21 Eclectic Bars in Tokyo

Japan, Tokyo Guide (D): 21 Eclectic Bars in Tokyo

Time to tap glasses and share laughs in Tokyo, a city of wondrous variety!  In this app is an insider's guide to 21 drinking bars, and places nearby that are worthy experiences (theatres, shrines, parks, shopping, etc).  Each bar offers unique vibes for all types.  From a classic Japan ambience to a hipster setting, your Nihon escapade awaits. Depending on how well-rounded you are, you may be able to enjoy all 21 eclectic bars in legendary Tokyo!
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Attractions Map

Guide Name: 21 Eclectic Bars in Tokyo
Guide Location: Japan » Tokyo
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (D))
# of Destinations: 21
Sight(s) featured in this guide: The Bar Base   The Night Watch   The Orange Room   The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon   DearStage   Alchemist   Nana (Golden Gai district)   Dubliner's Irish Pub   Good Life Lounge   San Francisco Peaks   Hub British Pub   300 Bar   Tip Top   Havana Cafe   Milwaukee Bar   Cona   GoldenBowl   Sugahara   Enjoy! House   What the Dickens!   Soul Sonic Boogie  
Author: Steven LeFever
Author Bio: Steven LeFever is from Guam. After high-school, he went to California State University, Long Beach, to study communications and theatre. After graduating, he wrote his first novel, BEAUTiFUL ESCAPADE, a slipstream fiction available at lulu.com. He later moved to Japan to teach English. He then co-created Tasty English, a YouTube series of comedic short films that teach English idioms. He is still in Japan, teaching, working on his second novel, and creating more independent film.
Author Website: http://Http://www.stevelefeve.tumblr.com
1
The Bar Base

1) The Bar Base

First on the list is The Bar Base because the bars are listed in order from the northernmost bar to the southernmost. To the east of Ikebukuro station, find this spot in a building on the second floor of a very attractive district.  It's ambience is quite simple, but you may be delighted by the nostalgic jazz, properly dressed bartender, friendly Japanese patrons, and most importantly, the drinks.  They have a wonderful selection, like the Japanese whiskey (Chichibu and Taketsuru, made by the founder of Nikka whiskey).  Another remarkable facet of this bar is the fresh juice cocktails: they have grape, grenadine, pear, strawberry, persimmon, and kinka (kumquat in English).  Mix the fruit juice of your choice with vodka, gin, or whiskey, and you'll be feeling like a sir/madam in no time.  Stay for a round or two, as the drinks range from 1000-1700 yen a pop, yikes!  Definitely the priciest bar on the list.  Afterwards, venture nearby to Namco Namja Town (indoor theme park in the Sunshine City complex), Kouchan (famous 60-year old sushi spot), Sega Center, or the many other interesting restaurants/shops all around this area.
2
The Night Watch

2) The Night Watch

Go to the 7th floor of Royal Plaza II on the west side of Ikebukuro station, and enter The Night Watch, a bar dedicated to Rembrandt, Netherlands' finest painter.  It may seem like you've entered 17th century Europe because of the baroque atmosphere.  Classic violin and piano plays.  It's dark with subtle illumination along the replica paintings and other collections of the man in honor.  The finest of utensils are showcased in a glass case, with some used for food, drink, and smoke.  The Night Watch, Rembrandt's most celebrated piece, is displayed prominently as the bar backdrop.  A famous self-portrait of him in his later years is to the side, as well as other masterpieces to adore.  Play the role of a noble lad and get a glass of the finest: Clynelish (14-year old scotch malt) and Yamazaki (12-year single malt whiskey) pierces with distinctive flavor.  Sample some beef jerky or any of the other tasty treats.  To really get in character, stop by the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre (Tokyo Geijutsu Gekijou), which is a short walk away.  It's a center for performing arts (music theatre, opera, and dance) and other art exhibitions, lectures, and workshops.      
3
The Orange Room

3) The Orange Room

There are three fantastic things about the Orange Room. One is the music: old school everything.  Old school rock transitions smoothly to blues...to jazz...and onto the next classical groove that can set the tone of your conversation.  Another great thing is that it's not too orange.  The themed color blends cleverly with a ruby red throughout this swanky, comfortable venue served by well-dressed people.  And third, the drink selection.  You name it, they most likely have it, and will pour a generous amount of alcohol in your 850 yen cocktail.  Great location in Asakusa close to a lot of other interesting places: there's Nakamise Street, where you can buy all the best traditonal souvenirs, and Sumida Park, a great place to see the beautiful cherry-blossoms during spring.   
4
The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon

