Wondering where to find the best bars in Tokyo? Tokyo has it all when it comes to nightlife. There are cozy whiskey bars serving pours from rare bottles, quirky gamer bars with Nintendo systems, and glitzy cocktail bars where white-jacket bartenders serve balanced cocktails in the city’s high-rises. Most have some small snacks to keep you going, and some have live music. Many are the perfect example of why bars in the US and Europe are imitating Japanese cocktail culture.
Before getting too excited, however, know that drinking in Tokyo is different than drinking in a Western bar or pub. First off, it’s not normal to sit down and try to start talking to your fellow bar patrons. It’s also rude to be drunkenly loud. It’s fine to be drunk; just keep your wits about you. Lastly, keep an eye on the time if you’re counting on the trains to get home. The last train is at 12 AM and they don’t start back up until 5 AM – although if you miss it there are plenty of places to go to kill the late-late hours or you can do the salary-man thing of collapsing on the street, a sad but true situation.
This is a country famous for its whisky, craft beer, and sake. Most of the drinking in Tokyo happens in bars, and thankfully there are plenty of places to enjoy all that Japan’s beverage scene has to offer.
Here are some of the best bars in Tokyo by district:
Best Bars in Shinjuku
King Biscuit $$ — This small Tokyo blues bar is named after an old radio program that used to run in the Southern states of the US. It’s a small, dimly lit place that’s dripping with a noir atmosphere. The bar specializes in whisky with some 100 options available, but also has cocktails for the non-whiskey drinkers in your group. Come alone or with one or two friends, because the snug spot only has room for 20 people.
The Open Book $$ — This bar is perfect for bookish folks visiting Tokyo. It’s designed like a secret library and specialise in shochu sours drinks. The owner is the grandson of authour Komimasa Tanaka and has very much carried on that legacy into this golden-gai bar.
Bar BenFiddich $$ — Opened by one of the city’s most esteemed mixologists, Hiroyasu Kayama, Bar BenFiddich specializes in amaro, gin, absinthe, and whisky. The cocktails are made with house-made infusions, many of which use plants grown on Kayama’s family farm just north of Tokyo. There’s a large collection of old spirits here, and you can try them neat or in cocktails. BenFiddich is well known internationally and gets crowded, so plan your visit well ahead time.
8bit Cafe $$ — 8bit is on the fifth floor of an office building, so can be a little harder to find than your typical watering hole. Once you get there, though, you’ll find video game ephemera from the 80s and 90s, including classics like Super Mario, Zelda, and Sonic. The video game goods aren’t just for references and nostalgia — you can play them while drinking cocktails named after the characters. Definitely one of the best bars in Tokyo.
New York Bar $$$ — Located on the 52nd floor of the Tokyo Park Hyatt, New York Bar has, as the name suggests, a Manhattan theme. Bill Murray drank here in the 2003 film Lost in Translation, and it’s just as glamorous as the movie makes it seem. The bar focuses on cocktails, and the menu features classics as well as originals like the L.I.T. made with sake, Sakura liqueur, and cranberry. There’s a hefty cover charge and the drinks don’t come cheap, but it’s worth it for a fancy night out (the Peak Lounge a couple of floors down is a little less).
Best Bars in Akasaka
Mixx Bar and Lounge, ANA InterContinental $$$ — The ANA Intercontinental is a luxurious hotel in the heart of the city, and its Mixx Bar overlooks the Tokyo skyline from the 36th floor. The vibe is high class and the prices match that feel. Mixx Bar is best known for its seasonal cocktails, and guest mixologists often stop by to shake up speciality cocktails. Deserving of its place on this best bars of Tokyo list, Mixx features not just one, but eight different Negroni variations. European food is served for lunch and dinner, and DJs play at the lounge Thursdays through Saturdays.
Check out the ANA and our other favourite Tokyo hotels.
Code Name Mixology $$ — Keep in mind one thing before going to Code Name Mixology for the first time: expect the unexpected. Think cocktail ingredients like blue cheese Cognac and pine-mushroom gin. You can order a specific drink if you want, but the best move here is to tell the bartender what you like and let them work something up for you. The bar is known by drinkers around the world, so it can get a little crowded. Once you make it inside the upscale bar, get ready for a wild ride of flavors.
Muscle Bar $$ — This is an all-you-can-drink bar, which might be a foreign concept to Westerners. All you have to know is that it means exactly what it sounds like: pay a cover upfront and you can drink all that you want like it’s a hometown buffet for a full 90 minutes. Muscle Bar is different in one other way, as well. The bartenders are attractive muscle-bound men who are often shirtless. There’s a separate menu — a la carte, if you will — but you’re better off embracing all that this bar has to offer. Drinks include shots, sake, shochu, and Champagne.
The Lobby Lounge & Bar $$$ — Although it’s one of the pricer options in Tokyo, the bar has one of the best rooftop views in Tokyo. It sits on the 45th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, and has floor-to-ceiling windows for optimum city gazing. It’s glitzy inside, and you should dress to match. The bar has an extensive whisky menu with rare options like the 25 Year Taketsuru, a wine menu, and cocktail menu with both classic and originals. Cocktails regularly feature seasonal fruits and herbs.
