Tokyo Noir: Nightlife by the Neighborhoods

Nobody in Japan's capital city goes gently into that good night.

Here, three insiders—Joshua Cooper Ramo, Kit Pancoast Nagamura, and Nicholas Coldicott—share their ideal nocturnal itineraries.

Joshua Cooper Ramo: Azabu and Shibuya

9 P.M.: Bar Gen Yamamoto
Gen Yamamoto sits in a nondescript building off a side street. The first step inside is transporting—you won’t be able to take your eyes off the 500-year-old wooden countertop. But it’s the first sip that kills. The bar’s owner and eponym is capable of turning out a martini like none you’ve ever tasted, but be smart and ask for something seasonal. 1-6-4 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku; genyamamoto.jp.

12 A.M.: Sushisho Masa
One of the city’s most reliable secret sushi spots. Chef Masakatsu is a sort of minimalist. He lets the fish do the work, adding just a tiny grace note of lime juice or wasabi. Have him pick a sake to match the fish he’s got in-house that day. 4-1-15 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku.

3 A.M.: The Room
This Shibuya club is a masterful, workmanlike space for dancing and listening. It’s the residence of the leading mix masters of Tokyo’s acid jazz renaissance, and there’s nothing much better in the city than cranking along to the grooves of Shuya Okino of Kyoto Jazz Massive at the Room as you wait for the sun to rise outside. Daihachi-Toto Bldg. B1, 15-19 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya-ku; theroom.jp.

 

Kit Pancoast Nagamura: Aoyama and Roppongi

9 P.M.: Two Rooms Grill I Bar
Two Rooms’ open kitchen is a master class in sophisticated grilling, and the wine-pairing menu makes judicious use of the 1,800-bottle list. After dinner, nab a table on the terrace and watch the lights of Harajuku and Shinjuku gradually soften. Ao Bldg. 5F, 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku; tworooms.jp.

12 A.M.: Roku Nana
This bar is notoriously tricky to locate. It’s three flights up in an unmarked residential building, and there are no signs to let you know you’ve got the right place. The thrill of discovery is a curiously compelling reward, and the Yasumichi Morita– designed space—chandeliers inside the tables!—suits the midnight mood. Verde Roppongi 3F, 7-16-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku; 81-3/6438-9915.

3 A.M.: Fioria
If you’re the karaoke type, it’s hard to find a more over-the- top, only-in-Tokyo, lost-in–Bill Murray’s– fever-dream option than Fioria. Each of its 25 “saloons” boasts a unique theme, from “grotto” to “spa” (which features an actual footbath). Full Italian and Japanese dinner menus are available until 10 P.M., but even at 3 A.M. the à la carte fare is heads above the typical karaoke club grub. Goto Bldg. 3F, 5-1-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku; fioria.co.jp.

 

Nicholas Coldicott: Ebisu

9 P.M.: Gem by Moto
The queen of the craft-sake scene is Marie Chiba, manager of the 13-seat Gem by Moto. Chiba won’t serve a sake unless she’s been to the brewery, smelled the fermentation, and, ideally, helped with the production. The kitchen turns out a greatest hits of Japanese cuisine, from ramen to gyoza, all executed with flair. 1-30-9 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; fsknet.co.jp.

12 A.M.: Bar Odin
For a midnight palate cleanser, Takahiko Kikuchi makes an excellent julep using mint he cultivates under grow lights on the back of the bar. The real treats, though, are the old bottles he’s collected on his travels (including a Macallan whisky from 1876). For nibbles, Hokkaido deer curry is the house specialty. K-1 Bldg. B1F, 1-8-18 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; authenticbar.com.

3 A.M.: Bar Martha
You can’t enter if you are wearing sandals; don’t even think about taking photos; and if you speak any louder than a whisper, one of the bartenders will ask you to shush. It’s about as jolly as the Tom Waits song it’s named for. The payoff is an almost cinematic bar experience, sitting in a sepia-toned room of wood and whisky bottles as classic rock (on vinyl, naturally) wafts with impossible clarity from three-foot-tall Tannoys. 1-22-23 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku; martha-records.com.

See design director Alexander Spacher's photo tour of Tokyo at night »

Explore More in Travel

D
×

D = Exclusive content for American Express Platinum Card® Members

Content from the current issue of DEPARTURES is available only to Platinum Card® Members. If you would like to learn more about the benefits and rewards of the Platinum Card, please click here.

Learn More

Travel Guide: Stockholm

D
×

D = Exclusive content for American Express Platinum Card® Members

Content from the current issue of DEPARTURES is available only to Platinum Card® Members. If you would like to learn more about the benefits and rewards of the Platinum Card, please click here.

Learn More

No Time Like the Past: A Journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

D
×

D = Exclusive content for American Express Platinum Card® Members

Content from the current issue of DEPARTURES is available only to Platinum Card® Members. If you would like to learn more about the benefits and rewards of the Platinum Card, please click here.

Learn More

NYC's Best Small Health and Wellness Boutiques