As the largest city in the world, Tokyo certainly has things to do at all hours of the day. With a culture that at times reflects both Japan’s traditional past and is a sci-fi-esque display of neon lights and unique cultural practices, Tokyo is bound to leave eyebrows raised. Nothing is truer than when experiencing Tokyo at night. From fine-dining to miniature-sized pubs to robot dinosaur battles, here are our top things to do for a taste of the megacity’s nightlife.
Believed to be the largest red light district in the entire world, this portion of the Shinjuku neighborhood is an attack on the senses. Karaoke bars, love hotels, and watering-holes where men pay women to compliment them, Kabukicho can be all levels of seedy and vices. Even for those not eager to participate, the area is one of the most fascinating places in the city to wander around.
Nearby Kabukicho, Golden Gai takes the neon glow and exchanges it for a less chaotic sepia hue. Small bars that look slightly more traditional populate the zone’s narrow alleyways. These micro-pubs are escapes that seat only about four to eight people, so expect an intimate setting good for throwing back a drink and conversing with the bartender or other patrons. Many of these pubs also have a variety of themes.
The Robot Show
The Robot Show gives ‘dinner and a show’ a whole new meaning. While regarded as a cabaret, it’s unlike any cabaret that can be seen anywhere else in the world. Visitors enjoy a meal while in front of them, laser-eyed dinosaurs and flashing robots battle as scantily clad dancers perform around them. Patron Saint of traveling, Anthony Bourdain, someone who saw just about everything in his lifetime, called the robot restaurant, “the greatest show I have ever seen in my life”.
Take in the Views
The combination of being known for its lights and giant population means that simply having an aerial view of Tokyo at night is an event in itself. Many of the largest of Tokyo’s skyscrapers have observation decks on their top floors for doing just that. The Tokyo Skytree has a café and restaurant to take in the wide-reaching view, while the Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building are also popular spots for their vistas. For a different perspective, there are many night cruises on Tokyo Bay that boast sights of landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge and the waterfront skyline.
Another area of Shinjuku to grab a drink, this sector of the city was a well-known illegal drinking quarter in the 1940s called Omoide Yokocho (“Memory Lane”). However, because of its lack of bathrooms, patrons would wander to the train tracks to relieve themselves, earning it the charming nickname of ‘Piss Alley’. Unfortunately, no amount of fluid could save it from burning to the ground in 1999, but after the fire, the government rebuilt it in its original image (with the addition of a urinal or two). Nowadays, it is a popular place to not only sip a beer but also to sample street food, often consisting of Yakitori.
Roppongi, and the Roppongi Hills development area, is one of the more affluent places in Tokyo. Not grungy nor particularly overwhelming, this is an area for many Western tourists to experience a part of Japan that feels a bit more similar to their own home. With excellent nightclub, restaurant, and shopping options, Roppongi is regarded as a hub for foreign foot traffic.
Experience Tokyo’s Culinary World
As more and more eyes turn to Japan, and specifically Tokyo, as a beacon for global culture, so grows the country and city’s reputation for having a top culinary scene. From pub-like izakaya’s to Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s a near impossible task to find a bad meal in the capital. Yurakucho is a popular area to wander in and out of small traditional restaurants, while Tokyo Station has many high rises with restaurants to enjoy Tokyo at night. Across the city, themed restaurants have been also been gaining popularity, giving diners the feeling of eating in prison, in a church, or even with vampires. Of course, it goes without saying, regardless of the amount of time any traveler has in the city, a Tokyo itinerary is not complete without sampling sushi — check out The Best Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo.
Theme Parks and Arcades
For some family fun, Tokyo is home to numerous theme parks that are open into the nighttime hours. With attractions like Disneyland Tokyo and a few top-notch aquariums, there is a multitude of places for little ones to have a laugh or maybe even learn a thing or two. Meanwhile, sports entertainment facilities and arcades are often open 24-hours a day and welcome people of all ages to play video games, ping-pong, bowling, and other fun activities.