Best Bars in Ginza
Lupin $$ — Lupin opened in 1928, and was once a popular hangout for authors, painters, actors, and artists of every walk of life. The bar’s décor is reminiscent of an old British pub combined with a cowboy saloon, complete with mood lighting and a long wooden bar. Menus are tourist-friendly and offered in both English and Japanese. There’s a cover charge, it’s hard to find, and the drinks are good yet not mind-blowing. Still, this is somewhere you go to bask in the experience of an old pub in a distinctly modern city.
Bar High Five $$ — You’ll want to check out the two-page list of rules before going to Bar High Five. If you’re a decent bar goer none should be an issue, but don’t expect to just walk in with a large group — although some people may have some trouble with the no photography unless you receive permission rule. Order something from the highly curated business or let the bartenders know what you like for a customized cocktail just for you.
Star Bar Ginza $$$ — You can’t go wrong with this speak-easy style bar. Formal dress and leather sofas complement the antique wood and retro wallpaper. They specialise in rare whisky and is very much a Tokyo bar made for sitting back with a quiet drink enjoying the surroundings. This is one of the best bars in Tokyo to immerse yourself in old Japan.
Best Bars in Akihabara
Kanda Koju $$ — No visit to Japan is complete without a night at a bar specialising in Sake. Sake is becoming a popular choice world over but not least in its native country where brewers are starting to experiment with different styles providing more choice than ever. At Kanda Koju, you’ll find some of the rarest and trendiest sakes on the market. They encourage you to enjoy your drink with a side of something perfectly matched to your drink which ranges from sushi to pan-fried foie gras.
Bar Sekirei $$ — Championing itself as one of the few authentic bars in the area, this is a traditional bar in every sense of the word. With a full drinks menu and some traditional foods, like ramen, sticks, and tempura on offer, there’s plenty to draw people off the busy streets. Naturally, being in Akihabara, it’s unsurprising that there’s an anime theme going on here clashing somewhat with the classy aesthetic. The owner being a big anime fan has put his spin on the place with toys and figures hiding in unsuspecting places and an entire book of anime-themed drinks which is just as much fun to look through as choose from.
Best Bars in Shimokitazawa
Mother’s Ruin –- $ A mysterious bar that plays rock music and offers simple Chinese cuisine. It’s non-smoking which makes a nice change as many of the bars and pubs in Tokyo can get overwhelming if you don’t like the smell of smoke. They have an extensive beer menu featuring Japanese and international options as well as all the standard spirits and house wine.
Suzunari — $ This charming spot was once an old theatre just a few doors down from Union Records. It has now been converted into several small Japanese-style bars with different options including craft beer, ales, whiskey, and sake.
Best Bars in Shibuya
Y.Y.G Brewery — $$ A craft brewery and restaurant with a wooden deck for sitting outside. It’s a beautiful space inside and out featuring beer from all over Japan including some surprising options like mango beer. This is absolutely one of the best bars in Tokyo for beer lovers.
JBS Shibuya –- $$ The JBS is infamous in Tokyo and is the kind of place locals take their visiting friends over to for a drink and a night of music. The name stands for jazz, blues, and soul and that’s exactly what you get here with 11,000 records on offer to be precise. Japan loves its whiskey and their menu certainly reflects this countrywide obsession with both international and local choices on offer.
Bar Trench $$ — One of the most popular bars in Tokyo right now, cocktail books line the walls and it’s loaded with old school charm in the Ebisu district of Shibuya.
Best Bars in Roppongi
Geronimo Shot Bar –- $ As you might expect, this is a shot bar but this bars specialty includes creative and wonderful flavours that’ll have you choosing for hours. They also have various happy hour deals which makes this a cheap spot to stop at before going out dancing.
Bar Propaganda –-$$ This youthful and lively bar is popular with the local and expat youth crow and has a fantastic happy hour where drinks are just 500 yen between 5-9pm. There’s a huge menu of cocktails, shots, and whisky – their mimosas are particularly sought after. They also bring in live DJs on the weekend making this a fun spot for the weekend
Bunon $$ — In the Nishi-Abazu district tucked in an alley near Roppongi Hills is Tokyo’s most famous natural wine bars.
Best Bars in Harajuku
Harajuku Taproom — $ If you like craft beer then this is your spot. An izakaya-style tavern with a local distinct local feel nestled within the bustling streets of Harajuku. Like any good izakaya, you’ll find skewers of all sorts to accompany your drink and the yakitori is up there with the very best. Featuring beer from local breweries around Japan, this is the place to try something you haven’t before.
Hokurikiku Sakaba — $$ If you’ve finished exploring Meiji Jingu shrine and you’re looking for somewhere excellent to stop nearby then this may be it. Perfect for sake lovers, they have an extensive menu of Japan’s national drink on offer covering the whole spectrum of sweet to dry sake from tiny breweries tucked away in Kyoto to larger brands. This is one of the best bars in Tokyo for sake lovers.
Tokyo Whisky Library $$$ — A must-visit while in Tokyo due to the fact you can enjoy 1,000 types of whisky from around the world. You’ll find it in the Omotesando district between Harajuku and Shibuya.
Ready for some food? Check out our restaurant and ramen guide to Tokyo.
Jess is the creator and editor of Books and Bao. She's passionate about the world, it's literature, food, culture, and people. She enjoys sharing her travel tips with others and capturing those perfect moments.