Posted by: mariabro | January 24, 2012

Tokyo Nights

After the third request this week for recommendations on Tokyo nightlife, I realized there was a blog post in the making.  This is by no means a fully-researched piece, I still have many more nights out to complete my exhaustive research, but I’ll start with what I know after the last six years in Tokyo.

Roppongi – really this is the only place I could begin when talking about nightlife in Tokyo.  It would be hypocritical of me not to.  It’s the epicenter of  the Gaijin, somewhat more “mature”, crowd.  It’s the place where every Nigerian knows your name.

It has its underbelly of course, usually seen at 7:00am when the sun has risen far above the horizon.  But for all its follies and foibles it remains a Disneyland for adults.  Or perhaps Vegas.  The place you are guaranteed to have fun, even on a Monday night, if you know where to go.  I’m not going to go into the “be careful about your drinks”, “don’t go to second floor establishments with a guy you just met”, etc because this is for my friends who are responsible adults and already know that.  This is a list of recommended places you can suggest to your visitors, so you will look like you go out on a regular basis when your friends come to visit from Texas.  I’ll even include a list for your nieces and nephews, and you will seem like the hip Aunt or Uncle.

Gaien Higashi dori is the main drag.  On this street you will find an ever-changing lineup of bars and clubs (due to often being raided and shut down for serving rude foreigners)
Here are the usual suspects –

First House – used to be the best dance bar, but due to the fact it didn’t actually have a dance license it was turned into a deli and First House relocated to much smaller digs next to the old Rock Factory (and if you know Rock Factory you obviously were here before the Lehman shock)

Wall Street, Motown – guaranteed to be busy on most nights but warn your gentleman guests that the gorgeous, statuesque ladies who frequent the place, offer the “full” package.

Train Bar– my favorite bar in Tokyo, geared to people who like to squeeze into a bar the size of a “train” car, listen to classic rock and occasionally dance on the bar (check with Roy, the owner first, he doesn’t let just anyone on the bar).  They play great tunes and bring in an eclectic crowd including many rock bands who are touring in Tokyo.  I’ve seen quite a few bands here; Offspring, the crew of AC/DC who were generous enough to give me a guitar pick, and a nameless rocker who actually had just bought a blow-dryer at the neighboring Don Quixote. I kid you not, here’s the photo!

Mogambo’s, Geronimo’s shot bar – more very small bars with good music and no room to dance.  Geronimo’s claim to fame is a visit from Hugh Grant and apparently racer Jenson Button enjoys Mogambo’s when he is in town visiting his lingerie model girlfriend, er, racing.

If you actually want to dance at any of these places you will just have to stand on the spot and do your thing or find a suitable bar countertop. Though Mogambo’s counter is suitable only for the very short!

For real clubs, those that have dance licenses and actual dance floors you may want to try –

Vanity – conveniently located in the ROI building right next to Train Bar.  A large club with a beautiful view of Tokyo tower and lots of interesting people. Bring ID, they don’t care if you are  50, you have to show it.  It is their screening method to keep out old people who forget to carry their ID. Selena Gomez’ band came here when the Black-Eyed Peas were in town.

Feria – a multi-floor nightclub, on the basement floor, Feria is crowded with both Japanese and foreigners who want to dance or “socialize”, on the first floor Ristorante offers Tokyo cuisine, sushi, drinks, and a wine lounge. On the second floor, you can enjoy live R&B performances at Midas before heading to the sophisticated Crystal Lounge on the third and fourth floors. One entrance fee for the whole building.

Le Baron – trendy bar-club in Aoyama

R2 Supperclub – great new place for drinks, the old Oak Door-Two Rooms crowd, live music but I haven’t witnessed any dancing yet. Although the wide counter top is beckoning.

BEST CLUB FOR A WORKOUT – Salsa Sudada – offers salsa dancing lessons almost every night.  Get in a workout and then get your dance off.

For live music – check out

Crawfish in Akasaka, cool, fairly small, live music house

Crocodile in Shibuya – some fun live bands

Billboard Live in Midtown

Blue Note in Aoyama

Cotton Club in Marunouchi – jazz, latin etc

For the nieces and nephews (who are 20 and over of course)

The New Lex – younger crowd, models etc

F-bar – Fashion TV, models, it’s in azabu Juban

Warehouse702, near F-Bar in azabu Juban, house music

Womb-big club in shibuya, more  japanese, bar scene from the movie  Babel was shot here

Hub’s is a pub where a lot of younger people go-locations in Roppongi
and Shibuya.

Gaspanic – several locations and lots of dancing on the bar

COOLEST SECRET BAR FOR DRINKS ON A ROOFTOP – this bar is so secret I had to use my GPS to find it.  But I will save you the trouble and give you directions.  Make a left at Seventh Heaven (if you do stop in say hello to the Romanians, they are my comrads), then take the first right, after Salsa Sudada (mentioned below), follow that street to almost the end and you will see an empty house.  Go up the stairs two flights and you will see a door.  Open it, do not be afraid.  Then say hello to a very cool crowd of people who have found it as well.  Tell them you want to sit on the roof.  They will take you up another flight of stairs, seat you and bring your blankets if it is cold.  You can use the phone to call down for more drinks when you need refills.  Beautiful views of Roppongi hills.  The real name is Roku Nana but tell your friends its the Secret Bar.

The bars stay open until the early morning hours which is a good thing since the subway closes between 12am and 5am.  You have to make a call on that.  A fun thing to do when you first arrive in Tokyo is to take the 7:00am train out of Roppongi on a Sunday.  Plenty of entertainment for all. Or stay out until 7:00 and head to Tsukiji for sushi.

Just check the calendar first to make sure it is open. http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/etc/calendar/2012.html

Make sure your visitors have a map in English and Japanese to give the taxi to get home.  Or give them the number at the embassy to call when they need bailing out.  Or call me, I can give them some advice. Tell them not to grab a flag from any establishments in Roppongi.  Your tour-guiding skills will not be viewed positively from Japan’s finest.

Entry charges for all clubs depend upon the night, but run from ¥2,000 to ¥4,000 and include a few drinks.  Ladies usually get in free, if they feel like it.

The legal drinking age in Japan in 20 and all clubs check ID at the door.

Stay tuned for updates as this list changes as fast as the prime minister.

If you have any other recommendations please add them in the comments below!

Betsey Johnson

The Karaoke Channel Store - 200x200

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Responses

  1. brilliant….so informative and so many places mentioned I haven’t been to…must get out more….J x x x

  2. this is THE list for tokyo nightlife. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE!

    • May be a little outdated by now! I need to update!!


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