Top 6 Places to Explore in Tokyo After Dark
Tokyo’s a fascinating city—from the owl and bunny cafés to the pink-plastered Harajuku girls, there’s always something exciting and oftentimes eccentric to experience. But while Tokyo by day is more temples and zen-like saunters through the park, at night is when the seedy underbelly of the city starts to reveal itself. Here are the best ways to explore this eclectic city after dark.
Alleyway Bar Hopping: Golden Gai
Hidden between the shiny high-rises of Tokyo’s metropolis, yokochos—or old-school alleyways filled with dive bars and eateries—are some of the best places to get a taste of the local cuisine without blowing your budget. These backstreets boast some of the finest street food in Tokyo, and are open well into the night for nocturnal souls and post-party revelers. Rub elbows with Japanese salarymen at Golden Gai, one of the most buzzing yokochos in the city, which boasts more than 200 pubs and drinking dens packed into just a couple of blocks. Each bar has its own unique character and vibe, and you can be sure of finding plenty of cheap sake and beer to wash down plates of yakitori, soba and sushi.
Shinjuku-Sanchome Station, exit B3 or E1. 1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Your Beefcake is Served: Macho Cafe
Labeled “100% Fair Trade Macho” and nicknamed the “reverse Hooters,” Tokyo’s Macho Cafe delivers exactly what it promises: Macho waiters dressed in little white vests with bare chests peeking through. Join the fangirls (or guys) as they woo and scream while waiters crush cans, or empty tubes of whipped cream onto pancakes with a single, manly squeeze.
But the best deals are the “side dishes”: Enjoy a merry-go-round of six packs and triceps with the “Wall of Muscles” ($299), where a tight circle of buff waiters closes in on you while flexing in a ritualistic dance.
Opens sporadically, check machocafe.wixsite.com/macho-cafe for dates. 1/F, J’s Court, Nakano-ku, Nakano, Tokyo, (+81) 3-5778-4958.
Go Cosplay Clubbing: Mogra
Tokyo’s intriguing anime and cosplay culture comes alive at night, when costumed revelers make their rounds around the city’s club circuit, dressed in everything from samurai armor to sailor suits. Ever wanted to go clubbing in a full Harry Potter get-up? Mogra in Akihabara district is the place to do it: Established in 2009, this club is all about otaku—anime, manga and video game nerd—culture, presenting an alternate reality of nerd electro, glow sticks and “anison”—dance mixes of anime songs.
3-11 Akihabara, Tatito-ku, Tokyo, club-mogra.jp
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Adventures in Robot Land: Robot Restaurant
Post-apocalyptic warrior princesses, giant bobble-headed monsters, and synchronized para para dancers combine to create an outlandish, psychedelic experience at Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s Kabukicho red light district. While you’ll be joining a throng of other tourists, the experience is one that can’t be missed—simultaneously captivating, disconcerting and mind-blowing all at once. Ever wondered what it’s like to be high without actually ingesting drugs? Robot Restaurant is the place to find out.
$553 from viator.com. B2F, 1-7-1 Kabukicho,Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Pressing the Right Buttons: A-Button
If the deafening electro pop tunes and fleeting fluorescent lights in Tokyo’s run-of-the-mill game arcades are making you giddy, A-Button offers a great alternative. Everything about this quaint gaming bar, from its brick walls to the yellow porch lamp, screams vintage. Humbly sitting at a street corner in Akihabara (gaming central) a few blocks away from the noisy arcades, A-Button is buried under heaps of otherwise extinct consoles and classic game controllers—some of which date back to the 70s. Order a bottle of Yebisu black beer ($52), plop down in front of an original Nintendo Famicom and click the night away in this otaku’s paradise.
Open 8pm-4am, closed on Mondays. 1-13-9 Taito, Taito-ku (Akihabara Station), (+81) 3-5856-5475. a-button.jp
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Spend the Night: Palace Hotel Tokyo
In the midst of Tokyo’s head-spinning urban whirlwind, find respite at Palace Hotel Tokyo, an iconic landmark that recently completed three years of renovations. Located in the central Marunouchi district, the 290-room building’s most famous feature is the wide moat that winds around the hotel, with the sprawling Imperial Palace Gardens on the other side juxtaposed against the concrete commercial giants in the business district.
Rooms follow an earthy color palette, boasting natural-green hues with warm woods and leafy carpet motifs. With state-of-the-art amenities and contemporary interiors underscored by natural materials and colors, rooms feel luxuriously cozy without being ostentatious or overbearing. After a soak in your personal Jacuzzi or a relaxation treatment in the signature Evian Spa, head to one of the 10 F&B outlets for food and drinks that rival Tokyo’s best. Grab dinner at Grand Kitchen with alfresco seating on the moat-side terrace, or draw from the selection of cigars and rare liquors at Royal Bar—a treat for any aficionado. For a splurge-worthy dinner, Wadakura remains one of the most elegant dining rooms in Tokyo, with four distinct tatami-matted areas serving tempura, teppanyaki, sushi and kaiseki.
At night… Stroll through the Imperial Gardens themselves, which remain open—seemingly unknown to the public—at night for visitors to meander the stone bridges and tree-lined walkways. With few stepping through the central courtyard after sunset, this is one of the few places in Tokyo to feel the breadth and scale—yet enchanting serenity—of the city filled with 13 million people, its pulse beating all around you.
1-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, (+81) 3-3211-5211. en.palacehoteltokyo.com