Nightlife in Tokyo
The party never stops in Tokyo (at least in the karaoke bars), and you will find good little bars and restaurants everywhere.
The most Japanese way to spend a night out as an individual or in a small group would be at Japanese-style watering holes called izakaya (居酒屋), which offer food and drink in a convivial, pub-like atmosphere. Cheaper chain izakaya like Tsubohachi(つぼ八) and Shirokiya (白木屋) usually have picture menus, so ordering is simple, even if you don't know Japanese – but don't be surprised if some places have Japanese only touchscreen ordering systems.
Another common option, which is often unbelievable to non-Japanese ears, is “all you can drink” (nomihōdai, 飲み放題), where you can drink all you want from a fixed menu for 90 minutes or 120 minutes. This is aimed at group parties, and is generally paired with a meal, often “all you can eat” (tabehōdai, 食べ放題), often in a private room. There are also a number of cheap bars where you can get a drink for ¥300 or even cheaper.
Tokyo’s most distinctive drink is Hoppy (hoppi, ホッピー), a virtually non-alcoholic beer-flavored drink (0.8% alcohol), which is drunk by mixing with shōchū (at 25%) at a 5:1 ratio, yielding an about 5% alcohol drink, essentially a substitute beer. This is available in older izakaya and has experienced a retro revival of late, though it is not particularly tasty. Another distinctively Tokyo drink is Denki Bran (電気ブラン, “electric brandy”), a herb-flavored brandy available (to drink in or in bottles) at the Kamiya bar (神谷バー) in Asakusa, right at the main intersection by the metro station.
The major brands of beer are widely available, typically ¥500–¥800 per glass or bottle, but microbrews and foreign beer are only rarely available and often very expensive. You’re generally better off getting bottles of microbrews at speciality stores. Popeye in Ryōgoku is a rare exception, with 70 beers on tap! Another popular choice is Beer Station at Ebisu, serving a variety of Yebisu beers and matching German food.
For a splurge on a beverage or two, Western Shinjuku's Park Hyatt Tokyo houses the New York Bar on level 52. Providing stunning views day and night across Tokyo, it was also the setting for the movie Lost in Translation. Cocktails here start around ¥1400 – single malt whiskies are upwards of ¥2000. Amazing cocktails, served in “tasting flights” of 4 or 6 drinks, are made by Gen Yamamoto at his bar in Azabu-Jūban, at about ¥6000 for 6 drinks (a la carte cocktails are available in larger pours for ¥1600–¥1800).
Visiting clubs and western-style night spots can get expensive, with clubs and live houses enforcing weekend cover charges in the ¥2000–5000 bracket (usually including a drink coupon or two).
If you're new in town, Roppongi has establishments which specialize in serving foreigners – but it's also overflowing with foreigners, hostesses, and 'patrons' who will continually hassle you to visit their gentlemen's clubs, where drinks cost ¥5000 and up. Many Japanese and foreigners avoid this area, preferring the clubs and bars in Shibuya instead, or trendy Ginza, Ebisu, or Shinjuku.
The Hub, a chain of British-style pubs, has branches in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Roppongi (as well as near most major stations) and is reasonably priced and popular among foreigners and Japanese alike. Other British/Irish pubs can be found in Roppongi, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Expect to pay around ¥1000 a pint, although happy hours can reduce this by a few hundred yen.
In Shibuya, the bar area behind 109 (not 109-2) and next to Dogenzaka ("Love Hotel Hill") has a large number of clubs. Unlike those in Roppongi and Shibuya's Gas Panic, these clubs have entrance fees, but clubs without entrance fees often hassle you all night to buy drinks which ends up just as expensive and without people who are actually there to enjoy the music. Shinjuku is home to Kabukicho, Japan's largest red-light district. Also in Shinjuku is the gay bar district of Shinjuku-nichome. A little further from the city center are Shimokitazawa, Koenji and Nakano, full of good bars, restaurants and "live houses" offering underground/indie music popular with students and 20/30-somethings.