Life in and
around the skyscrapers of Tokyo moves at a well-oiled clip, with an energy that
borders on the manic, and never more so after the sun has set and the neon is
switched on. Discover the best of Japan’s capital after dark.
A night at an izakaya (a pub that serves food, with a selection of sake on
offer) is a quintessential Tokyo experience. Ippo is a mellow little place with
a counter, a few small tables and a sign outside in English saying ‘fish &
sake’. Daily menus change to match the best of the season’s ingredients (00 81
3 3445 8418; 2F 1-22-10 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; from 6pm; mains from £6).
Take a seat
at a low table or log bench at Hayashi above the Lotus Palace restaurant in the
smart district of Akasaka. The 100-year-old feel is no accident – fittings come
from an old farmhouse in the Takayama mountains. Kindly staff grill yakitori
(chicken and vegetable skewers) over hearths set into your table (4F Akasaka Sanno Kaikan, 2-14-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku; closed Sun; dishes from £3,
yakitori set £10).
pictures of Uma Thurman in a yellow jumpsuit may remind you, Gonpachi is the
place that inspired the Lucy Liu sequence in Kill Bill. It isn’t your typical
neighbourhood izakaya, but the décor, with plenty of wood and hanging lanterns,
is undeniably traditional. Book early for a booth on the second floor
overlooking the crowd below, or head up to the third floor for sushi (1-13-11 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku; tempura plate £10).
Bars with a view
Towering over the city from the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt, the New York Bar
serves magnificent views of the twinkling lights below, complemented by strong
drinks and live jazz. Film fans will recognise it as the bar where Bob and
Charlotte meet each night in Lost in Translation (3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku; cocktails from £14, evening cover charge £17).
Senso-ji in the Asakusa district, with its pagoda and shrines, is Tokyo’s
best-loved temple. Spend the day here before crossing the Sumida River to the
Asahi Super Dry Building on the other side to pay your respects at a different
altar in the Asahi Sky Room, serving Asahi brews. The venue itself isn’t
particularly noteworthy, but the view is, especially at sunset (00 81 03 5608
5277; Asahi Super Dry Building, 1-23-1 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku; beer from £4).
artists Leiji Matsumoto designed the Jicoo Floating Bar, a spaceship-like
cruise ship that doubles as a bar with a clubby vibe in the evening. At 8pm,
the boat leaves Hinode pier for the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, with its
1990s vision-of-the-future skyline filling the big viewing windows. The ship
continues to shuttle back and forth until 10.30pm, docking at either end on the
hour and half-hour (Thu-Sat; admission £19, cocktails
Only in Tokyo
Tokyo’s biggest pop phenomenon takes the girl group prototype and expands it
far beyond the five-girl standard that proved successful for the Spice Girls.
AKB48 has not 10, not 20, but over 60 members, and they perform in shifts at
their own theatre in the heart of the Akihabara district (8F Don
Quijote 4-3-3 Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku; tickets £15 for women, £23 for men).
30 over-the-top, imaginatively themed private karaoke rooms at Lovenet, ranging
from the more modest Arabian Suite to the Aqua Suite, whose drawcard is the hot
tub from which guests can warble their favourite tunes. Order food and drinks
via intercom to keep the vocal chords well lubricated (3F,
Hotel Ibis, 7-14-4 Roppongi, Minato-ku; private suite from £30 per hour).
Over 300 tiny bars are crammed into Golden Gai, a small block of alleyways east of Shinjuku station. It’s an atmospheric
vision of raffish pre-boom Tokyo. Although most of the bars, perhaps seating
just six people, cater to established customers, you can try Araku (G2 Street),
Albatross (5th Avenue) or La Jetée (3rd Avenue) – all
bars that welcome English-speaking newbies (seating fee from £2.50).
Where to stay
Sawanoya Ryokan is a great budget find in expensive Tokyo. Situated in the
quiet district of Yanaka, it has friendly staff and all the typical ryokan
(traditional Japanese inn) hospitality you’d expect (2-3-11
Yanaka, Taito-ku; from £80).
Granbell Hotel is priced like a business hotel but is certainly a step above in
terms of style. Rooms have glass-enclosed bathrooms, beds you’ll sink into and
Pop-Art curtains (15-17 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku; from
Mandarin Oriental Tokyo has exquisitely decorated suites and Michelin-starred
restaurants. The highlights here are the atrium lobby and grand views from the
rooms (2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku; from £320).
All Nippon Airways, BA, JAL and Virgin Atlantic fly direct to Tokyo’s Narita
International Airport (from £750).
flights go to the more central Haneda Airport. It is often £100–£200 cheaper to
fly non-direct via airports in Europe or Asia with airlines including Austrian
Airlines and Finnair.
subways cover all of Tokyo. Although they’re run by different companies, you
can use Pasmo or Suica smart cards on almost all lines (minimum input from £8).
taxis are shown by a red light; a green light means a 20 per cent late-night
The article 'Mini guide to Tokyo’s nightlife' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.