This swanky little jazz bar was not particularly crowded, but offered different aesthetics than other bars. The low blue light hang throughout the narrow club and either sat in poofs or at the bar. They did not have room for a live band but had jazz music playing over the sound system. The atmosphere was very relaxed as people just sat back and enjoyed being there. The menu was in English, but the bartender only spoke Japanese. I think the bar was more accustomed to regulars, but since they had an English menu, I assume they get foreigners. My friend loved the ambiance and everything about it, but I was not impressed. It was nice but did not seem to be too special.
Enter the first floor of this Roppongi club and all you see are coin lockers and you might think you are not even in a club at all. But after you pay the 2000 yen entrance fee and get your 2 drink tickets, you walk down a spiral staircase to an island bar in front of you and several dart boards and a pool tab le to your right. On your left, there is a small dance floor with a seating area and another bar. My favorite part was the very quite bartenders who were working that night. All three were quite beautiful. Despite the cave like feeling, it was quite comfortable and I enjoyed the surroundings and the music as well. It wasn’t as much of a dance club, but rather a combination between bar and dance club. The dance floor was not very big but got crowded quickly and many people enjoyed themselves, as did I.
One in a series of bars, the Motown I went to had a large foreign customer base that seemed to be older than 40. The youngest person was probably around 30, but most of the customers were older. The bar was crowded with people dancing to their favorite Motown hits, hence the name. They played American music on full blast and it the narrow bar several people danced to their hearts content. They carried a selection of imported beers, 800 yen each, as well as cocktails and shots. Had I stayed there longer, I’m sure I would have seen the crowd stay steady until closing time. On a Saturday night, it seems that Motown is the place for middle aged foreigners in Tokyo to go.
Draped with silk curtains everywhere, Luxor is a Japanese Hookah bar that does not disappoint. The interior is very relaxing, dark and comfortable. Every Tuesday and Thursday they have a belly dancer come in and give an excellent show that both captivates everyone and involves them as well. The food that we ordered was very good, the only problem was that there was definitely not enough for the large group that we were. I imagine it would be ideal to come as a group of 3 or 4 so everyone can enjoy all the food. Every time we ordered a draft beer, they brought us a scratch off card that we seemed to win about 50 packets of wet tissues from, even though we neither needed nor wanted them. After dinner came what they are known for, the Hookah. We ordered both a mango and a strawberry Hookah that were quite strong. Once we got over how strong they were, we were able to just sit back and enjoy our smoke which happened to be very relaxing. I would recommend Luxor not only for the food, but for the entertainment and Hookah as well.
Is it too hot for you outside? Do you need a respite from the heat and humidity of a Tokyo summer? The Absolut IceBar Tokyo in Roppongi will definitely put a chill back into your system. Owned by the Absolut vodka company, everything in here is made out of ice. The bar is kept at a chilly -5˚C, but when you are in there, it does not feel bad at all, especially once the alcohol starts flowing. They operate only on reservation only because they are so popular so you might be left out in the cold if you just show up. You are given about 45 minutes there, but you do not really need more because by the end of your time, the cold starts to get to you. It is 3,500 yen per person, which includes 1 drink and a pullover poncho with gloves attached to keep you warm. This is truly a unique experience that is definitely worth doing because it is a lot of fun. If you take a date here, it is sure that she won't give you the cold shoulder. The only thing that you really need to know in advance is that since Absolut owns it, every drink is an Absolut cocktail, but they do have a very good selection of cocktails and the bartenders definitely weren’t frosty towards any of the foreign customers. They had an English menu with the cocktail list. When you leave the IceBar, you can take a little souvenir with you, your ice glass.
