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Drinking in Tokyo: 7 Best Bar Areas and Nightlife Spots for Foreigners

Drinking in Tokyo: 7 Best Bar Areas and Nightlife Spots for Foreigners

Date published: 20 April 2020

Since Japan is a country with a drinking culture, you will have no problem finding alcohol anywhere you go. Whether it be a bar, restaurant, supermarket, convenient store or local shop, most likely there will be alcohol for sale. There are even vending machines in Japan that dispense beer and sake.

But if you are looking to go drinking in Tokyo in a place with a vibrant drinking atmosphere, there are certain bar areas and nightlife spots that are recommended. Depending on the type of bars or restaurants as well as the area, some places are more suited to your style, drinking preference, and favored crowd. So let’s take a look at some areas of Tokyo, the atmosphere and what they offer and see which area is suited for you!

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Shibuya
  2. 2. Asakusa
  3. 3. Roppongi
  4. 4. Ginza
  5. 5. Shinjuku
  6. 6. Shimokitazawa
  7. 7. Ebisu
  8. Recommended Articles

1. Shibuya

1. Shibuya
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・Atmosphere: Wild
・Price: Affordable
・Crowd: Young

We start with one of the most popular and populous places in Tokyo. Known for its shopping and famous crowded intersection, Shibuya also has a unique and pulsating nightlife as well as a drinking culture. Shibuya has many things going on so it’s always crowded and filled with colorful places and people. Here you will see crowds hanging out at the Hachiko statue, attending concerts and performances at the various live houses throughout the area, shopping for the latest trends in fashion or dining at the variety of Japanese and Western restaurants and cafes.
Known as a hip and trendy area, the crowd tends to be quite young and the nightlife mostly attracts those in their 20’s. Along with the multi-floor dance clubs, there are also a variety of drinking spots.

Walking around the station on each side you will find shopping streets with a variety of bars that range from small sports bars, pubs or wine bars to larger more elegant bars serving whiskey, craft beers and Japanese sake.
However, for a very local and intimate drinking experience, you might want to try an area of small streets near the station called Nonbei Yokocho which has a variety of tiny drinking spots with a bartender serving a small group of locals. You can chat with the bartender or the few people in the small bar and make local friends.

Another unique drinking experience you might enjoy is a huge drinking area all housed indoors in the Chitose Kaikan building called Niku Yokocho. In Japanese, Niku means meat and all the establishments located in this area serve alcohol as well as a variety of yakitori chicken skewers and barbecue meats. All packed together, there are a variety of bars and restaurants to choose from as you walk through the area.

If you are looking for a young, roaring atmosphere with reasonable prices that fit the budget traveler and young adults, Shibuya might be a place for you to party.

2. Asakusa

2. Asakusa
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・Atmosphere: Traditional
・Price: Cheap
・Crowd: All ages, tourists

When people hear the word Asakusa, they imagine the Sensoji Temple with the giant red lantern and Nakamise Dori, the crowded street of souvenirs that line the entrance to the temple. Surrounding the temple are many local shops and arcades providing traditional Japanese food, clothing, and souvenirs.

But along with the tourist pull, Asakusa is also a great place to hang out at a bar and people-watch. The most popular street in this area called Hoppy Street has a string of old fashioned Japanese bars that have indoor and outdoor seating always full of people drinking and laughing the day or night away.

Open all year round, most shops have an outdoor seating area that is covered with thick plastic curtains to keep the heat or cool in depending on the season. The shops have red lanterns along the signs making it easy to find and staff is always standing outside with menus welcoming both locals and tourists.

A very casual and old fashioned feel, prices are pretty cheap and menus are also pretty basic with standard izakaya-style food and beers, whiskey, sake, and shochu. In fact, the reason the street area is called “Hoppy” is because of the famous brand name beer soda drink that is mixed with Japanese shochu.

If you are looking to start drinking early then this area is definitely a good place to start and possibly finish depending on how high your tolerance is. Asakusa is very popular with tourists so you will find that the crowds here range in all ages, backgrounds, and types. You will find families, young groups, couples, and large parties all happening on Hoppy Street and you might have to wait for a table on the weekends so coming early is recommended.

3. Roppongi

3. Roppongi

・Atmosphere: Loud
・Price: Cheap to Moderate
・Crowd: Many singles and tourists

The Roppongi area of Tokyo is quite famous as a drinking and party zone of Tokyo, especially for foreigners. Although it’s next to the classy high-end Roppongi Hills, the nightlife area of Roppongi is quite the opposite with a variety of bars, lounges, pubs, clubs and hostess clubs, that have a darker and seedier feel.

Despite the appearance though, Roppongi is quite safe and a great place to see a variety of people and types of night culture. Roppongi is also quite international so you will find not only Japanese style but a variety of food and entertainment from other cultures and countries.

With bright neon signs, droves of happy (and most likely intoxicated) people dressed in clubbing gear, head out to drink, dance and meet new people. Definitely a place for people who are looking for a fun and unforgettable night adventure, Roppongi has so many different unique and interesting establishments, there is something for everyone.
Prices will also vary as some places are very high end and both drink prices and entrance charges can be quite high while some places have free entrance and happy hours that serve cheap drinks and food.

4. Ginza

4. Ginza

・Atmosphere: Sophisticated
・Price: Expensive
・Crowd: Older and affluent

Ginza is the upscale and high-end shopping district of Tokyo that houses fancy restaurants, elegant shops, fashion boutiques, art galleries, and upscale brands. There are also many Japanese and International companies that operate out of Ginza and therefore the nightlife consists of well-to-do shoppers and business people looking for a nice cocktail, wine or sake lounge to relax and wind down.