4) The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon

Ride up to the 13th floor of the Gate Hotel in Asakusa and you will be graced by a spectacular chandelier, and a 270° view of the city.  Live classic piano is played in this nicely lit, proper establishment.  Such elegance is definitely fit for a date.  I recommend getting a table out on the terrace, where the guests seem more casual.  You'll be greeted by a nice zephyr floating about, but if it's too cold, heaters and blankets are available.  Look to your bottom left to catch a serene sight of Tokyo's oldest temple, Sensoji, a must-see during the day.  Fast forwarding in history, look straight ahead to enjoy Japan's tallest structure, the breathtaking Tokyo Sky Tree.  And if you're lucky enough, you may even be treated with the monument illuminating to a different color.   Enjoy a draft beer for 800 yen or a glass of wine for 1000, and perhaps some hors d'oeuvres from 630 to 1,580 yen.  They serve bistro-style French cuisine.  The shrimp/octopus/mushroom in ajillo sauce and the spicy liver terrine are exquisite.  Overall, a great place to experience, especially if you don't mind dropping a bit of cash.  Cocktails are 1000 yen and the food averages around 2000 yen.  Grab a couple rounds, some hors d'oeuvres, take a few pictures of the view, then venture to the many other attractive places right below.
5
DearStage

5) DearStage

To the west of Akihabara station, find this 3-story building on a sidestreet.  An interesting nightspot indeed. One you should definitely experience whilst in Japan, especially if you have otaku interests/curiosity.  Entrance fee is 1000 yen plus a drink.  You'll find yourself surrounded by cute Japanese girls all dressed in anime and American character cosplay.  If you come at the right time, you'll even catch girls on the bottom floor performing anime songs in pop-idol fashion. The show usually starts somewhere between 6:30pm-9:30pm.  The second floor is more of a lounge, and the third floor is where the bar is, which costs about 700 yen an hour to sit in.  I was graced by Raphael from the Ninja Turtles, The Joker, Sailor Moon, and...a Texas girl?  All in good fun, indeed.  The girls are very friendly, but lack English-speaking skills, so this is your chance to practice the mother language.  There's hardly ever any foreigner around, so do take the opportunity of immersing yourself in the otaku culture.
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Alchemist

6) Alchemist

To the east of Akihabara station, down a secluded street, and up a couple flights of stairs, you'll find Alchemist (アルケミスト), another bar with an enjoyable dose of otaku nature.  Much smaller and more relaxed than DearStage, with less girls and guests.  Yet, the place maintains Akihabara's famous anime theme, perhaps even moreso in some aspects.  Along the bar, you'll see an eclectic assortment of manga figurines.  Feel free to look around, mingle for 700 yen an hour, and listen to the dj playing anime music (trendy anime, old anime, game songs, vocaloid, etc) throughout the night.  There's a projector showing anime, and at the right time, you'll get to listen to lectures on otaku.  The menu is in Japanese, so just point to something and say, "Nani kore?", or simply ask for your desired drink with a Japanese accent.  Embrace your inner-nerd and talk to the delightful cosplay-dressed bartenders about the hottest manga trends.
7
Nana (Golden Gai district)

7) Nana (Golden Gai district)

Named after the original owner, a Japanese woman.  Nana was in love with flamenco music, as she influenced that passion in her bar.   She opened it 50+ years ago, being one of the oldest in the world of Golden Gai, a concentrated area with ramshackles of over 200 bars.  This mysterious and intriguing place is definitely an experience worth having in Shinjuku, let alone Japan.  Many of the bars add on a cover charge, but Nana doesn't.  The current owner, Ens, a patron of Nana's days, speaks English clearly and offers enjoyable conversation.  There's a painting of vintage Spain created by Niño, a Spanish painter, whom was also Nana's sweetness.  It's a sacred bar, as many famous flamenco dancers come from Spain just to pay respects.  They've etched their signatures on the painting and walls over the decades, helping to manifest the history of Nana.  Get an ice cold Sapporo beer for 600 yen, and vibe with Ens, the flamenco music, and the giraffe at the end of the bar.  Once the crowd picks up in this quaint and cozy place, bid farewell and be inspired by another nicely themed bar in Golden Gai.  
8
Dubliner's Irish Pub

