As the sun sets, the neon lights flicker on, and Tokyo’s after-dark alter ego kicks in. More relaxed and care-free than its busy, conformist daytime counterpart, the evening is the time to kick back and let your hair down. From the bright lights and bustle of downtown Shibuya and the sleek skyscrapers and glitzy allure of the Marunouchi and Ginza districts to late-night art galleries, jostling izakaya, fine dining and alfresco events, Tokyo’s nightlife scene is about more than just pubs and clubs — although it has plenty of those too.
Tokyo has a lively event schedule with many either held exclusively in the evening or running through until late. Do some research before you arrive to find out what’s going on while you are in town. Light up events and Christmas markets are a staple in winter while cherry blossom season is the time to party in the park until late. Other events include sake festivals, beer festivals, live music events, firework displays, and traditional summer festivals — many of which are surprisingly high-spirited.
With hot, humid summers and sometimes unpredictable weather, open-air rooftop bars can be hard to find, but Tokyo more than makes up for this with its endless selection of city-view bars and restaurants on the top floors of its many skyscrapers. Naturally, these tend to be more upscale than your average venue. Ginza and Marunouchi are particularly glitzy areas for drinking and dining.
Aquariums, art galleries, museums and other iconic Tokyo attractions often stay open through into the evening. Among some of the most popular are the Mori Art Museum, Sumida Aquarium and Tokyo Tower. More centrally located than the Skytree, you can easily combine an evening visit to Tokyo Tower with a Tokyo Bay dinner cruise or drinks in one of the nearby nightspots like Ebisu. Admission to the observatory at the very top of the tower is until around 10 p.m..
Explore the lanes and alleys of downtown areas like Shinjuku, Ebisu and Akabane to find pockets of small restaurants and bars popular with locals. Try monja, a Tokyo specialty, in Tsukishima or wander under the overhead train tracks in areas like Yurakucho and Kanda to find popular after-work watering holes. Down to earth and relatively inexpensive, these are a cheap and cheerful way to experience the city like a local.
You’ll find bars and clubs scattered throughout the city, but the biggest and liveliest nightlife scenes are in Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku. Roppongi attracts a large international crowd and plays host to the lion’s share of Tokyo nightclubs. The vibe in Shibuya is a bit more hip and a little less mainstream. Shinjuku caters to everyone with the tiny bars of Golden Gai, the interesting mix of establishments in Kabukicho and the LGBT options in Shinjuku Nichome.