Edited by Elodi Troskie
About 18 years ago I came to Tokyo to visit a friend. Long story short, I ended up getting married here and even after moving back to Europe, I realized Japan is the place I really want to be! If I had to describe Tokyo in one sentence, it would be as a city that never sleeps, never stops moving and never ceases to amaze you. The nightlife in Tokyo is incredible. You'll always find something to do no matter the time of day or night. So if you're looking for a party scene, you'll have a ball in Tokyo. Here are my recommendations for the best things to do in Tokyo at night to feel like a Tokyoite!
Dine at one of Tokyo's favorite local or chain eateries
Tokyo's food is a world unto its own. I love trying local Japanese dishes and exploring the new Tokyo restaurants that constantly pop up all over the city. There are so many places to eat in Tokyo that it's impossible to pick a favourite!
A few of my recommendations for good Japanese food are Sushi Zanmai and Ippudo for ramen. These are chain restaurants, but they offer fantastic food at reasonable prices. Another couple of chain restaurants that Tokyo locals adore are Yoshinoya, famous for its gyudon (beef bowl), and Ootoya, where you can enjoy a wholesome teishoku, or set meal.
And if you're looking for something a bit different, do check out Moz Burgers, a Japanese fast-food chain known for its delicious and creative burgers. There's also CoCo Ichibanya, which offers a customizable curry experience that can suit all tastes and preferences.
These eateries are generally more affordable than upscale restaurants like Peter at the Peninsula, which I'd highly recommend if you're willing to splurge a little on a night out. And if you're looking for vegan or vegetarian options, I'd suggest Mr. Farmer in Shibuya. They have a few branches in different locations in Tokyo, and they're committed to serving great food using only fresh produce.
Dive into Tokyo's culinary scene: from street food to traditional delicacies
Street food is one of my favorite things about Asian food culture, and Japan is no exception! Street food is not only the most affordable way of eating in Tokyo, but it's also a great way to experience local culture. My top recommendations for must-try foods in Tokyo are sushi, ramen, soba noodles with tempura, shabu-shabu, and yakitori. And sake, of course! Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, setting it apart from regular udon noodles made of thick white wheat. I like to order it on the side of tempura. Shabu-shabu is a traditional Japanese hotpot dish consisting of thinly sliced meat served with vegetables. Yakitori is a very common Japanese street food dish where chicken, seafood, or vegetables are served grilled on a skewer. Yanaka Ginza, Togoshi Ginza, and Ueno Park are really good areas to go for street food in Tokyo.
Let loose at a karaoke bar
Karaoke is an integral part of Japan's nightlife – definitely, a top pick if you're looking for fun things to do in Tokyo at night! My husband and I love going to karaoke bars when we have a night out in Tokyo City. One of our favorite places is BAR Queen's-Q in Roppongi, which also has a karaoke room. Karaoke Kan is a very popular bar in the Shibuya district, made famous by the movie Lost in Translation. Big Echo Karaoke is another popular one in the Ginza district, known for its Hello Kitty-themed rooms and all-you-can-drink specials. Most karaoke bars work on the principle of paying for 30-minute blocks, for which prices range from as little as ¥100 and going up to ¥400 during peak hours over weekends. There is also the option of paying for free time, which means that there is no limit to the time you can spend in your karaoke room. Prices for free time usually start around ¥1000.
Connect with locals
The best way to immerse in the culture of a foreign city is to hang out with locals – the most enriching experience you can have! Besides, locals will be able to tell you much more about their home city than any travel guide. Locals' favorite hangout spots are usually hidden away from locations already ‘found' by tourists. When you walk down the street in Tokyo, watch out for small restaurants and bars that don't necessarily look like anything special: minimal décor, no signage, and little to no street-side marketing to invite you inside. These places are Tokyo's real hidden gems! You'll find great food and drinks and even better local company. My suggestion would be to hang out with Japanese locals in this way at least one night out of your time in Tokyo, which will leave you with plenty of time to explore the destinations more popular on the many Tokyo tours available.
