The nightlife in Tokyo is spectacular. The city has everything from geisha bars to jazz or 'hostess' clubs, dive bars referred to as 'shot bars', and zany themed dance clubs. It is legal to drink out in the streets and vending machines even stock cans of beer!
A good way to enjoy Tokyo's nightlife is in an izakaya, a pub-style watering hole serving food and drink. Western-style bars are much more expensive than those with local flavour, though chains like The Hub have happy-hour prices that are more reasonable.
Roppongi is the top nightlife district in Tokyo, where the locals are very friendly to gaijin (Westerners). Be wary of hostesses and 'patrons' who try to lure you into one of the district's many gentlemen's clubs, where drinks are prohibitively expensive. Shibuya also has a number of nightclubs, and Shinjuku is home to both Tokyo's red-light district and its most popular gay bars. Women are advised not to walk around alone in these areas late at night. For less expensive bars that cater to students and backpackers, go a little further to the Shimokitazawa, Koenji and Nakano districts.
Many bars and lounges impose a 'table charge', which includes snacks like nuts or chips. Not all venues charge and policies vary, so ask before you order anything. Note that the legal age for both drinking and smoking in Japan is 20.
Those looking for a more cultured evening can catch a traditional Kabuki performance at the Kabuki-za theatre in Ginza - it is possible to attend and pay for only one act as opposed to the whole production to get a taste for the art form. Other popular forms of theatre include the restrained and refined Noh, and Bunraku puppet theatre. You can also see traditional Western music performances by the Tokyo and NHK Symphony Orchestras at various theatres around Tokyo. Check the Japan Times for concert information.
For detailed nightlife listings, grab a copy of the free Metropolis publication.
Our Travel Expert
Anne loves travelling the world and says her memories are her most prized possessions. She has lived in Tokyo for many years and works for Arigato Japan, a company offering food tours and cooking classes.
Become our Tokyo Travel Expert
We are looking for contributors for our Tokyo travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Tokyo or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.