Cafe de Ningenkankei is a French style cafe that serves drinks and a few food items like ice cream sundaes or creme Brule. I ordered a beer and chocolate sundae, but for some reason it took longer than I would have expected them to make a chocolate sundae and bring it to me. The menu was in English and had pictures so ordering was easy, even though they didn't speak English. The inside was rather nice and inviting. There were people there doing all sorts of things: some read in at their tables, but most were drinking and eating with friends. Not everyone was drinking alcohol but there was a mix between those drinking beer and coffee or tea. The interior was larger than one would expect and was more energetic than a Starbucks, but still had the coffee shop/cafe feel to it. You can come here anytime of the day with anyone and just enjoy the finger food they offer and relax in the cafe.
Most bars on Nonbei Street are modeled after very traditional Japanese aesthetics, however, Piano is one of the few exceptions. The outside is covered by a black wall decorated with some gold trimmings. The inside is covered with red velvet and all sorts of odd things fill the walls and ceiling. There was not an English menu and the waitress only spoke Japanese, but I was able to figure out what I wanted. The drinks were all moderately priced, but when we got the bill we were very surprised because we had only ordered one drink each but the bill was 4,400 yen. We found out that there is a 1,000 yen each cover charge. There were no signs or anything saying there was a cover charge or anything. The inside was very interesting, but that was the only thing different, all the drinks were the same as everywhere else.
In the heart of Akasaka, Modern Times Shot bar is quite easy to find and is a nice bar that has a wide array of liquors available. Behind the bar, prominently displayed are all their various liquors you can buy shots or cocktails of. While the prices are about that same as any other Tokyo bar, they do have a happy hour until 7:30 where several items, food and drinks, are only 350 yen! Akasaka is not a weekend hotspot, but it is common for many of the businessmen who work in the area to drop in after work or start their night off at this nice little bar close to their offices. Inside the bar, everything had the feeling of a rich man’s study because the bar looks like it could be made from expensive wood. If it really is expensive wood, I have no idea but it definitely looks nice. If you are working in Akasaka this is a nice place to stop by after work but don’t come here looking for a vibrant nightlife.
Like most of the bars on Nonbei Street, Bistro Dardre is a traditional Japanese bar. The bar itself is like all the others in the area: very small. The first floor has about 4 seats and includes the bartender and the second floor has a little more seating. The entire atmosphere is quite enjoyable and is a place where you can really get to know the bartender and waitress. When we were there, my friend had to stand in the doorway because the chairs were in use, but didn’t seem to mind. We talked to the other customers and the waitress and found it very enjoyable. The bartender was an amiable man that gave me some good drinks. They didn’t really have a menu, it was written on a small dry erase board in Japanese, but when we paid our bill it wasn’t that much and the bartender was fair minded in his prices. Of all the bars I have been to so far, Bistro Dardre was the friendliest and amicable. The waitress said that they do get some foreigners there on Friday and Saturday nights, but usually they speak Japanese or have a Japanese friend.
This bar is nestled into the back of an alley and does not really seem to fit in with its location. Amrta is a nice bar that is very popular among working age people, both Japanese and foreign. Inside is a dark, modern setting with tables scattered all over the place and a bar illuminated from underneath. They have a wide array of drinks available at moderate prices and present a very hip style. When we got there it was about 90% full and by the time we left there were people waiting at the door. The menu was in English which was nice and made ordering much easier.
4 Count Bar looks very and feels very nice. While the name says “4 counts,” all the bartenders are countesses. People like coming here to talk with the bartenders and enjoy the very soothing cocktails that they prepare. Their signature drink is a nearly frozen raspberry cocktail served in a frosted metal mug. The interior was dark and full of comfortable chairs. The curved bar hides one end from the other and around the outside of the bar by the windows are small tables. As a part of the cover charge you get a small platter of appetizers to munch on while you drink. My friend and I got there rather early so it was fairly empty so we were able to talk to the bartenders very openly. They only spoke a little bit of English so I spoke to them in Japanese, but they were a lot of fun to talk to and extremely nice. They made the drinks we asked for well and I asked what one of them would recommend and she made me something that was not on the menu that is a personal favorite of hers. The cover charge is 1,000 yen per hour.
