When you’re a stranger in a foreign land, it can be hard to find the local party spots, especially if there’s a language barrier involved. Visitors in Japan who can’t read Kanji – and let’s face it, that’s the majority – spend a good deal of time wandering around finding nightlife in Japan; they’re hard to locate and often end up walking straight past it.
Finding Nightlife in Japan
The key to having the full experience in Japan is being adventurous. The fact that you’ve travelled all the way there is a start, but now you have to make your daring spirit work in your favour.
Start by using electronic maps. If you’ve got a smartphone, so use it! It’s easy to see where you are and what’s around, but if you don’t know the local attractions – ask. Don’t get yourself lost in a bad part of town, and probably don’t go through doors guarded by men with guns. Too easy!
Go out with a plan, and know the districts that will have the kind of fun you’re looking for to help you with finding nightlife in Japan. Tokyo’s best known areas for a jumping nightlife are Shibuya, Ginza and Roppongi.
Each of them caters to a different audience, for example:
Shibuya is frequented by mostly young Japanese locals, who patronize the numerous nightclubs, bars and restaurants that it has to offer. Shibuya is also the location of the famous Love Hotel Hill, known for its many love hotels. Shibuya is somewhat less seedy and more easily accessible to foreign tourists who aren’t versed in Japanese than the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku.
Roppongi is the most available nightlife district for visitors. A large collection of tourist-friendly nightclubs, bars and restaurants are here. Although generally safe, apparently some pretty unsavoury stuff has been increasing, such as exorbitant hidden fees charged by bars and clubs, spiked drinks and fights. This isn’t a Roppongi-specific problem, but it’s the type of thing that calls for your good judgement.
Ginza is the upmarket district, with fine dining restaurants, chic bars and clubs, as well as upscale host and hostess bars. Your bill will be steep, so don’t say you weren’t warned. This is the type of area that can be exclusive and refuse service to visitors without Japanese language skills.
One way to make sure you don’t miss something is find the name of a specific club or bar you’d like to go to and go straight there. Once you’re in, mingle with the locals and ask them where the party is. That never ends badly!