8) Dubliner's Irish Pub

I've listed a chain British pub (Hub), so it'd balance out if an Irish pub was added as well.  On the Eastside of Shinjuku train station (the busiest station in Tokyo), walk into the first street, and dip into The Dubliner's Irish Pub.  It's very spacious and live.  You'll see all types of foreigners and natives mingling about, so flow with the crowd and find new companions.  St. Patricks is celebrated all year round, making the place quite green (and brown due to the wooden finish).  There's upbeat music and muted rugby on TV.  Order a Guinness or Kilkenny, and garlic toast, or whatever livens your senses.  The service is excellent, as they deliver food and drinks.  Prices aren't anything special (as is common in Shinjuku), but the well-priced Koreatown is a 10-minute walk away!  If you can make it in March, check the place out for drink specials and live music, as they celebrate the Gaelic spirit seriously.  When you're in the area, you may not want to miss the beautiful Gyoen National Garden, or the supremely entertaining Robot Restaurant.  Other DIP locations include Shibuya, Shinagawa, Ikebukuro, Akasaka, and Toronamon. 
9
Good Life Lounge

9) Good Life Lounge

About a 7-minute walk from Harajuku station, you can catch a good time at the classy Good Life Lounge.  This rectangular bar on the second floor can vibe you on with its chill music: a prime selection of reggae and island.  At about 9pm, the dj turns it up to all types of beats, mainly hip-hop.  There's very comfortable seating next to the wide windows, hence it also being a lounge.  Saunter around to see the paintings, with many of the art including Hennessy bottles.  Last order is at 3:30am; they allow you to lounge even longer, so you can wait until the first train that arrives around 5am.  I recommend a joywalk through the multicultural Yoyogi Park during the day (many festivals are held here), do some shopping around the famous Harajuku district, then swing by this spot.  The Good Life comes at a fairly decent price: 500 yen charge at the door (after 9pm), cocktails around 800 and tsumami (bar appetizers) around 1000.  They use fresh juices in their cocktails: a couple suggestions are the rum with pear juice, and the milk, tea liquer, and cointreau with persimmon juice.  Order some excellent seafood: kakifurai (deep-fried oyster) or spanish-style garlic-oil stew of prosciutto ham and shrimp, then kanpai to the good life.  
10
San Francisco Peaks

10) San Francisco Peaks

On the outskirts of Harajuku, dip into San Francisco Peaks: an authentic take of the Bay Area fused with the essence of Tokyo.  If you've never been, stop by to get a feel of the unique lifestyle.  Groove to soulful jazzy hip-hop and enjoy the atmosphere, as all the colors around seem to perform in unison, including some bright-seating and nature-themed artwork that embellishes the SF spirit.  Observe the 1970's hippie photos along the stairway to get to the bar balcony: a nice wooden finish overlooking a street intersection.  For beers, taste something new: baird numazu lager, sanktgallen apple cinnamon ale, or sanktgallen yokohama xpa (half-pints for 650 yen, US pints for 950).  If you're not a beer-lover, sample the dozens of spirits and other liquors.  Since it's also a restaurant, there's many different foods (burgers, steaks, omelettes, french toast, etc.) and delicious non-alcoholic beverages: a wide array of yogurt smoothies and perhaps the best cappucino I've ever had.
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Hub British Pub

11) Hub British Pub

Southeast of Harajuku station, you can find Hub.  Actually, you can spot the chain franchise all thoughout Tokyo, but this particular location is featured because of Harajuku being one of the best shopping districts in the world.  In between your shopping excursion, swing by Hub for happy hour (4 to 7pm).  It has a relaxing ambience that is much quieter than Dubliners (the other chain pub being featured).  The specials price from 190 to 440 yen: a nice selection of drinks like mojitos, soco gingerales, peach coolers, moscow mules, and much more.  They showcase soccer on the telly, accompanied with either the volume on or muted for satellite radio.  Whichever the case, the sound is at a comfortable conversation level.  Excellent service, and the food is good: I recommend the very tasty lamb skewers, or if you're looking for variety, try the party basket (fish&chips, fried chicken, and biscuits).  Fun is definitely to be had here, so stay for the entire happy hour, or extend your visit and enjoy a liter tower beer, or the seasonal drinks. 
12
300 Bar

12) 300 Bar

About a 15-minute walk from the emperor's palace (be sure to take a tour during the day!), walk southeast from Yurakucho station in Ginza, and find this spot, where everything is 300 yen!  It's a can't miss standing-bar, especially if you're single to mingle.  It's been long known that this is the place to hook-up, as long as you're a gentleman.  They play some really good r&b which complements your courage to start conversation.  If you're not looking for that kind of loving, you can definitely make lovely friends and leave the hooking up for the rest.  Most of the patrons are Japanese, and many speak English.  Even some of the bartenders are delighted to talk to gaijin, it's just the thing here.  Most foreigners are up in Roppongi, so take the opportunity of being the life of the party.  It's a generously sized bar, but as the night proceeds, it gets packed.  There's a mix of ages, birthday parties to crash, and candle nights to raise the intimate nature.  Try a Kirin stout and a chili salsa dog, then perhaps switch to a gin and tonic, or whatever appeals to you! There's actually another 300 Bar a 5-minute walk west in case you're curious to see how the crowd is there. Whichever the case, with the prices being quite reasonable in an expensive area, you can hang your hat and get a good bang for your buck.
13
Tip Top

