Amazingly unique nightlife in Tokyo?
November 4, 2007 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Where is all the unique nightlife in Tokyo?

I have a friend coming to visit soon and I want to show him cool places at night in Tokyo. I'm not talking about great bars to hang out and drink with foreigners or typical clubs in Roppongi or Shibuya. I want the unique places; ones that you really can't find anywhere else. Any ideas? Money isn't too big of a deal (I mean, I'm not going to go every week). Also, bonus points for places without tons of foreigners-- after all, he's not coming to visit to meet Americans....

Before I came to Tokyo, I imagined bizarre places like in Lost in Translation (where are those places, BTW) or something, but since coming here I find regular clubs (fun, buy similar to home) along with normal bars.... hell, even Wikitravel vaguely mentions "higher stories feature more exclusive (and often sex-related) clubs aimed at the Japanese," not that I'm looking for something freaky, but come on!

Also, I know there must be better places to post questions like this (more Tokyo-specific sites), but where are they???
posted by phaedrus441 to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: whoops, should've checked my writing more carefully, sorry for the grammatical errors!
posted by phaedrus441 at 10:35 PM on November 4, 2007

Time for you to start exploring Shimo-Kitazawa, Koenji and Kichijoji.
posted by gomichild at 10:39 PM on November 4, 2007

Response by poster: Any particular places in mind? Forgive me, I've been to Shimokita one time and never been to the others (though I heard that Clockword Orange bar in Kichijoji is pretty cool).
posted by phaedrus441 at 10:51 PM on November 4, 2007

Get thee to a yokocho. Omoide Yokocho, Shomben Yokocho, Nonbei Yokocho or Harmonica Yokocho just to name a few. They're ramshackle bars and restaurants built around major train stations during post-war period. Most have a bar, three or four counter seats, and a small nook where the proprietor cooks. I've heard that they tend to frown on outsiders just dropping in, but if you find an interesting place, go ahead and have a seat. If you get turned away there are plenty of other places to go.

My own personal favorites are shokudo (lit. cafeterias; homestyle cooking in a communal setting) and the various hidden-away ryoteis and cafes in Kagurazaka. If you're interested in those, send me an email and I'll give you some recommendations.
posted by armage at 10:53 PM on November 4, 2007

The word "unique" is subject to multiple interpretations.

Things like maid cafes and cosplay restaurants are unique.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:21 PM on November 4, 2007

Response by poster: Correct and good suggestion! Though not quite what I was thinking, still always fun to head to Akihabara!
posted by phaedrus441 at 11:33 PM on November 4, 2007

Is the sphere in the Fuji TV building a restaurant? Is it open to the public? I honestly don't know, but if it is, that's certainly unique.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:41 PM on November 4, 2007

Response by poster: While browsing around just now, I did find locations of places from Lost in Translation:

This is the list (look down at the bottom)
If you want to go straight to the karaoke place, check this out.
posted by phaedrus441 at 11:49 PM on November 4, 2007

I second Koenji and Kichijoji. Both areas have some interesting nooks and crannies.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:11 AM on November 5, 2007

Is the sphere in the Fuji TV building a restaurant?


Is it open to the public?

Yes. But not worth the 500 yen, I'd say.
posted by misozaki at 12:20 AM on November 5, 2007

dude, i live in japan . i thikn i understand your question, and the answer isnt easy as u think. the truth is unless you have some good connections, you wont have a good night out of the surreal type. unfortunately i havent been in tokyo for a long time so i dont know ppl there. i do know a girl that might though. so if u post an email address, i can get more accurate details from you and see if i can help.
notice the only time in LIT that she had some real fun, was when she was hangin out with some locals.
the truth is, japan is not like thailand where they make money in bars from tourists. japanese bars dont cater to foreigners predominently. many good japanese bars will turn you away, or have sign on the door "no english speakers". most of the illicit bars prefer to stay strictly japanese only, it is less trouble for them and the regular patrons are more comfortable.
note that if u are 2 guys who just want a cultural night time experience with a few girls around, kyoto is a more fun city to party because of the structure - not spread out and isolated like tokyo, and warmer to foreigners. you can see temples and scenrey in the day and then party all night without a really expensive taxi ride to get home.
posted by edtut at 1:29 AM on November 5, 2007

What armage said, fer shuure, but because I can't bring myself to venture any further West than Roppongi 1-chome, my picks for fun-filled, gaijin-free nightlife would definitely start with Yanaka Ginza. This is not the Ginza you might be familiar with, but serious old-town Tokyo. Most easily accessed via the Chiyoda subway (Sendagi Station) or JR Yamanote Line (Nishi-Nippori Station).

