Locals’ Guide to Drinking in Tokyo

Food & Drinks

Are you looking for an evening of tasty food, drinks, and a good time? Central Tokyo is so chock full of izakaya and bars that it can be hard to know where to start. Furthermore, if you are new to the city there is always the ‘danger’ of falling into a tourist trap. After all, it is always the locals who know their area best and have found their favorite haunts after much trial and error. Let us save you time by sharing with you this list of some of the best local drinking spots in Tokyo!

1.  Ebisu Yokocho

Ebisu-Yokocho

Classy neighborhood Ebisu can be seen as the adult version of nearby Shibuya. There are countless restaurants in the area, but if you want a real local experience you should head to Ebisu Yokocho. This covered alleyway is filled with small izakaya-type restaurants where salarymen and ‘office ladies’ love to blow off steam after a long day of work. 

You can find all of Japan’s favorites such as yakitori, gyoza, and oden, and of course, enjoying a few (alcoholic) drinks is par for the course. We especially recommend you to have a Yebisu beer as a nod to the origins of this premium brew in Ebisu.

2. Asagaya Star Road

Asagaya Star Road
ⓒExperience Suginami Tokyo

Suginami in western Tokyo is known as a residential area, but it has plenty of nice ‘Yokocho’ areas (old-style shopping and dining streets). Asagaya Star Road is one of these charming roads right next to a train station, and besides shopping, people also come here to drink and dine. 

There are various establishments to choose from such as mom-and-pop stores, small izakaya, a beer hall, upscale restaurants, and (jazz) bars, so you can easily spend a whole evening here eating and then bar hopping.

▶Join our bar hopping tour in Asagaya to get the most out of the experience of the area. A local guide will take you to the best drinking spots where regulars will welcome you warmly.

3. Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho

Possibly one of the most photogenic Yokocho areas in Japan, Harmonica Yokocho in the western Tokyo city of Kichijoji is an especially atmospheric place to visit in the evening. With its tiny winding streets filled to the brim with tiny bars and restaurants, you will feel a bit like you are in a movie scene. 

There are many so-called standing bars as well where people who sit all day at work stretch their legs while enjoying some tasty noodles, snacks, and drinks. Because of its location, which is not that close to central Tokyo, it is not extremely crowded but because of the area’s appeal, it still draws enough people to be bustling at night.

4. Yurakucho District

Right next to Tokyo Station is the entertainment district Yurakucho. Under the train tracks between ‘salarymen heaven’ Shimbashi and Tokyo Station, you will find a long line of small eateries, many of which have been around for decades. 

It is one of the easiest places to see local nightlife going on in central Tokyo, and even though lately some new additions have popped up, here you can still get a feel of the typical Showa-era life in Tokyo. Many places have seating outside, so especially when the weather is nice, Yurakucho is a great option for dinner and drinks.

5. Ginza 300 Bar

Unlike the other places mentioned in this list, Ginza 300 Bar is not an area but a single bar. It deserves a special mention however because Ginza 300 Bar has an amazing cost-performance and is very English-friendly. In fact, if you are looking to converse with locals, this bar is one of your best bets in Tokyo. 

We didn’t even mention its biggest draw yet; here you can enjoy quality cocktails for the very budget-friendly price of 300 yen per glass. Don’t forget to try their authentic mojito, one of their most popular drinks!

6. Asakusa Hoppy Dori

Hoppy street

Right next to one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist attractions, the Sensoji Temple, there is a street with a lot of outdoor seating. This is Asakusa Hoppy Dori, a street that initially became famous for its delicious stews made with beef and vegetables. You can still have this nikomi stew here if you want, but over the years options have expanded and now you can enjoy all kinds of typical Japanese izakaya fare.

 In the summer people tend to sit out in the open, and in the colder months, they hang see-through plastic curtains so that you can still sit outside without getting too cold. A nice place to visit together with a trip to Sensoji!

▶Check out our best bar hopping tour in Asakusa for a more local experience!

7. Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho / Miyashita

Shibuya Nonbei Yokocho
The nice thing about Shibuya is that no matter what time of the day, there is always something going on!

Shibuya is not only famous for its busy intersection but it is also known for being one of the most happening nightlife districts of Tokyo. But it is not only clubs and DJ bars in the center of youth culture, you can also enjoy a real Yokocho experience here.

 For a taste of the old-fashioned atmosphere, you should head to Nonbei Yokocho, a tiny alleyway that is sandwiched by 2 rows of retro buildings that seem to have been spared by the modernization that has plagued Shibuya. Most of the very compact bars only seat at most 8 patrons at a time, and some of them are even invitation-only.

For a more modern take on the izakaya establishment, you can go to Miyashita right next door. Newly opened in 2020, this lively group of izakaya offers a taste from all prefectures of Japan. They have indoor as well as outdoor seating, and this side of the street attracts a much younger crowd than the long-established Nonbei Yokocho.

8. Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho & Golden Gai

Golden Gai
Golden Gai gives off extremely retro vibes

You might have heard about Omoide Yokocho and Golden Gai in Shinjuku, as they are probably the most famous alleyways in all of Japan. If you see a neon-lit street and then a few narrow alleyways lined with small eateries and bars in any foodie tv program or movie about Tokyo, chances are that these scenes have been shot in Omoide Yokocho or Golden Gai. 

Having been around since the late 1940s, it is no wonder that you feel like you are in a bygone version of Tokyo in this area. Where Omoide Yokocho is more of a restaurant street, Golden Gai boasts only bars. But in both places, you will for sure get a chance to rub elbows with locals and get a good taste of Shinjuku nightlife, scrumptious food, and alcoholic beverages.

▶Book an exciting izakaya hopping tour in Shinjuku!

9. Koenji Street

Just like in Yurakucho, the Yokocho area of Koenji is situated right under the train tracks. After a day of browsing old records or vintage clothing in hip Koenji, why not enjoy some great food and a relaxing drink in the neighborhood? 

Located in a tunnel, you really feel like you are in a whole different world in Koenji Street, which is lined with not only some second-hand stores but also izakaya serving their typical dishes like chicken skewers and dumplings. With its patrons being an eclectic mix of young and old, you won’t find many salarymen in this Yokocho and you may like the more laid-back vibe that this area exudes.

10. Shinbashi 

Shinbashi
Shinbashi has tons of locals and so it’s a great place to be if you want to talk and make new friends

Of course, the original ‘salarymen heaven’ can’t be missing from a list of locals’ favorite drinking spots. Because of its location near many large corporations’ headquarters, Shinbashi became a bit of a playground after work. Going for drinks with your co-workers and bosses after work is still an important part of corporate life, and Shinbashi delivers the quintessential after-work dinner and drinks experience. 

Not working in Tokyo? That is of course no problem, as anyone is welcome to enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the many restaurants or izakaya. We recommend going to an izakaya with private booths for a relaxing dining experience, which is ubiquitous in this neighborhood.

Discover Tokyo’s Nightlife on a Tour

Are you still a bit hesitant about diving into Tokyo’s lively night scene by yourself, or do you simply want to have a great night on the town without having to think about where to go (or worry about not speaking Japanese), then why don’t you book our Izakaya Hopping Tour in Shinjuku, Asagaya, or Asakusa?
Taken by the hand of an enthusiastic local guide, you will enter several establishments that are beloved by the locals to savor some of the area’s best food and drinks. The guide will make sure that you have a good time and take any language barriers away. If you have any special requests regarding food or drinks you can let us know in advance and the guide will keep your requests in mind when ordering. Kanpai!

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Happy traveling!

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Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.

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