Tokyo is one of the most exciting cities on Earth and when the sun goes down, its legendary nightlife begins. There is a variety of activities like shows and festivals that you can enjoy at night, like summer matsuri or winter illuminations. But if you want to experience a night in Tokyo like a local, you have to explore the narrow alleys, tiny bars, hidden izakayas or treat yourself with an exclusive mixology cocktail in a fancy lounge bar in the high-end scene of Tokyo.
Tokyo night scene has so much to offer. You can try different styles ranging from a fancy night in upper-scale locations, traditional izakayas where elder mothers wear working kimono, or a funky all-you-can-drink bar where you have a lot of fun.
Yokocho is Japanese for “alleyway,” but it usually refers to the narrow streets packed with izakayas, bars, and eateries tucked away in Japan’s busy streets.
Yokocho is one of Tokyo and Japan’s best-kept secrets where locals meet up over a beer, takoyaki or yakitori skewer. There are lots of yokocho dotted all over Tokyo, in areas packed with people and near office buildings, making them a convenient place to unwind with co-workers or duck in to escape the crowds.
Yokocho are mainly populated with izakayas, no-frills places where you can both eat and drink at an affordable price.
Once seated, you will probably be served a small appetizer, or otoshi, for which there will be a small charge. Often, the menu is written by hand on papers that are posted on the restaurant’s walls and usually in Japanese only.
Drink choice revolves around Japanese standards: draught beer, Japanese sake, shochu (alcohol that is typically stronger than sake and distilled from either sweet potatoes, barley, or rice), chuhai (flavored shochu) and sours. Food choice consists of small dishes that aren’t too filling, so you can order a variety of items that won’t hurt your wallet or your stomach.
Discover the best Tokyo’s Yokocho with our local guide:
Tokyo is also the perfect city for special luxurious nights, exclusive lounges, breathtaking views from high-rise floors, fancy restaurants and classy bars.
Many luxurious hotels offer high scale restaurants and fancy lounge bars in several areas of Tokyo like Nishi-Shinjuku, Hibiya or Shiodome. The most interesting and recommended Tokyo’s night scene takes place in Azabu-Juban; it’s popular mainly among foreigners and embassy people.
Besides shopping, Ginza is best known for its nightlife. Ginza is the best location to experience sophisticated, upscale nightlife in Tokyo along with fine dining and high-class bars. They are typically small venues that attract the fashionable and mature crowd.
Much of Ginza’s nightlife is hidden from plain view, with many of the best bars and restaurants tucked away on the upper floors of nondescript buildings. At many establishments, you can expect to be met with hefty bills along with rather exclusive entrance policies.
If you are looking instead for a more traditional night in Tokyo, dinner on a yakatabune along the Sumida River is the perfect choice.
Best described as a floating restaurant with an incredible view, yakatabune is a unique Japanese-style wooden tour boat on which you can have a party while sailing a river. Yakatabune is believed to be the most popular among aristocrats in the 8th to 9th centuries. They reached the height of their popularity during the Edo Period in the 17th to 18th centuries when it was a lavish pastime among rich merchants and high-ranking samurais.
Nowadays, Yakatabune Cruise is a way to enjoy a traditional Japanese meal while floating in Tokyo’s Bay, and admiring the city from a different perspective.