya (you need to register online to become members before you can enter), for a niche but guaranteed good time head to Aisotpe - Shinjuku's biggest gay club or check out Alife's all you can drink specials for some mainstream partying and classic tunes.
Clocking In Midnight With The Golden Gai's Drinking Dens
Dimply lit, scruffy and assuming - the Golden Gai is legendary. Resiliently refusing to be swept away in the modern mayhem of Tokyo, these six alleyways wind through the backstreets of Shinjuku as one of the few remnants of old Japan. Just a short walk away from the East Exit of the Shinjuku Station, this urban gem boasts over 200 tiny bars ranging from hole in the wall, standing room only to venues with only 6 seats where you will literally rub shoulders with all the locals. Unnamed bars advertise themselves with an eclectic mix of signage ranging from guitars to nudes and promise a locals-only experience. Don't let these dimly lit alleyways and ramshackle rooms put you off though, not only does Tokyo have one of the World's lowest crime rates, the Golden Gai is also iconic for its hospitality to new faces.
2am Ramen Run
Because this is Tokyo and if you're not on your last legs wandering into the inviting warmth of an all-night ramen restaurant then you're not doing it right. Upgrade your classic drunk kebab and stumble into one of the city's many 24hr Ramen shacks that offer refuge to the night owls. We're talking cheap, old school, small-scale shops that are packed with locals all hours and that consistently serve up a match made in heaven - slurpable noodles and steaming hot broth. It's handy to note that Tokyo's public transport stops at midnight. But, just because the metro has stopped, doesn't mean you have to. if you've already missed the midnight deadline then there's no better way to sober up then an hour or two slurping and people watching in one of our favourite ramen shops.
5am Sunrise Spectacular at Sensoji Temple
We'll forgive you for not staying up this late. But for those who want it all, then watching the dawn break over Tokyo's oldest temple is what dreams are made of. Gracing the alleyways of Asakusa, Tokyo's most historic district, the walk to the Sensoji Temple through the usually packed streets is an experience in itself. The temple gardens are open 24hrs, while the building itself opens just after sunrise at 6am and is free of charge. At this hour you'll have the grounds including Kaminarimon and Hozomon Gates and even the stairs of the temple completely to yourself as you watch the first light of the morning break through the Pagodas. Talk about the Land of the Rising Sun.
About The Author:
Self-proclaimed dumpling Queen, Fenella, is always on the hunt for the best Vegetarian street snacks. She likes exploring a city by foot, even though she's useless at reading maps and travelling to destinations she can't pronounce.