Splurge at the Peninsula Hotel
If you want to spend a little more on a night out in Tokyo, head to the Peninsula Hotel. Peter at the Peninsula is an upscale bar and restaurant where you'll pay for the experience and view just as much as the delicious food itself. Located on the 54th floor of the building, you'll have a spectacular view of the Imperial Palace, especially at night. The restaurant offers a fine dining experience like no other, and the bar has some of the best cocktails in all of Tokyo. Even if you don't stay for dinner, I definitely recommend spoiling yourself with a cocktail or two while enjoying the incredible view of the sun setting over Tokyo's skyscrapers.
Tokyo's Roppongi district, with its lively bar-hopping scene, is probably my favorite city area. People are often overwhelmed by its chaos, but that's nothing to be scared of! It may be a little crazy, but as a local, I always have a lot of fun in Roppongi. The bars and restaurants in Roppongi cater to the younger and more mature crowd, so whether you're bar-hopping or settling in one spot, you're guaranteed to find something you like.
One of my favorite stops when I'm out bar-hopping in this area, is BAR Queen's-Q, which I mentioned earlier as well. This spot is ideal for a casual night out in Tokyo – you can play darts or pool, have a few drinks, order some bar food, and do karaoke.
When the night starts getting deeper, another great place to hit during your bar-hopping adventure in Roppongi is Mogambo Bar. It's perfect for late-night drinks and some more karaoke, really showcasing the vibrant and varied nightlife of Tokyo.
Ginza is the most stylish area in Tokyo. Shops and restaurants are somewhat on the higher end which means that this district generally appeals to the more mature crowd. I like going to Ginza when I'm feeling fancy and want to treat myself to a few classy cocktails! I'd recommend going to the New York Grill in Park Hyatt for their live music nights on Fridays.
For a truly unique Tokyo experience, you've got to visit Bar Gaslight Eve in Ginza. Known for its deliciously crafted cocktails and tempting snacks, it's the kind of place that welcomes you with its warm atmosphere. With its vibrant yet intimate setting, you'll quickly find yourself immersed in engaging conversations. So, if you're seeking a night out that feels authentic yet lively, Bar Gaslight Eve is your go-to spot!
Located in the Shibuya area, just a stone's throw away from the captivating Shibuya Sky observation deck, Omotesando is a shopping street that's often referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Like Ginza, Omotesando is generally a bit more expensive, but it's well worth exploring for its unique blend of luxury and style.
A great bar in Omotesando, particularly if you're wrapping up a visit to Shibuya Sky, is Two Rooms Bar & Grill. They serve really good cocktails, and the view from the outside seating area on the terrace is beautiful! It's a wonderful place to wind down and reflect on the panoramic city views you've just taken in from Shibuya Sky.
Another notable spot close to Shibuya Sky is Omotesando Hills, a massive shopping building that also houses a lot of really good cafes and restaurants. This is the number one luxury shopping location in Tokyo city, featuring international brands like Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Experience the nightlife in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district
When it comes to things to do in Tokyo at night, I can't help but recommend the electrifying energy of Shinjuku's Kabukicho district, conveniently situated near the always lively Shinjuku Station. As a local, I can tell you there's a unique buzz here that captures the essence of Tokyo nightlife like nowhere else, and Golden Gai, with its narrow alleys of tiny bars, is a highlight you mustn't miss.
One of my personal highlights in the district is Don Quijote, the sprawling and quirky discount store. This place offers a shopping experience that's truly extraordinary, even by Tokyo standards. You'll find yourself amidst bright neon lights, an eclectic range of products, and the pulse of vibrant Tokyo life. It's worth noting that this area was once home to the popular and wonderfully bizarre Robot Restaurant, adding a layer of intrigue to your visit.
After exploring the intriguing labyrinth that is Don Quijote, I suggest heading over to Golden Gai for a bit of bar hopping. This network of small, distinct bars offers a truly authentic taste of Tokyo's nightlife. Each bar has its own unique appeal, making your night out an essential Tokyo experience.
Just a stone's throw away from Shinjuku Station and Golden Gai is Omoide Yokocho, a hidden gem in the midst of the city's hustle. As a local, I've spent countless evenings nestled in this charming alleyway, indulging in the wide variety of yakitori stalls on offer. The perfect treat after a day filled with sightseeing. And if you still have energy to spare after your bar hopping in Golden Gai, Kabukicho, a hotspot in Tokyo nightlife, is home to a multitude of karaoke joints.
