There is no better way to end a long day of sightseeing in Tokyo, Japan than with cold sake, a Japanese cocktail or craft beer. As luck would have it, there are a multitude of Tokyo bars where tired tourists can sip, swirl and chug. Since we were cramming our days full of top tourist attractions and neighborhood navigation, we veered away from Tokyo nightlife that crept into the wee hours of the morning. Instead, we steered ourselves to the best bars in Tokyo for an afternoon beer or an evening cocktail.
The bars in Tokyo are as intriguing and unique as the city itself. One thing Tokyo bars are not, however, is cheap. Being conscious of our budget, we were eager to find cool bars in Tokyo where we could grab a drink and revel in the atmosphere without breaking the bank. As experience-driven travelers, we sought out local drinking holes, but couldn’t resist checking out some of the top Tokyo nightlife for foreigners too.
The Best Bars in Tokyo, Japan
Our list includes a range of Tokyo bars that we visited – from classic Tokyo pubs to bars-with-a-view to sake tastings. To help other travelers find their way to our recommended places to drink in Tokyo, we included a map link, as well as a Tokyo Bar Map at the end of the post. To give you more than just our opinion, we also provide links to reviews.
Golden Gai Tokyo: The Best Bars in Shinjuku
The Shinjuku bars at Golden Gai provide some of the best nightlife in Tokyo. There are nearly 200 Golden Gai bars jam-packed into six narrow alleys. Most of the themed establishments are small – only accommodating a handful of patrons at one time. The quirkiness of Golden Gai is why people rank these the best bars in Shinjuku…and in all of Tokyo. Some places charge a cover to enter (which should be clearly marked on the door) and a few ban tourists from entering (so if you see No Foreigner signs keep walking). It is important to note that these Shinjuku nightclubs don’t open until after 9:00pm, so plan accordingly.
Golden Gai Best Bars
We arrived with a list of the best bars in Golden Gai, only to find the recommended establishments closed. We chucked the list and wandered the alleys on our own, allowing our intuition to lead us through Golden Gai Shinjuku. As we bar hopped our way from place to place, we discovered two bars that were absolute gems: Diamond Bar and Deathmatch in Hell.
The young, chatty bartender was matching shots with her barstool regulars. A group of British lads were kicking off a stag night. A very merry local, who was solo, sang as many karaoke songs as beers he ordered. It was the jovial atmosphere that drew us into Diamond Bar – and the epic entertainment is why we stayed for more than one round. Map | Reviews
DEATHMATCH IN HELL
Deathmatch in Hell is a Tokyo rock bar in Golden Gai. Not a bar we would normally stumble into, it was the two open seats and the scent of popcorn that lured us in. Heavy metal music blared from the speakers and every inch of the tiny bar was decked out with cult-classic movie posters and DVDs. Despite not being fans of either, we were warmly welcomed by the friendly bartender and were soon chatting with fellow bar mates. Map | Reviews
Golden Gai Tour
Want a guide to lead you to the best bars in Golden Gai? Join a highly-rated night tour on Viator.
Sake Bar Tokyo
Sampling Japan’s national beverage, Sake, is an absolute must when visiting Tokyo! Although the fermented rice wine is readily available in bars and stores, many visitors (like us!) don’t know where to start. Sweet or dry? Hot or cold? Understanding sake helps novice drinkers have a more enjoyable sake experience.
MEISHU CENTER SAKE
To get an informal introduction to sake, we visited the Meishu Center Sake. After being briefed by the bartender, we perused the selection of sake available for sampling. Using the helpful tags that indicated sweetness levels, we selected six bottles for our tasting and took them to our table. As the bartender poured each glass, he explained a little more about our choices. Top Tip: Samples cost as little as 200 yen (but go considerably higher); choose three samples and get a 100-yen discount. Map | Reviews
Tokyo Craft Beer
As fans of hoppy craft beers, we were stoked to find several Tokyo craft beer bars serving up pints of locally crafted suds. Ahead of the curve (as they often are in Japan), craft beer has been brewing in Japan since the 1990s. Mass-produced Asahi still reigns king in Tokyo, but bars dedicated to craft beer are a solid part of the Tokyo bar scene.
CRAFT BEER BAR IBREW
Ginza bar Craft Beer IBREW features multiple rotating taps and a chill vibe. The small, cozy space has seats at the bar and tables in the back. As I tend to be indecisive when it comes to selecting just one beer, I was happy to see Beer Flights at IBREW. Rather than ordering a full pint, I selected three samples and conducted my own taste-test. Map | Reviews
TWO DOGS TAPROOM
One of our favorite Roppongi bars, Two Dogs Taproom is a laid-back American-style taproom. The comfortable space is spread out over two floors. The daily brew selection is printed on a flyer and food is also available (we didn’t try the pizza, but it looked amazing!). Map | Reviews
Old-School Tokyo, Japan Nightlife
We were enamored by the traditional drinking establishments in Tokyo. In fact, we think small standing bars and historic pubs are the best bars in Tokyo for visitors to get a true sense of the Japanese drinking culture. While not all establishments are welcoming to foreigners, there are plenty of places that are happy to serve a diverse clientele. The traditional bars are our favorite kind of Tokyo nightlife.
A legendary establishment, Kamiya Bar ranks as one of our favorite places to drink in Tokyo. The old-school beer hall dates to 1880 and holds the title of being Tokyo’s oldest Western-style bar. Frequented by both locals and tourists, the bright open space, shared tables, lackluster decor and casual vibe are reminiscent of VFW canteens in America (minus the flags, of course).
