From Shinjuku’s bar scene to Roppongi’s polished cigar bars and Shibuya’s all night karaoke, Tokyo nightlife offers something for everyone. Dogenzaka’s Love Hotel Hill is sprinkled with small Love Hotels, Japan’s kitschy themed rent by the hour lodging, and is home to some of Tokyo’s most famous clubs including Womb, a mecca for techno lovers. For the full Tokyo experience spend an evening in Shibuya engaged in the highly popular, all night karaoke. For a more mellow evening the Shin-Marunouchi building, across from Tokyo Station, has a collection of bars and restaurants with outdoor patios and dazzling views of the illuminated Tokyo Station.
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Bar Crawl through Golden Gai
Golden Gai may not seem like your go-to spot for nightlife in Tokyo, but it's one of the most interesting places I've ever imbibed abroad. Golden Gai is a series of six alleyways filled with shanty-like bars, tucked in the busy neighborhood of Shinjuku. Each bar can barely fit five people, and each one is mysterious. You have to peek your head in each one to see if there's room, or if you like the vibe, since each one is also themed differently. We ended up sidling up to a bar run by a 90s record-playing lady in a beanie and flannel. She spoke no English, but we managed to bond over her great vinyl collection and the bar's tiny, fun atmosphere. Pretty much each dive in Golden Gai has a cover charge (from 600-900 yen), but that often includes a complimentary snack, which is pretty nice after a night of drinking. The warm potato soup and smoked cashew nuts hit the spot.
I was in Tokyo ostensibly as a travel companion to my boyfriend, who had been sent there for work.
He was working 10 hour days in Odaiba, and I would come along, then take the train back into the city. I carefully plotted out each day's itinerary for myself, and became adept at the subway system. But one day, something went awry, and I got hopelessly lost inside one of the larger stations on the Metro Line. And no one spoke English.
Realizing I couldn't make sense of the trains, but could piece together where I was via a map of the neighborhoods, I set out above ground, completely disoriented and lost. I snapped this with my digital camera, figuring perhaps it would serve as a marker for myself if I needed to backtrack.
I'm not sure how long I wandered--the photo was useless, of course, because Tokyo is filled with dizzying neon lights. I did find my way, eventually. Tokyo was amazing, as anyone who's been can attest. But the major standout memory I have is wandering, completely lost, but somehow unworried, in a completely alien city. I love this picture primarily because I can remember the exact mix of bewilderment, anxiety, and determination I had when I took it. It seemed like the perfect solution to my problem at the time, but the problem turned out to be one of my favorite travel memories thus far.
After the best sushi, there must be as well a best ramen noodle place in Tokyo. The Menya Musashi located at Shinjuku is a famous and of course busy place for a bowl of hot ramen noodle soup. Many times, the waiting line is street long. Luckily last time when I visited not during a meal time, the line was short. The pork belly ramen is the best! Just remember that you have to use cash to order your noodle from a vending machine by the door, and hand the ticket to the chef/server. Inside, it's bar seating around the noodle station, so you can watch the action and hear the chef cheering as well.
A great ramen place, Hakata Tenjin, is right across the street from Menya Musashi, so if you go there for a ramen noodle venture, save some room please! The specialty here is the soup base and the green onion (aka scallion). As you can see from the picture, there's a lot of scallion—the garnish is actually the main feature!