Visit the Tokyo Skytree at night for a panoramic view of the city
When considering things to do in Tokyo at night as a local, I would definitely suggest adding a visit to the Tokyo Skytree to your visitor's Tokyo bucket list. As one of the most popular tourist attractions, the nighttime view from this iconic landmark is truly breath-taking. The city sprawls out below you under a canvas of stars, illuminated by countless twinkling and neon lights. It's a unique perspective that brings Tokyo's vastness into view in a mesmerizing way.
Despite the city's bustling energy, the Tokyo Skytree offers a tranquil escape. Up there, with the illuminated cityscape beneath you, everything feels calm and serene. As a local, I often recommend this experience to visitors seeking a moment of quiet in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. The Tokyo Skytree should definitely be on your Tokyo night tour itinerary. After all, it's not just one of the most popular tourist attractions, it's a whole different way to appreciate the city!
Experience an izakaya (Japanese pub) night out
When you're pondering over things to do in Tokyo at night, an izakaya night out should definitely pop up on your list. It's a uniquely Japanese way to experience the local nightlife. Imagine a cozy pub scene, tantalizing food, and a diverse range of drinks - it's the ideal spot to unwind, exchange tales, and even embark on a mini pub crawl.
The beauty of it is that each izakaya is unique, boasting its own specialty dishes, ranging from mouth-watering skewers to fresh sashimi. And the drinks? Oh, they're varied too, with choices from traditional beer, to sake, and local shochu.
I'm quite fond of venturing over to Ameya Yokocho in Ueno, an inviting open-air market conveniently situated near Ueno Station. Nestled within the bustling market street, you'll find a cluster of Izakayas complete with outdoor seating. These spots make for a delightful hangout, where patrons can unwind with their drinks until the wee hours of the night.
Stroll around Odaiba seaside park and its illuminated attractions
When you're considering things to do in Tokyo at night, don't overlook the chance to experience the relaxed nightlife in Odaiba Seaside Park. This artificial island in Tokyo Bay magically transforms at night, with twinkling lights enhancing the charm of its famous tourist attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty replica and the awe-inspiring Palette Town's Giant Sky Wheel.
You can either chill out on the beach or marvel at the stunning view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo skyline all lit up. It's all quite mesmerizing. The peaceful vibe in Odaiba provides a calm sanctuary from the usual hustle and bustle of the city, making it a delightful addition to your Tokyo night escapades.
Enjoy the stunning teamLab Borderless digital art museum
If you're looking for things to do in Tokyo at night that are a bit different, I'd suggest a visit to the teamLab Borderless digital art museum, which is due to reopen in Toranomon-Azabudai in 2023. This isn't your ordinary museum – here, art goes beyond the usual confines. The interactive exhibits constantly shift, blend and react to visitors, creating a completely immersive experience.
You've got to check out the Forest of Resonating Lamps. It's a room filled with lamps that dance to the rhythm of your movements, creating a dynamic light show that's seriously impressive.
But teamLab Borderless is more than just a visual spectacle. It's about diving into the art, becoming part of it. It's an experience that could add a unique touch to your nighttime exploration in Tokyo.
Attend a live show in one of the many music venues around the city
If you're wondering about things to do in Tokyo at night and you're a music fan like me, then catching a live gig in one of Tokyo's numerous venues should be on your list. Tokyo is a real melting pot of music, serving up everything from J-Pop and rock to jazz. Being there, feeling the buzz of these venues, it's something you've got to do at least once - whether it's chilling to jazz tunes in the snug bars of Shibuya or grooving to catchy rhythms at a Roppongi concert.
If you're into jazz like I am, I can't recommend The Blue Note enough. It's a buzzing venue that hosts both local talents and international artists. But if you're more into rock or electronic beats, you might want to check out Liquidroom in Ebisu.
Going to a live gig is not only a fantastic way to dive into Tokyo's energetic nightlife, but it also gives you a flavor of the city's diverse music and entertainment scene.
Enjoy a night at a Japanese bathhouse (sento) or a hot spring (onsen)
Exploring further into Japanese culture, I'd highly recommend diving into the traditional world of bathhouses, known as 'sento', and hot springs, called 'onsen'.
