Japan is known as a very hard-working culture; subways are always packed with people going to and from their jobs (yes, the infamous “subway pushers” are real), and everyone wears suits and holds briefcases, no matter the time. It seems like all the Japanese do is work… but they truly live by the motto, “Work Hard, Play Hard.” Or in this case, play like a crazy person. When the work is over, the people of Tokyo party harder than we even knew was humanly possible, any day of the week. So in a culture where the people like to reward themselves after a hard days work, the nightlife must have to cater to this party lifestyle.
However, the night life scene in Tokyo can be very different for Americans and other tourists. One can’t just pop into any bar and hope to sing karaoke in front of a hundred drunken Japanese people. Here’s some stuff we learned here in Tokyo about the nightlife, so when you decide to make the plunge you can be prepared.
When coming to Japan, you’ll probably be excited to sing some of your favorite songs like “Mr. Roboto” in a crowded bar filled with locals. This is not really a thing in Japan though. If you come in wanting to sing karaoke, you’ll have to do so in private rooms with your party. Any karaoke place you go to, you pay for an allotted amount of time (30+ minutes) and your party will get to sing to each other while enjoying unlimited drinks. It’s a great deal! But if that isn’t what you are looking to do, then sadly your dreams of karaoke may be dashed. There is word of some bars that do offer public karaoke, but they are mostly closed to foreigners as the owners do not want to deal with drunken tourists.
People think of Sake as one of the national drinks of Japan. While this may be the truth, it is not as abundant as you may think. At some bars, trying to order “Sake” will get you puzzled looks and the possibility of getting laughed at, which happened to us at a pirate themed bar in Roppongi, called Genie Queen. If you want to drink Sake, you’ll have to do so mainly at restaurants, or you can buy some at any convenience store like 7-11. Oh, and people won’t get what you mean when you ask for “Sake Bombs,” so try to avoid that as well!
So, where to go?
The Roppongi District is the huge nightlife area of Tokyo. Littered with bars, nightclubs, and Nigerian club promoters, Roppongi is definitely the party hotspot of the city and, as a tourist, this is definitely where you would want to go. Our own experiences led us to a club/bar called New Lex (http://newlextokyo.com/), where we partied with the Tokyo Disney princesses (and other Disney characters) at the Hello Kitty themed party the bar was holding.
Pictures of celebrities who have also attended the bar cover the walls of the entrance, which is surprising for a bar that isn’t large in size or very flashy and pretty. But, it came to our surprise when our very own Justin Bieber came into New Lex, walked right up next to us to give a dirty glance, and headed straight towards the VIP section with his whole posse of swag coaches. Although we were starstruck, Bieber kind of ruined our night because he invited Snow White and Tinkerbell back to his hotel leaving us alone at the bar to drink with Peter Pan and the Mad Hatter. Other than that little hiccup, we left knowing that Roppongi is definitely the go-to spot for a great night in Tokyo for tourists and locals alike.