Tokyo etiquette: You just gotta make it to your last train
Tokyoites take their last train, or shu den, very seriously. Most folks who live in the suburbs just don’t flag cabs home, even if you live within the Yamamote line. I think the only people who do board the exorbitant taxis are those who only have a short distance to go or are just too drunk to care.
It’s not uncommon for Tokyoites to set a reminder on their keitai, or mobile phones, that it’s time to leave for the station.
In which case, it’s perfectly fine to down your drink, throw down your share of the bill, and take off with a hurried goodbye.
Once, I was having yakitori with a bunch of peeps at Piss Alley in Shinjuku and one hapless dude suddenly realized his last train was going to pull up at 11.27pm and it was 11.20pm. Man, did he beat the hell outta there. As he was grabbing his backpack, he apologized for not paying the bill and someone else shouted after him, “It’s okay, your treat next time!”
On another occasion, I was walking towards Shibuya station with some friends after dinner and one guy piped up, “Sorry, it’s my last train. See you!” and sprinted off. Or some folks just don’t join for “one last drink” because they just have to go. I also heard that if those who do miss their shu den may actually either a) try to find another bunch of friends who are staying out all night or b) call a parent or sibling who drives to come pick them up. The capsule hotel is truly the last resort.
But once you get on that train, you can simply relax.