An evening at a sento or onsen isn't just about cleanliness; it's a time for rejuvenation. You're immersed in warm water, surrounded by tranquility, participating in a ritual deeply rooted in Japanese lifestyle. This is more than a bath – it's a haven to unwind, contemplate, and step away from the city's constant energy.
Sento are common, public bathhouses found in urban areas, while onsen are natural hot springs, often private and nestled in more rural surroundings. Each carries its unique allure. Sento lets you peek into everyday local life, whereas onsen offers a chance to luxuriate in natural hot springs amid stunning landscapes.
Choosing to spend an evening in a sento or onsen could weave a thread of tranquility and rejuvenation into your Tokyo tour.
Explore the Tsukiji Outer Market, which stays open until late
For food enthusiasts or those intrigued by local food, the Tsukiji Outer Market is a must-visit during your Tokyo nightlife exploration, especially if you're interested in the walking tours Tokyo has to offer. This bustling food hub, once home to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market, offers a variety of stalls and vendors selling a gamut of seafood, produce, and Japanese specialties. It's the perfect place for a nighttime food tour. From fresh sashimi to grilled skewers and unique pickles, the market is not just a treat for the taste buds but an immersion into local life.
Take part in a traditional tea ceremony in Hama-rikyu Gardens
Shifting gears from the digital to the traditional, I'd suggest taking some time to partake in a tea ceremony at the serene Hama-rikyu Gardens. Nestled within Tokyo's busy pace, this peaceful spot, once home to a feudal lord, is like a tranquil oasis.
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is not just a cultural experience but a beautiful blend of aesthetics and mindfulness. As you sit in a teahouse overlooking the scenic gardens, you'll watch the mindful preparation and serving of the tea. This meditative practice invites you to slow down, savor the moment, and find beauty in the simple act of tea-making.
Participating in a tea ceremony is like stepping into a time machine, offering a quiet moment of reflection and a glimpse into an ancient tradition that is the heart of Japanese culture.
Visit a themed café or restaurant
When it comes to dining in Tokyo, let me tell you, it's not just about the food—it's a whole experience. And for a taste of the unique and unexpected, I'd recommend checking out the city's assortment of Japanese restaurants, each with their own distinctive themes and styles. Each spot crafts its own atmosphere and story, turning a meal into a truly memorable event, all while showcasing the quintessential Japanese style of blending tradition with innovation.
Perhaps start with a visit to a maid café, a very popular type of Japanese restaurant. Here, you'll be served by staff dressed in cute maid costumes, setting a scene straight out of an anime series. Or, if you're up for a bit of the extraordinary, you've got to try the Vampire Cafe. This place isn't just about dining, it's an experience - Imagine eating in a Gothic ambiance filled with dramatic decor, where the fun is not only in the meal but also in the captivating performances. If you fancy something a tad more secretive, a ninja restaurant or café might be right up your alley. Watch as servers clad in ninja gear weave their way through a maze-like interior, perfectly epitomizing the blend of history and fantasy that's so unique to Japanese restaurants.
Enjoy late-night shopping in Shibuya and Harajuku areas
If you're into late-night shopping in Tokyo, check out Shibuya and Harajuku. These neighborhoods, a blend of fashion and otaku culture, offer unique shopping experiences.
Shibuya, known for the bustling Shibuya Crossing, boasts a variety of stores. From luxury brands to local boutiques and otaku havens, don't miss out on Shibuya 109 for the trendiest picks.
A 20 minute walk from Shibuya Crossing, you'll find Harajuku, a hub for one-of-a-kind finds. Takeshita Street, the heart of this area, is teeming with boutiques offering vintage clothes, quirky accessories, and otaku-friendly souvenirs.
But remember, shopping in Shibuya and Harajuku is more than just buying. It's immersing in Tokyo's vibrant fashion and otaku culture. Take it from a local, it's worth the experience!
Go for a relaxing night cruise in Tokyo Bay
For those of you looking to balance out the vibrancy of Tokyo at night with a bit of tranquility, I can't recommend a night cruise in Tokyo Bay enough. It gives you a whole different perspective of the city and the nightlife.
From the deck of a cruise ship, you get to experience the magic of Tokyo at night, as the city lights up the night. The cityscape is simply mesmerizing, with all its lights twinkling and reflecting off the bay. The iconic view of the Rainbow Bridge, with its multicolored lights, adds to the vibrant scene of Tokyo at night.
