Nightlife in Tokyo

I’ve found that an issue which has not yet been discussed in our blog is Nightlife in Tokyo. Nobody disputes that Tokyo is full of exciting nightlife and the options endless. However, I’ve found that most of the best places are not advertised in the foreigner media and are only discovered by word of mouth. Everytime I look at Metropolis I see a million ads for small dirty bars which while posessing their own small campus bar charm are not up to par for a city like Tokyo. When I first arrived and asked the Japanese where to go they would often say that there are western bars and Japanese bars or Izakayas. I am a big fan of Watami but I often long for a traditional western bar where you can walk around and meet others. However, even places like the Hub or Dubliners become old after a while and I believe that Tokyo should have more outstanding places yet I have only found a few. So here is a list of places I’m familiar with and would appreciate some comments on where else is worth a visit and being recommended to foreigners visiting Tokyo. After all, the movie “Lost in Translation” gave the impression that there is not much to do for foreigners and when they do get out they only go to Karaoke or small pubs (even though these places can be quite fun).

PUBS

1. The Hub – Every foreigner knows this place and it isn’t bad but gets tiring after going there from week to week. I find the Hub in Ikebukuro to be full of strange people and I prefer the one in Takadanobaba since it has a younger and more Japanese crowd.

2. The Black Sheep, Ikebukuro – Very small and not much fun in my opinion.

3. Dubliners, Shinjuku – Worth a visit but much like the hub and overpriced.

CLUBS

1. Gaspanic – The most famous foreigner bar/club yet full of strange people and they have signs which read “You must be drinking or leave!” This is illegal yet appropriate for a shady place like Gaspanic. They recently even put tables on the dance floor so we cannot dance and drink more.

2. Wallstreet – A shady Roppongi joint which has not been full for the past year since I’ve visited.

3. Lexington Queen – Full of shady people and gaijin groupies. Although this place has a reputation for attracting east european models. In the past year they have started charging top dollar for a dirty club.

4. Spacelab Yellow – A true club and I can say it is worthy of a city like Tokyo. Entry is expensive but worth it for an entire night of partying.

5. Genius – My personal favorite Club. Located in Ginza this place is a true club full of professionals (suit required most nights) and beautiful Japanese girls hoping to catch a rich executive. They have three floors and play 80’s and hip-hop. If you get there before 8:00pm it will be dead but only costs 2,000 yen instead of the after 8pm, 4,000 yen entry. The price has been changing recently so I’m not sure if these figures are correct. Definately my most recommended place.

In a nutshell, these are the places I patronized most except for the million small places around the city. In Tokyo I expected more but due to my travel experience, I may be overly-critical. My favorite club in the world happens to be in Acapulco, Mexico and is called “Andromeda.” It is situated on top of a big hill, small mountain and entry is only $20 for all the hard alcohol you can drink. Formal dress is required and they are strict about dress code. They have “stadium seating” with the dance floor below so everyone can see the dance floor. Behind the dance floor is a large screen which projects “club images” and also a huge glass window which looks over the ocean and city of Acapulco.

Another unfortunate aspect about Tokyo is that in many of the clubs the crowd faces the DJ and everyone dances alone like in a trance. I think it would be much more entertaining to dance together. I have come to realize that the DJ is now being positioned directly in the center so he is the focus of all attention. I still believe the DJ should stick to spinning records and let the patrons enjoy themselves without interfering. He or She has been elevated to a Godlike status in the club which I found strange. They play records and perhaps add a personal touch. I’m not refuting the importance of the DJ but come on, things have gotten too far.

3 Comments so far

  1. Matt Alt (unregistered) on December 19th, 2004 @ 11:26 pm

    I suspect the vast majority of Japanese Tokyoites head to “izakaya” rather than clubs for their evening’s entertainment, sharing little dishes of food and yakitori and such while they talk over sake and beer. As you suggest the best way to find these places is to cultivate Japanese friends and acquaintances to get in on the word of mouth, but more than a few gaijin (like me!) prefer places like that to the pub/club/roppongi scene, too. Izakaya are everywhere, they’re a great place to sample a wide variety of Japanese food, and a great place to kick back and socialize in a more “Japanese-y” non-expat setting. Some really famous ones include Iseya in Kichijoji and the “piss alley” shanties on the west side of Shinjuku station, but there are plenty of others all over the city. Grab some Japanese pals to help if you’re worried about being able to read the menus or to help with recommendations, and check ’em out for a change of pace!


  2. El Capitan (unregistered) on December 22nd, 2004 @ 8:08 am

    Hello.
    Just got back from Tokyo, was staying in Shinjuku. I agree totally with your article, check http://www.tokyopocketguide.com. Also, there is A FUCKING GREAT, bar/restaurant in Shinjuku called Soul Food. Its on the corner of Yaksuni-Dori, across from the Shinjuku Prince Hotel (PePe shopping center) on the second or third floor. There is a sign outside in English you can’t miss it. Its a hiphop themed club but still GREAT service and great food.


  3. Chris Connor (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

    I’ll tell you where to go for a good time.
    When in Tokyo and feeling “adventurous” you have to go to Iseya right at the steps of Inokashira Koen Park in Kichijoji. The drinks are plentifull and cheap and the atmosphere is hella-fun. Easy to make some drunken friends for the night. It’s basically a yaki-tori(chicken on a stick) place but you can get all kinds of meats and edamame(beans)as well. My friend did get a nasty case of food poisining from eating raw chicken liver, but thats all part of the adventure. We went there dozens of times and only happened once…I like those odds!

    Cheers.



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