25 April, 2017
Travel

Nightlife in Japan: A Guide to Tokyo’s Small Bar Scene

25 April, 2017

Backstreet Brews

 

Imagine venturing into a city as densely populated as Tokyo and finding a space of your own. It’s not the internet café hostels or karaoke closets I’m thinking of, but the city’s captivating small bar scene. Tucked into a network of alleyways are the social nooks Tokyo is secretly famous for. No larger than a bedroom, these cosy hangouts seat as little as five people. Due to the size of the bars and the inevitable language barriers, they can be tricky to find. Luckily for you, Tokyo is the city to get lost in…

Read more: 24 hours in Tokyo: What To See & Where To Go In Just One Day

Golden Gai Tokyo

Golden Gai

Begin your night in Golden Gai, a maze-like drinking district that squeezes 200 bars into six streets. The district is akin to the laneway scenes of New York and Melbourne, yet it’s a whole other beast. While small bars are peppered throughout Tokyo, Golden Gai is remarkable for its sheer density of the bars.

In the softly lit alleyways, sure-footed partygoers busy about. It’s easy to feel like a bit of an outsider at first. Fortunately, the limited capacity of these bars won’t give you time to stall and you’ll rush inside whichever one has space! Understandably, you might want to be a little more selective than that. So…

Read more: 10 Tips for Solo Female Travellers

Bar Asyl

Get your feet wet at Bar Asyl. This haunt is the place to feel right at home. Abe, the owner is not only a drink-mixing wizard and the king of conversation, he also happens to write about K-Pop for a living. So settle in, enjoy the liquids and get to know the five other patrons who are probably there for the same reasons you are. Getting to Asyl, however, is an adventure in itself. Bring a map!

Read more: 8 Travel Instagram Accounts You Need to Follow

Zucca in Golden Gai Tokyo

Zucca

In Golden Gai, each venue distinguishes itself with a theme. The décor will usually give it away, but each bar is distinct with its own kind of patron. There’s everything from art-house cinema for the savants, punk rock for the musos and borderline S&M for all you ‘freaky’ people. So, to add a themed bar to your list, stop at the Halloween-themed, Zucca.

The drinking den of Zucca is popular among the ladies (yay!) and is wonderfully quirky in its commitment to theme. Zucca is “pumpkin” in Italian, and so the bar is dotted with pumpkin décor. It’s also known for its wildly friendly staff. Come more than once and you can expect to be greeted by name and with your signature drink.

Read more: 5 Reasons Taipei Makes for an Awesome Girls Getaway

Nana

End the night in Nana, another one of Golden Gai’s themed delights. This teeny joint is said to be the smallest flamenco bar in the world! It was founded in the early ‘60s by a Japanese woman who was mad for Spanish culture. As such, Nana is filled with Andalusian music and its regulars are Flamenco enthusiasts from Japan and beyond. In true Spanish style, Nanas serves delicious tapas even though only seven people fit inside!

Read more: Top Travel Destinations: Sassy’s Picks for 2017

A Few Tips…

 

  • To reach Golden Gai, get off the train at Shinjuku Station and take the east exit. It’s a short walk from here.
  • Some of the small bars are for members or regulars only. So, if you’re on walkabout and you’re unsure, flash a smile and ask before you enter.
  • While the bars above don’t have a cover charge, many of Golden Gai’s bars have an entry fee or table charge of around ¥700 (roughly $50)
  • One more thing… the bars don’t have fixed addresses! My best advice is to explore, ask a few locals and have a peek inside each establishment. Golden Gai is a six street labyrinth, so there is a bit of room for confusion – especially when drinks are involved – but not so much that you’ll wind up lost. It’s all part of your Tokyo adventure!

Featured image credited to Serena Coady, image #1 sourced via Pinterest, image #2 sourced via Photopin

Back to top
#SoSassy
Take some time to indulge this month with the Great November Feast, featuring over 600 of the city’s most renowned restaurants! Taking place all month long, the epic foodie festival is offering everything from special menus, to themed dining events, gourmet deals and exclusive wine offers at up to 50% off. Head to the link in our bio to find out everything you need to know.⁠
⁠
@discoverhongkong #GreatNovemberFeast⁠
⁠
*How To Plan An Eco-Friendly Christmas In Hong Kong* is live on #sassyhongkong. Follow the link in bio to read your guide to enjoying an ethical and sustainable Christmas – without scrimping on the festive cheer 🤶.⁠
⁠
#ecohongkong #sassyhongkong #christmashongkong⁠
⁠
Cook Like A Pro! Learn how to cook *Hearty Mexican Pozole From @confusion_hk* on #sassyhongkong now 🥑. ⁠
⁠
Confusion’s Lisa Terauchi reveals her tried and tested recipe with us. Link in bio! ⁠
📷 @confusion_hk + @sonyaheera
⁠
#hkvegans #hkvegetarianfood #cooklikeapro #sassytastes⁠
⁠
Want to get ahead on your Christmas shopping and work towards that next trip away? This month, @asiamiles is making it even easier for us to earn Miles! Head to the link in our bio to find out all about how you can earn Bonus Miles simply by shopping at some of our favourite brands. With sites included such as ASOS, NET-A-PORTER and more, it’s hard to resist.⁠
No it's not too soon to start thinking about Christmas dinner. *Your Ultimate Christmas Dining Out Guide 2019* is live on #sassyhongkong. We’ve rounded up our favourite restaurants offering decadent festive menus. Follow our link in bio to start planning now. ⁠
⁠
#sassytastes #christmasdinner #hkdining⁠
⁠
📷@meatshk
Deck the halls! 🎄 *Where To Buy Christmas Decorations In Hong Kong* is live on #sassyhongkong. Link in bio.⁠
⁠
#sosassy #sassychristmas #hongkongchristmas⁠
⁠
📷@thornandburrowshop⁠
⁠
Looking to impress this Saturday night? *Cook Like A Pro: A Must-Try Sea Bass Recipe From Uma Nota* is on #sassyhongkong. ⁠
⁠
Chef Gustavo of @uma.nota shares his popular “Roasted Sea Bass Fillet In Banana Leaf” recipe. Link in bio.⁠
⁠
#sassytastes #cooklikeapro
We've got that Friday feeling 🤸‍♀️. ⁠
Which spots in our city make you jump (or handstand) for joy?⁠
⁠
#sassyloves this shot by @kristof.valgaerts⁠
⁠
#sassyhongkong #hkinsta #sosassy⁠

#SoSassy

@SASSYHONGKONG