In Tokyo, the clubbing scene is, well, a major scene. There is no shortage of pulsing night clubs with world renowned DJs that party on until the wee hours in this energetic city. However; if you’re in the mood for bars that offer eclectic cocktails, distinct vibes, and are a little harder to find, we’ve got you covered.
Whether it’s a clandestine local haunt that you’re looking for, or a well known (but still off-the-beaten-path) institution, these five bars will serve as a reminder of just how dynamic Tokyo’s nightlife can be.
The fact that this aptly-named Minato District bar is hidden behind an unmarked door in the Aoyama shopping complex isn’t even the coolest thing about the hip drinking hole. Step inside Wall, and you’ll come face-to-face with a floor-to-ceiling wall, made entirely of plants and flowers, right behind the bar. It’s the perfect thing to gaze at while you sip a smooth Japanese whiskey, and contemplate the customers in the store next door (Costume National) who have no idea what lies on the other side of the shelves.
Located in the heart of bustling Shibuya, Bar Martha is what we’d call a listening bar. You go for the music (expect an epic sound system and a huge vinyl collection) and you stay for the cocktails—raw ginger Moscow mules and mango mojitos, to name a few.
A zoetrope is a 19th-century pre-film animation device, so it’s only fitting that Zoetrope Tokyo is film-themed. Enter this whiskey-centric bar on a secluded backstreet in Nishi-Shinjuku and find over 300 varieties of whiskey. On some evenings, owner Atsushi Horigami will even screen old movies to accompany the regular bar service.
The Open Book
Nestled on Shinjuku's Golden Gai, The Open Book is ideal for those looking to sip an elegant Japanese lemon sour while diving into a classic title. The walls of this well-lit space are lined with books (old and new), and the rustic wooden shelves and bar makes the whole thing feel like a librarian’s secret hideaway closet. Breathe in the lemon-zesty air and drink in this atmosphere alongside the homemade cocktail—both are different from any other you’ll encounter in Tokyo.
Star Bar Ginza
Dark wood accents, sleek leather and low lighting yield a distinctly speakeasy-style vibe in Star Bar Ginza, which is well-worth the modest 1,000-yen cover. Smartly-dressed bartenders carve sparkling iced cubes—so sparkling, in fact, that you can’t even see them in your glass—by hand. They also whip up both classic cocktails (a side car is a good place to start) and Star Bar signatures. The atmosphere is quiet, the service is top-notch, and the cocktails are prepared with expert attention to detail.