13) Tip Top

Enjoy the much more mellow side of Roppongi at Tip Top, an octagon-shaped bar with an open-top aquarium.  Aquatic life always puts you in a good vibe, yes?  Besides that, it's interestingly themed towards being in a ship during the age of exploration.  Classic nautical-type art is displayed all about, making it feel like you are floating on the ocean venturing towards the next unknown continent.  With the exception of a few regulars, this bar doesn't seem to receive a lot of traffic.  Keep to your people or make new friends, choice is yours.  The drink selection puts a captain's liquor-room to shame, so feel free to get tipsy topsy.  They have it all, valued from 700 to 1500 yen.  For you high-rollers, there's ultra-premium champagne: Don Perignon for 35000 yen and Krug for 45000.  Try a mojito for 900 yen, grab pizza or buffalo wings for 500 yen, and enjoy a variety of small fish wafting around to see who you are.      
14
Havana Cafe

14) Havana Cafe

Right down the street from Tip Top, you'll find Havana Cafe, a spacious cuban-themed bar with an amazing happy hour.  Surprisingly, not a lot of people seem to flock to this opportunity.  From 4 to 7 pm, get a mojito for only 300 yen!  If you like tequila, try a mexicola for only 200 yen, or a glass of wine for the same price.  Or if you want to keep it classy (without the extravagant price of class), gin and tonics are a whopping 100 yen.  Yes, you heard right.  The list goes on.  500 yen margaritas, 200 yen beers, 100 yen bulldogs.  And let's not leave out the happy hour food: I recommend shrimp taquitos for 500 yen or 400 yen champignon al ajillo (mushrooms and slices of sausage in olive oil, dry sherry, parsley, etc.) that sizzles even after it arrives.  They are conservative portions, though, so if you're hungry, hit the hearty food on the regular menu.  The music remains loyal to the ambience: salsa, tango, flamenco, reggae, etc.  Wonderfully in high spirits to keep you and your friends in a good mood.  Guests are mostly local, and servers are quite attentive.  You might as well start your night off in the world of Havana, and thereafter, venture back into The Heart of the Rising Sun.
15
Milwaukee Bar

15) Milwaukee Bar

Here's the district for the party animal.  Roppongi is infamous for being Tokyo's party central, where Gaien-Higashi-dori, the main strip, could give you an overwhelming hype, so if you're not down with that, you might want to visit Tokyo Tower to the east, or the mellow Irish and English pubs close by.  Be sure to dodge the flock of people trying to get you in their strip club.  If this IS the recipe for you, start your Roppongi night at the Milwaukee Bar.  It has a nice midwestern theme, housed by brick walls, neon lights, U.S. memorabilia, and loads of fun: billiards, darts, a long-list of drinks, game machines, foreigners and locals, DJ grooves, and much more.  You can bounce between all the other madness to be had elsewhere, or on the weekend, you can camp out here until 1pm the next day.
16
Cona

16) Cona

Good pizza in Tokyo seems to be hard to find, so come to Cona in Shibuya for delicious pies at only 500 yen.  Most drinks and foods are the same price, with sangrias for 350!  Time to get friendly in this narrow standing-bar.  That shouldn't be a problem, as they invite you and your friends to bring the energy via sociable music and the "High Tension Please!" tagline ("High tension" is translated to be a good thing in Japan).  It may get packed on the weekends, especially when there's a tall order of fire-oven-heated pizzas, but the guests don't usually stay too long.  They offer a wide-range of drinks (tequila, vodka, gin, highball, shochu, whisky, sake, etc), with cassis, campari, and dita for the sweet-tooth.  And if you want to get really turned up, there's quite the selection of reds, some whites, moet, and even Dom Perignon himself.  The hot pizza sellers are margherita and anchovie/black-olive.  I'd personally recommend the german potato, chorizo, and hawaiian.  For an extra 100 yen, you can get half and half.  If anything, just choose a picture on the menu that suits you best, and be sure to request for chili oil to really spice up each slice! 
17
GoldenBowl