But a night cruise is more than just the stunning city views. It's about the peacefulness that comes with being out on the water amidst the hustle of Tokyo at night. The gentle sound of waves, the cool sea breeze - it's a welcome break from the fast pace of city life.
So, if you're looking for an experience that's as serene as it is beautiful, consider spending an evening on a Tokyo Bay cruise. Experiencing Tokyo at night from this vantage point is a truly memorable way to see the city.
Attend a Japanese baseball game at the Tokyo Dome
If you're looking for something uniquely Tokyo, I'd recommend attending a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome, where the Yomiuri Giants play. It's not just about the sport; it's a way to dive into Japan's deep-seated passion for baseball.
When you're there, you'll find the crowd's energy is absolutely infectious. The cheers are perfectly timed, and the atmosphere is just electric. You'll see fans singing team anthems, and vendors weaving through the stands with bento boxes and drinks.
Even if you don't speak Japanese or aren't typically a baseball fan, you'll feel a part of it all. The sense of community and the thrill in the air make this more than just a game - it's an unforgettable piece of Tokyo's culture.
Experience the thrill of a pachinko parlor
If you're keen on a unique taste of Tokyo's famous nightlife spots and entertainment, I'd recommend stepping into one of the city's pachinko parlors. Filled with the bright neon lights flashing and chiming sounds of vertical pinball-style machines, it's an iconic piece of Tokyo's pop culture.
Playing pachinko is a mix of luck and skill, and it can add a uniquely enjoyable twist to your Tokyo experience. Whether you're up for giving it a go or just prefer to soak up the lively atmosphere, a trip to a pachinko parlor promises an interesting encounter.
Just keep in mind, as with any game, it's all about enjoying the experience while maintaining moderation. So, have fun, but always play responsibly!
Visit a Japanese whiskey bar for a tasting tour
If you share my intrigue for Japanese whiskey, I'd highly recommend bar-hopping focused on whiskey tasting. You see, it's not just about the sip, It's about the entire narrative that comes with each glass - from the heritage of the distilleries, the crafting process, to the differing aging techniques, each with their own distinct flavor profiles.
One of my personal favorites for a unique whiskey experience is The Mash Tun in Meguro. It's a cozy, authentic spot with an incredible selection of Scotch and Japanese whiskies. There's no snobbery here; just genuine, friendly folks who are passionate about sharing their love of whiskey. They'll guide you through an unforgettable tasting, no matter your experience level. Swing by The Mash Tun for the ultimate whiskey bar hopping adventure in Tokyo. It's sure to add a flavor-packed highlight to your trip!
Walk along the beautifully lit Meguro River during the cherry blossom season
If you happen to catch cherry blossom season in Tokyo, I can't recommend enough a stroll along the Meguro River. The place is just enchanting, with hundreds of cherry trees in full bloom lining the river. It's a great sight during the day, but trust me, it's the night when the magic truly happens. The illuminated cherry blossoms cast this surreal glow on the river that you just have to see for yourself.
Plus, it's more than just the blossoms. The whole area buzzes with life – food stalls serving local snacks and drinks pop up, and you see people just walking and marveling under the sakura trees. I mean, who wouldn't? It's a sight to behold.
So, if you're around during sakura season, a nighttime walk along the Meguro River is something you wouldn't want to miss. It's one of those few things to do in tokyo at night that just perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Tokyo – a bit of nature's charm smack in the middle of city life.
If you're exploring Tokyo at night, don't miss out on a visit to the Tokyo Tower. Trust me, this iconic red and white symbol of the city is a sight to behold when it's all lit up against the night sky.
But the beauty of Tokyo Tower isn't just about admiring it from a distance. You've got to go up to the observation deck. From there, you get this sweeping view of the city, with thousands of lights as far as the eye can see.
I have visited the Tokyo Tower during daylight hours, and it is certainly a sight to behold. Moreover, you could even go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in the daytime for equally breathtaking views at no cost. However, the nighttime spectacle from the Tokyo Tower is in a league of its own. The illuminated skyline against the tranquil backdrop of darkness is simply entrancing.
So, here's a suggestion: if you want to end your evening in Tokyo on a high note, take a trip up the Tokyo Tower. It's a memory you won't easily forget.
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