The drink-of-choice at Kamiya Bar is their signature Denki Bran – or Electric Brandy. The classic Tokyo cocktail is a house-secret blend of brandy, gin, wine, curacao and herbs. Beware: the tasty concoction goes down easy. Another Kamiya classic is a liter – yes, an entire liter – of draft Asahi beer. Many guests – ourselves included – ordered one of each, but if you go that route, we recommend ordering a few snack plates, too. While Kamiya Bar serves up a punch with its drinks, it is soft on the wallet; Denki Bran is less than 300 yen a glass and a liter of beer is just over 1000 yen, both incredibly cheap by Tokyo standards! Map | Reviews
Known as the place for yakitori in Tokyo (and featured on our list of What To Eat in Tokyo), Omoide Yokocho is also an iconic spot for a cold beer at the end of a long day. Patrons squeeze into the hole-in-the-wall eateries to have an afterwork beer and snack of grilled meat on a stick. In fact, in Omoide Yokocho – also known as Memory Lane and Piss Alley – eating yakitori and drinking beer go hand-in-hand, as one is rarely ordered without the other.
The historic restaurants at Omoide Yokocho date to the late-1940s, blossoming out of the post-war wreckage. Today, the crowd is a mix of tourists with tired feet and salarymen (white-collar workers) on their way home from work. Map | Reviews
SHINSHU OSAKE MURA
A difficult bar to find, seeking out Shinshu Osake Mura proved to be well-worth our effort. The standing-only, no-frills bar – whose name translates to Alcohol Village – felt about as local as local gets. It was full during our rainy, Saturday afternoon visit; and we were the sole gaijin at the bar. While tempted to try a sake set, we instead each opted for a bottle of Shiga Kogen – a popular Japanese craft beer that had been recommended to us.
Shinshu Osake Mura offers both canned/bottled craft beer and two tap beers. Both craft beer and sake are for sale for on-site consumption, as well as for take-away. On top of it all, the alcohol is sold at extremely affordable prices…you just have to find the place! Map | Reviews
Lined with restaurants that spill out into the lane, Hoppy Street has a lively atmosphere and fun-loving crowd. Located in the Asakusa district to the west of Sensoji Temple, the street is 80 meters long and attracts both locals and tourists. The street is named after the drink, “Hoppy,” which is a cheap, alcoholic mixer that is blended with shochu – that all of the bars sell. The establishments on Hoppy Street are also known for cooking delicious stew; each restaurant serves its own version of beef soup to hungry guests. It’s important to note that while it is fun to bar hop down Hoppy Street, most places charge a table fee. Map | Reviews
Rooftop Bar Tokyo
There are numerous Tokyo rooftop bars that dot the city, allowing patrons a bird’s-eye view of the modern city. Many of the high-in-the-sky bars offer posh and upscale experiences. We, however, just wanted the view – and, in our quest, we found some of the best rooftop bars in Tokyo.
ASAHI SKY ROOM
Located on the 22nd floor of the Asahi Brewery headquarters, the Asahi Sky Room offers panoramic views of the city. It is free to enter the Sky Room, but drinks need to be purchased. Beers are about 600 yen, and naturally only Asahi beers are available, but the view is phenomenal. Map | Reviews
The Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center sits across the street from the Sensoji Temple Thunder Gate. From the 8th level, open-air viewing platform, guests have a perfect view of the gate, Nakamise shopping street and the temple. Attached to the platform is an enclosed café where guests can linger over a coffee, beer or cocktail with a view. As if that wasn’t good enough, from 5:30 to 7:00pm, the café offers select drinks at happy hour prices. Map | Reviews
Tokyo Happy Hour Bar
Drinking in Tokyo is rarely ‘cheap,’ so we get a little giddy when we find happy hour deals. We discovered limited happy hour details online and found it was best to inquire further when we spotted a happy hour sign.
MISTRAL BLEU TRAIN BAR
When we think of Roppongi nightlife, we don’t immediately think of happy hours. However, Mistral Bleu is one of the best bars in Roppongi – and they have an exceptional happy hour. The Tokyo pub is the size of a train carriage, so it fills up quickly. But, it’s worth popping by for their daily happy hour from 6:00pm (opening time) until 9:00pm when all drinks are 500 yen. Map | Reviews
Off-The-Beaten-Path Bars in Tokyo
As much as we like the boisterous atmosphere at the most happening bars in Tokyo, we also enjoy finding places that are completely off the radar. Every district in Tokyo has these bars, but as travelers, we sometimes pass over these quaint spots.
Dimly lit and quiet, Bar Bonzo is the perfect bar to sip on a glass of Japanese whiskey and savor the reprieve from the sights and sounds of the city. Located on the east side of the Sumida River near the Kasuga Dori Bridge, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend someone going out of their way to track down this specific bar. However, we do encourage travelers to seek out neighborhood haunts in the places they visit. Map
Tokyo Beer Museum: Yebisu Beer
Tokyo Pub Crawl
Japan visitors can use our Tokyo Beer Guide to create an epic Tokyo bar crawl – or meet fellow travelers and join a guide in one of the Tokyo Pub Crawl tours on Viator.
Tokyo Bar Map
We Want To Know: What are your favorite Tokyo bars? Any hidden gems or must-see spots? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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