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Tokyo's Lowkey Nightlife Havens

With Tokyo being one of the most populous cities in the world, you can imagine that a night out can be loud, exciting and maybe a little chaotic. That being said, sometimes fighting to get the bartender to pay attention to you in the middle of a crowded club isn't the move. Hidden in the back-streets of Tokyo you can find secluded, lowkey bars with welcoming bartenders and entertaining stories! Here are recommendations for Tokyo's lowkey nightlife havens!

1. Nakano

Nakano might be known for its "Otaku" culture with anime and manga shops galore within Nakano Broadway, but come nighttime it shifts into an affordable and exciting place for a night out. Nakano at night is what you might call "real" Tokyo, its not too well-known as a nighlife spot for tourists and has a collection of small intimate bars with disproportionately large personlaities, some with their own unique retro themes! For those that still have an itch for a little bit of excitement you an even find some local clubs!

Where to Start in Nakano: Juke 80’s

Credit: Photo by latino from Tabelog

If you're a music lover or simply dig 80s nostalgia, look no further than Juke 80's. You can experience the golden era with cult classics from ABBA, Queen and of course Michael Jackson. Even if mainstream isn't your thing, Juke 80’s also plays hidden gems from underground artists. We werent kidding when we said Nakano is affordable with drinks coming in from 350 to 500 yen during happy hour, making it a genuine bargain in the heart of Tokyo.

Address: 164-0001 Tokyo, Nakano City, Nakano, 5 Chome−56−15 金井ビル B1

2. Golden Gai

Photo by Keegan Hasegawa

Despite being amidst the red-light district of Tokyo, Kabukicho has a hidden gem, or perhaps we should say "gems." In Golden Gai you can find over 200 bars within just six narrow alleyways, each with their own unique vibe or theme. With a long history, this area has been a very popular meeting place for famous creatives as well as many other celebrities. It's a great place to meet interesting, passionate and warmhearted bartenders!

The one thing to remember is that etiquette is very important in this area. Bar-hopping is frowned upon in Golden-Gai with some establishments only allowing regulars and others with cover charges ranging from 500 to 1000 yen. Some places even come with a 5000 yen sleeping charge along with the possibility of being kicked out if you get a little too rowdy. But don't stress, all the rules of the bars will be posted for you to read!

To find a bar, simply poke your head in and ask to be seated! Most bartenders will be happy to have you come in and chat about anything and everything! Golden Gai is popular for a reason, there's truly no other place where you can get one-of-a-kind experiences from interacting with such passionate bar owners.

Where to Start in Golden Gai: Ace's Bar

Its easy to be intimidated by the huge number of bars in Golden Gai. So we recommend stopping by "Ace's Bar" to dip your toes into the unique area. Known for its foreigner friendly vibe, this place comes with an English speaking staff, no cover charge and affordable drink prices! It's the perfect place for first timers to get to know the area and ask any questions that they might have.

Address: 1-chōme-1-9 Kabukichō, Shinjuku City, Tōkyō-to 160-0021

3. Shimokitazawa

Photo by Keegan Hasegawa

Shimokitazawa, often heralded as Tokyo's thrifting hub during daylight hours, undergoes a magical transformation come nightfall, attracting a diverse crowd of music enthusiasts and creatives. If you're trying to learn more about the indie culture that surrounds Tokyo's local artists and creatives this is one-hundred percent the place to visit.

If music is your thing, you can find music bars with live performances and even some small clubs! If traditional Japanese bars are more your speed, izakaya's are also around every corner. For those that are feeling adventurous, if you look carefully enough you'll even find hidden speakeasies. Shimokitzawa is a must visit for those looking to have a unique deep-dive into the artistic and creative culture of Tokyo.

Where to Start in Shimokitazawa: Little Soul Cafe

Photo by Keegan Hasegawa

Little Soul Cafe is a Jazz bar owned by perhaps Tokyo's biggest Jazz enthusiast. This cozy bar has hundreds and hundreds of Jazz records placed all along the walls with the nightly playlist carefully curated by the bar tender. The vibe itself is calm and relaxed making it the perfect place to get your adventure in Shimokitazawa started!

Address: 155-0031 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 3 Chome−20−2 大成ビル 2階


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