17) GoldenBowl

This is definitely a place the tourist usually wouldn't hear about.  GoldenBowl (showcased in katakana as ゴールデン ボール) is a small local spot, and is featured because of their great takoyaki and yakisoba.  The yakisoba is a cut above most that you will find, and the takoyaki is rooted in the way Osaka makes them: the birthplace of these delicious delights.  And the drinks cannot be beat, with many that cost only 400 yen.  I recommend a highball: whiskey and liquid gold (Japanese energy drink), or shochu mixed with a unique flavor (hot calpis, okinawa tea, etc).  Watch some local sports programs and enjoy a few rounds with the friendly staff and regulars.  Just go right from Shibuya station, walk a block or two, cut left into the street, and it's on your left.
18
Sugahara

18) Sugahara

Sugahara (すがはら) bar is a way to experience traditional Japanese class, even before you enter.  Walk through a bamboo-filled pathway, go past the shoji (Japanese style door), take your shoes off, and find yourself in this intimate bar.  Look around and notice the Nihon nuances.  The prices are a bit on the high-end, but I'd recommend this place for the exclusive couple, or a group of 6.  They have special private rooms for both respective parties upstairs (1000 yen table-fee for each guest) with a well-lit traditional ambience.  Definitely pay this place a visit if you are a scotch-lover: over 20 selections aged as old as 16 years for 1100 yen.  Or, you may want to completely indulge yourself in Japanese lifestyle with 12-17 year old sake for 1200 yen.  For food and tsumami (bar snacks), I recommend wasabi crackers for 500 yen, shishamo (willow leaf fish) for 700 yen, or the chef's signature curry for 1200 yen.
19
Enjoy! House

19) Enjoy! House

Hipsters unite in Ebisu!  Go about 6 minutes northwest from the station and discover Enjoy! House, a very funky kickback spot.  It's a prime example of a cool and comfortable place.  There's a lot to admire: pieces of art, balloons, plants, christmas lights, novelty items, all eclectically scattered about.  Turn the cheek and catch a surprise.  Random, yet real.  The feel has a groovy take on contemporary Japanese culture.  It's a bit outside of the main streets, so it's likely that you won't find tourists at this spot.  It seems like only the cool Japanese cats know about here.  I heavily recommend Ebisu, and 'Enjoy! House' should not be missed.  The other half of the house has a dancefloor and a dj playing some Ethiopian-rooted hip-hop.  It's pretty interesting, people sway in place laughing about their day.  Move and shake, feel completely free, drink an amaretto/ginger ale, a mango beer, eat something from the picture menu, and of course, enjoy. 
20
What the Dickens!

20) What the Dickens!

What the what?  The Dickens!  Only a 3-minute walk from Ebisu station, head northwest into the vibrant streets, and catch a goodfeel crowd in this British pub.  It's the most intimate compared to the other two chain pubs featured in this app (Hub and Dubliners), with another Dickens! in Shibuya.  One remarkable facet is the mix of age and ethnicity: young people, older people, an excellent guy/girl ratio, Japanese and foreign, all having a ball on these two floors, in groove with the local bands.  Feel free to sit, to dance, or be a social butterfly.  It's an everchanging fun and friendly vibe, as different bands are featured throughout the days (check the schedule on the website, or be spontaneous).  The set-up is like a Victorian loft; memorabilia, Charles Dickens manuscripts, and pictures are featured everywhere.  If you haven't, try an Yebisu Creamy Top (not just my favorite dark beer, but my favorite beer overall), which can be hard to find elsewhere.  If you don't like the darkside, there's a solid list of other tasty brews tagged with their home flags (half hailing from Britain!).  You can also snack on pub-style food, but I'd recommend eating somewhere else nearby, just to soak up more of Ebisu :)
21
Soul Sonic Boogie

21) Soul Sonic Boogie

Bring yourself back in time by heading west of Ebisu train station.  The music and ambience make this place.  Songs here are lovely: Blues, jazz, oldschool r&b, rock&roll, accompanied with music videos (most of them black-and-white live performances).  You will be delighted at what comes on, and I wouldn't be surprised if you sing along.  Great place for couples, or with someone you're trying to get to know.  You can even choose your choice of soul via the jukebox.  SSB pays proper homage to the most soulful: there's pictures/posters/figurines of greats from the 50's to the 80's.  The vibrant, colorful lighting along the bar backdrop adds a significant dose to a completely relaxing environment.  There's an amazing assortment of drinks: point to what you feel like, or browse upon the pages.  If you want something sweet, try the Captain Tropical Breeze.  If you like it spicy, they have Absolut Pepper.  The experience wouldn't be complete without soul food: chili beans, shrimp fritter, gumbo, etc.  It's also a great place for the party pack.  With 6-20 people, bring 2500 yen downstairs, and boogie down with unlimited wine and soft drinks.  Or bring the party to the other Boogie location in Roppongi.

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