Located down one of Shinjuku’s older corridors, Albatross blends both the traditional and modern worlds of Japan. Albatross is stratified into 3 levels, each much different than the others. The first level is like a regular bar; it is dark, and everyone is sitting in the close quarters on a bench at the counter. It feels like a place for regulars, but also welcomes outsiders. The second floor is a traditional Japanese floor with tatami floors and two small tables. Here, to order you talk to the barman through a hole in the floor and they will bring it up to you. However, when I was there, I did not stop at the first floor because it was full or the second floor because there was already a group there, so we proceeded to the third floor. The third floor is really the roof of the bar set up with two benches and a table in the middle. Unlike the crowded, compact, and sweltering street below the third floor was quite cool and offered a wonderful view of both the street below and of Shinjuku. We felt quite comfortable up there and were very relaxed. The only thing was that to order, they gave us their business card and said to call. You can also go to the second floor and yell up your order and they will bring it to you if you do not have a cell phone. The prices start from 500 yen and there is both English and Japanese on the menu. Foreigners are often seen here with friends relaxing and having a drink. I highly recommend this bar, especially the roof, to anyone needing a break, or a drink.
Like all the bars on this old fashioned street, Bar Calms is a small bar that can only seat around 10. However, unlike most of the other bars here, Bar Calms has a very modern interior with western liquors. When we peaked our heads in around 10, we were the only customers but had a good chat with the bartender. He didn’t speak English much and the menu was in Japanese, but I enjoyed talking to the bartender with my poor Japanese. The bartender said that usually, the bar is the most crowded on Friday and Saturday nights and foreigners are not an unusual sight. The prices were about the same as most bars and it was quite enjoyable.
In Japan, sometimes it is difficult to find places through all the clutter of advertising in the cities; Quest is one of the places that are difficult to find. Quest is on the third floor on a street behind the main street. Everyday from 7-9:30 is Happy Hour where all drinks are 500 yen. Once you find Quest, the inside is illuminated by several neon signs and a few lights leaving it dark, but not too dark. The music was not excessively loud, but at a good level to carry on a regular conversation. They had a more cocktails and shots than beer, but still had a wide array like most bars. The main floor area was wide open with only two tables in the middle. In the back, there was what looked like a poker table but no one was playing or sitting there. The waitress and the bartender both spoke English and the menu was in English as well. Most everyone there was foreign, but there were some Japanese as well.
Low Hydropathes was a food and drink bar that served Belgian beer exclusively. The interior felt like a modern European bar with a sleek counter and clean look. The tables all had the same type of bar stools as the counter and the tables had the same metallic look as the bar. The menu was in both English and Japanese and they had a wide selection of Belgian beer, mostly bottled because they only had three beers on draft. The bartender seemed to speak a little English, but not a whole lot but was still helpful and friendly.
This pub features a large square bar in the middle of a fairly large space for a bar in Tokyo. On a Saturday night most of the crowd was foreigners who were in their thirties. The music was loud and fantastic. They played some Journey and other classic rock. They had imported bottled beer at 800 yen apiece and a vibrant customer base. There seemed to be sections of the bar that were more active than others though. At the back of the bar many people were dancing and on the edges of the bar some people were chatting at small tables and a few people sat at the bar. 4 bartenders staffed the bar at one time and made sure everyone had the drink that they wanted. They could understand your order if you told them in English and there was an English menu available as well.
Like the name says, in Japanese that is, this is a standing only bar. There are tables of different sizes arranged all over the bar for you, but you have to stand. They serve the most common Japanese drinks and some finger food in addition to a few cocktails. The atmosphere was loud and confused as the bar was fairly full of a split between Japanese and foreigners. On the menu there was limited English, but enough to make it easy to order. Although, however, they did not really speak any English so it took a few tries to convey my order. There was nothing really special about this place except that it was a cheap place to drink. I was felt no real attraction to the place because there was nothing that set it apart from everything else.