That said, I don't get a good sense of what you're interested in from your initial post, except the "Lost in Translation" bit, which, now that I think of it, is nothing at all like Yanaka Ginza . . . oh well.

Maybe you already know about this, but if not, well, it's worth a peep, perhaps...
posted by Bixby23 at 2:25 AM on November 5, 2007

Response by poster: Ehhh, to be honest, I don't really know what I want-- just not anything like home. So far all the suggestions have been great. Now, the question is, anybody wanna try some of these places out?
posted by phaedrus441 at 3:33 AM on November 5, 2007 has pretty good restaurant/bar listings & reviews, for example, Shimo-Kitazawa bars. Also, tokyo gig guide.

(btw, anyone who can tell me how to get sufjan stevens tix will be my BFF 4 EVA. seriously.)
posted by betweenthebars at 3:36 AM on November 5, 2007

Take your friend to Shimokitazawa before they tear the place apart in a year or so (new station, highway, etc.). There's a shisha/hooka bar not far from the station that's quite the hipster hangout. Gets crowded on the weekends, though, and it's tiny.

Have you checked out the Golden Gai in Kabukicho? That's fun for at least a drink or two. Look for the tiny 2F jazz bar--the one armed bartender (I shit you not) is way cool. This place is world famous among jazz afficionados.
posted by zardoz at 3:45 AM on November 5, 2007

All manner of musical events, from DJ nights to live music of all sorts happens at one of my favorite spots in Tokyo, Super Deluxe. And there's a great mix of Japanese and foreigners there: even though it's in Roppongi, you don't get creepy Roppongi-esque gaijin looking to down lots of shots and pick up exotic locals... The vibe at Super Deluxe is great.

I play there a lot, too: it's one of the best places in town to play, far as I'm concerned. I'll be there tomorrow night 11/6 (keys/sax/drums trio) as well as 11/17 (doing some of my songs, in a duo with Seiichi Yamamoto, of Boredoms fame). Come on down!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:25 AM on November 5, 2007

Alcatraz ER is pretty darn unique. It's a restaurant in Shibuya and the food isn't that great, but I've certainly never come across a restaurant like it in North America. For sort of a head-shaking "only in Japan" experience, it's pretty good. English directions and such here.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:09 AM on November 5, 2007

I second the maid cafe in Akihabara. ridiculous.

Also, you can try asking on the fucked gaijin forums, I'm sure they'd have a lot to tell you.
posted by borkingchikapa at 7:56 AM on November 5, 2007

According to, Tokyo is the number 7 best city for raving:

Tokyo, Japan
As dizzyingly big as Tokyo is, sticking to three districts will guarantee a good clubbing experience. Today's Japanese youth are free, open-minded and very keen on having the best time possible. Tokyo's high point is in fact the clubbing crowd, whose members seem to emulate Japanese anime characters, with big colorful hair and enlarged eyes.

That said, check out Spiral, Vanilla and Velfarre in the buzzing Roppongi district, Club Asia in Shibuya and Club Code in Shinjuku.

What not to miss: While not a club per se, Ageha is Tokyo's biggest event venue, packing over 3,000 partiers at a time. You can be sure that all-night parties occur regularly, so checking out the schedule once in town is a must.

For more rave/trance party info, check out the calendar on this site:
posted by infinityjinx at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2007

I have always just liked to wander around and walk into interesting places. Don't forget to look up at 2nd floors or in lower floors because street level isn't always the most interesting.

Have always been keen on Mothers Ruin in Shimo Kitazawa for a late night drink, but tricky to describe where it is because it's B1 in a backstreet....
posted by gomichild at 8:01 AM on November 5, 2007

Nthing the Golden Gai, shimokita, kichijoji and koenji recomendations. That said part of the appeal of the very small bars in those neighborhood is that you can talk with the owner and the other patrons. If your friend doesn't speak japanese he might find it boring.
Try Ageha if you like to dance.
This is the relatively new over the top night club in Tokyo. Wait for the sunrise and watch the army of japanese girls in crazy outfit.
In kabukicho you can find happening bars. There are two conditions for you to be able to go in though : you must speak japanese very well and you must be loaded, just stepping into a happening bar will cost you approx 10 000 yens, yes that's without a drink.
Happening Bars are the "adult" version of a maid cafe. Your mileage may vary since the "show" is mostly done by the other patrons.
posted by SageLeVoid at 9:33 AM on November 5, 2007

I second gomichild. The best places were the ones I wandered into randomly.

And apart from what other people have already offered, I thought Kagaya was pretty damn surreal. I don't know if it's still there, but it'll break my heart if it's not. The times I've gone, I and my guests were the only foreigners there.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:58 AM on November 5, 2007

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