The main streets of Ginza are lined with big department stores and high-end designer brands but within this shopping mecca, there are a wide selection of drinking spots. Since this area of Tokyo is one of the most expensive areas in the country, be prepared to pay a bit more for everything including the drinks. But with the high prices also comes a chic atmosphere, top-level service excellence and the highest quality of drinks and entertainment.

Definitely not an area for drinking on a shoestring budget, Ginza bars cater to a more older and mature crowd looking for opulence and class. Whether you are looking for a sophisticated bar with bartenders who have been honing their craft for years or for a jazz bar with award-winning cocktails, Ginza is a sophisticated and cultured drinking area. The choice is also incredible with hundreds of drinking establishments all concentrated in a small area making it easy to walk around and find a place that suits your taste.
If you are looking for a more mellow and dignified place to drink away from the loud music, wild crowds, and party scene then Ginza is probably your best choice.

5. Shinjuku

5. Shinjuku
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・Atmosphere: Students to Business professionals
・Price: Moderate to Expensive
・Crowd: Mid 20s to 40s

Shinjuku, which is Japan’s busiest station is a hub for business, shopping and entertainment and houses many famous restaurants, shops and the world-renowned red-light district, Kabukicho. The station is wide and surrounded by skyscrapers, shopping malls, entertainment districts and a variety of museums, game centers, and entertainment facilities.

The nightlife of Shinjuku is also varied and caters to a variety of different crowds. Those looking for host and hostess clubs as well as bars, restaurants, and packed drinking spots will want to head to Kabukicho. Many staff from the host and hostess clubs as well as snack bars and girls bars will try to entice you to enter with all you can drink options and a chance to talk to the beautiful women of the establishment. The area here is mainly businessmen and young groups of males looking for a guys night out.
There are also a lot of small bars and izakayas for those looking for cheap food and drinks so many young people also tend to enjoy the Kabukicho area.

Another popular part of Shinjuku for drinking are the Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho areas, which are narrow streets filled with dozens of tiny pubs and bars usually only seating a few people at a time.

These cozy pubs are usually just a small counter and a few chairs or stools where both locals and tourists hoping to experience a true Japanese bar sit in close quarters and have a drink. Some bars serve noodles, yakitori or other bar foods while others mainly concentrate on drinks. Many places have English signs and menus making them foreigner-friendly as well. Many places also charge a higher price for drinks and depending on the shop there might or might not be a seating charge as well.

6. Shimokitazawa

6. Shimokitazawa
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・Atmosphere: Bohemian
・Price: Cheap to Affordable
・Crowd: Young and artistic

Much less crowded than Shinjuku or Shibuya, Shimokitazawa was a residential area that is now the center of bohemian, indie, artsy culture catering to young hipsters and artistic souls. A trendy area with a variety of unique shops, cafes, and restaurants, you can find vintage clothing, furniture, organic products, and artistic hand-made goods. There are relatively fewer chain shops and Shimokitazawa houses many local coffee shops, bakeries, art galleries, used clothing, books, and music shops, small live houses and specialty restaurants.

Along with this free-spirit atmosphere, the nightlife of Shimokitazawa also is a colorful array of cafes, bars, izakayas, and live houses. Mostly a younger university crowd, the small bars, and live houses are usually open quite late and you will find a variety of artists, musicians, and intellects drinking and talking the night away.
Another unique aspect of this area is an open-air night market located in the Shimokitazawa Cage which is literally a cage structure where pop-up stands sell hand-made jewelry, clothing, and other knick-knacks. Many people grab a beer and hang out at the cage shopping and meeting people.

7. Ebisu

7. Ebisu
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・Atmosphere: Cozy
・Price: Affordable
・Crowd: Young to middle-aged

Although Ebisu is very close to the hustle and bustle of Shibuya, the atmosphere is quite different and calm. A lot less crowded and known for its cozy atmosphere, there are many shops, restaurants, pubs, and bars that make it another popular choice for drinking.

The best place to start is the Yebisu Garden Place which is a complex of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The Yebisu Brand beer was brewed here so you can try this beer and enjoy it at its birthplace.

Along with Yebisu Garden Place, you will find the Sapporo Beer Station which is a great place to get cheap drinks in a fun atmosphere after visiting the closeby Yebisu Beer Museum.

Journeying away from the station you will also find a lot of reasonably priced Japanese restaurants and izakayas as well as standing bars which are all good value for the money. The crowds tend to be mostly older and modest as the places are much more cozy, natural and simple.

There is an area of Ebisu called Ebisu Yokocho as well which attracts more younger crowds as it is a packed and small drinking zone with many small bars and taverns with a retro look and delicious foods. A popular place for people to talk and get to know each other in a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Hopefully, these suggestions gave you an idea of what Tokyo has to offer and you can find a place that works for you. Of course, this is only a taste of the different options available and a good idea is to adventure around Tokyo and see what options catch your eye or ask for recommendations from locals in the area where you are visiting.

But no matter which area you choose, you are sure to find a place that has good drinks, good people and a good atmosphere and make your travels to Tokyo a fun and memorable experience.

Written by:

Sohail Oz Ali

Sohail Oz Ali

Sohail Oz Ali is a Canadian Youtuber, author and blogger who has lived in Hokkaido, Nagoya and now resides in Chiba. Between visits to Karaoke and revolving sushi restaurants, he enjoys walking his dog, watching Japanese love dramas and teaching English. You can also find him roaming the streets of Japan looking for the next big YouTube video trends.

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*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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