The Japanese are renowned for working incredibly hard during the daylight hours and as payback they party – hard. When the sun has done its duties and dips behind the last gleaming tower, the artificial neon lights take over, streaking anything stationary in violent pinks, blues and yellows. An energy begins to pulse down the packed streets and office workers discard their monochrome uniforms for something a little more risqué…
Tokyo maybe an expensive place to sip saucy-named cocktails – there are high cover charges for most clubs, and drinks are pricy too – but no where else will you find such an appreciation of the sound quality, music and aesthetics that the nightclubs in Tokyo provide.
Roppongi is the most famous nightlife district, where bars and restaurants jostle for space with exotic-sounding clubs. Friday is the most popular night to go out, for obvious reasons, so head off the main roads down the narrow side streets to discover where the locals gulp their liquid of choice.
Ginza also offers a good range of entertainment as does Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, although you should be warned that this is the seedier end of town where the sex industry generates its enormous profits, It is also home to one of the biggest Japanese sex toy stores in the area, where you can find all sort of stuff like Ben Wa balls and other Japanese dolls.
Many clubs have restaurants attached to the dance floors so you can have the complete going-out experience under one roof. Alife, 1-7-2 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku is one such place where punters slurp soups and nosh noodles before working off their excess weight by shimmering on the dance floor.
‘Shot Bars’ tend to be wacky-themed dance clubs where anything goes – the more outrageous the outfit the better and you’ll always look staid in comparison to the looks the Tokyo teens don. Many bars and clubs are absolutely tiny – maybe it’s a safe haven in such a crowded city – so be prepared to flex those stomach muscles and slide past the masses to get to the bar. Drinking in general is popular, so much so that even the vending machines sell beer, and there are literally hundreds of bars and pubs that are both western influenced or traditionally Japanese like the nomi-ya pubs.
Of course that Japanese institution karaoke can be found all over the city, just follow the tortured bat shrieking, and professional live music is enormously popular, usually performed in miniscule bars and basements where the acoustics are fantastic.
The Liquid Room, 1-20-1 Kabuki-cho, admission ¥3000-5000, is one of the city’s longest running live music venues which is staffed by DJ’s when the hot talent steps off the stage. There isn’t much seating so you’ll have to dance instead.
Beware of ‘table charges’ that maybe slapped onto your bill at the end of the night. What may look like an innocent snack in the centre of the table can cost ¥300-500 before you even start. You can also be charged for arriving after a certain time or if you don’t order food.
In more upmarket venues a 10 per cent to 20 per cent service charged will be enforced and don’t forget the five per cent consumption tax slapped on by the government!
For comprehensive nightlife listings then pick up a free copy of the weekly Metropolis Guide. Alternatively both the Japan Times and Daily Yomuin newspapers have good pull-out sections.
Here, we suggest some of the most popular clubs for your perusal.
Club Complex Code
1-19-2 Kabukichou, Shinjuku-ku
Telephone – 3209 0702
Opening times – 8pm-late
One of Tokyo’s largest clubs, there are various different spaces offering bars, dance floors and chill-out rooms. If you miss Friday night, then there are Sunday and Monday afternoon clubbing sessions too.
1-13-3 Ebisu Nishi
Telephone – 5458 2828
Opening times – 8-9pm-4-5am
Admission – ¥2500-3000 (includes a drink)
A split-level dance club that offers rock and alternative music plus live bands from Thursday to Saturday at the often-packed What the Dicken’s! Expat bar that’s found in the same building.
Telephone – 5489 3750
Opening times – 7pm-2am Sun, Wed & Thurs, 7pm-5am Fri & Sat
Admission – ¥500 Sun & Wed-Thurs, ¥1000 Fri-Sat
A basement club home to a young, international crowd shaking their hips to house, trance and hip-hop except on Fridays from 7pm-10pm when its retro 70s and 80s music and all-you-can drink offers.