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It would be impossible to get to know Tokyo without experiencing at least a little of the Tokyo nightlife. Within a couple of days of arriving in Japan, it was clear that Tokyo is a night city. In fact, there may just be even more things to do in Tokyo at night than during the day.
I always talk about how Japan is a country of contrasts. It’s a really unique trait and it’s captivating. It’s probably one of the reasons I fell in love so quickly and the Japan nightlife is just another great example.
What is Tokyo nightlife like?
Spend a few days in Tokyo, and you’ll see how everything comes to life as soon as the day goes to sleep. Tokyo nightlife, much like the Japan nightlife in general, is as vibrant and diverse as everything else you’ll experience while travelling Japan.
The lights become brighter, the streets become busier and the sounds become louder – although, even now, you can still hear yourself whisper. This is Japan, after all. Step inside one of Tokyo’s many nightlife spots and you won’t hear that whisper anymore. Tokyo is a city where, behind closed doors, anything goes and open mind will serve you well. But no matter where you end up, you can be sure that you’re in for a fun – and perhaps unpredictable – night.
Why you should experience Tokyo by night
There’s so much to see, do and generally soak up in Japan during the day, that you’ll probably be looking forward to a good night’s sleep come sunset. Japan is an experience for all five senses, and it can be just as exhausting as it is exciting.
But to miss out on the Tokyo nightlife would be to miss out on a massive part of Japanese culture. There are so many different and unqiue things to do in Tokyo at night, and each one will help you get to know this city a little more.
Whether it’s your first trip to Japan or your fiftieth, take at least one night in Tokyo to experience something new – I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
Where to go in Tokyo at night
Shibuya at night
Shibuya is just as central to the Tokyo nightlife scene as it is to the city’s day-to-day life. You’ll never go hungry in Shibuya because many of the restaurants here are open 24 hours, just like some of the shops and cafes.
If you thought Shibuya was busy during the day, wait until you see Shibuya at night. It’s a little overwhelming and a whole lot of fun to experience. And probably just how you expected all of Tokyo to be.
TRAVEL TIP: See the best of Shibuya’s nightlife on a tour with a local guide.
Things to do in Shinjuku at night
Shinjuku is another Tokyo district that comes into its own once the sun goes down. Even though there are endless shops, sushi bars and ramen houses to feed and entertain you during the day, there are endless things to do in Shinjuku at night (including all of the above).
From late night shopping and entertainment, to row upon row of clubs and bars, Shinjuku is a nightlife hub but still doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s nowhere near as chaotic as Shibuya even though there’s just as much to do in Shinjuku at night, so it’s a great first port of call for new and returning visitors alike.
Fun things to do in Toyko at night
Head to an all-night karaoke
Many of the karaoke bars in Tokyo, just like all cities in Japan, are open 24 hours. So stop crying your heart out and start singing your heart out.
In most countries, karaoke is a little bit embarrassing – at least without a few gin and tonics in you. In Tokyo, even the shyest singers turn into Mariah Carey, taking over their tiny stage and losing themself in the moment. Or many moments… depending on how long you decide to stay.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to keep topping up your time, especially when it’s so affordable. Japan may be on the pricey side for most things, but karaoke is by far one of the cheapest things to do in Tokyo at night. A private room will only set you back around $6 per hour INCLUDING unlimited alcohol drinks.
Whether that sounds like a heavenly night out or a recipe for disaster (I’ll let you decide), trying out karaoke is a must-do during your time in Tokyo.
Sample some sushi
The best things in life may be free, but the best things in Tokyo are open 24 hours. And that includes the sushi bars.
Eating sushi is one of the best things to do at pretty much any time of day, so I couldn’t not include it in this list of things to do in Tokyo at night. Even though it’s not strictly a nighttime-only activity, there’s something extra fun about sneaking into a sushi bar at 4am in the morning. Plus, it’s much classier than stumbling into a kebab shop and demanding a box of cheesy chips like we do back home.
Witness the infamous robot show
The Shinjuku ‘robot show’ was by far the most memorable thing that happened in Tokyo – even if does feel like it must have been a dream. Words cannot describe the robot show – and for that reason alone, it’s something you shouldn’t miss – but I’ll give it a go anyway…
You’d think that a flashing, singing restaurant would be easy to find. Not in Tokyo. The street is so full of flashing lights that the giant primary-coloured letters won’t stand out until you’re underneath them.
You’ll hear Shinjuku’s robot restaurant before you see it. “Robot show, robot show” sing the motorised dummies out the front (who you can, of course, take a selfie with). I hope for your own sake that you enjoy that song because you’re going to be humming it for weeks.
Step inside and you won’t have a clue where you are, what you’re doing or how the world came to be the way it is. Just go with it. Embrace the weirdness and you’ll have one of the best nights of your life. Guaranteed. And if you want a sneak peek, check out my Tokyo nightlife video before you go:
Take a bath – with strangers
Situated on Tokyo’s Odaiba island, Oedo-onsen-monogatari is one of the only places to get the onsen hot spring experience in the Japanese capital. And it’s not just an onsen but an entire onsen ‘theme park’, complete with fortune tellers and a candy store.
The onsen is only closed between 9am and 11am (presumably for cleaning) so you can take a dip at pretty much any time you like. You can also stay overnight in the on-site ryokan if you want the full experience.
Unlike most onsen in Japan, Oedo-onsen-monogatari is not gender segregated – but the usual rules still apply. Make sure you know how to onsen and what to avoid before going in to avoid any surprises!
Drink a small drink in a small bar
If you want a truly unique drinking experience as well as a unique kind of Tokyo nightlife, head to Golden Gai.
This tiny area of Shinjuku is packed with even tinier bars. In fact, the place is so small that it could be one giant bar. Luckily that isn’t the case, because stepping into a small bar for a Japanese whiskey on the rocks was one of my favourite experiences in Tokyo.
Most of the bars in Golden Gar have room for 6 or 7 patrons – no more. Most of them ask for a small cover charge or minimum spend, but it’s totally worth the price. It’s a really fun way to enjoy a drink, and a great way to get to know your drinking companions – the bartender included – and share stories you never thought you’d hear or tell.
See a temple lit up
You can’t take a trip to Japan without visiting at least one or two temples – even if you didn’t plan to see any! We stumbled across some of our favourites purely by accident, but that’s just another reason why I love Japan.
Every city in Japan is full of impressive temples and travellers eager to see them, but what many people don’t know is that you can visit some of them at night. Senso-ji temple is one of the most famous temples in Tokyo and is an entirely different experience at night, when its entire structure is lit up.
Explore the streets of Harajuku
Harajuku is one of Tokyo’s most famous areas. And with colourful shop fronts, cartoon everything and candyfloss the size of your head, it’s one of the most fun parts of Tokyo to explore at any time of day.
Head there during the day to get a feel for this playful sub-culture, then head back at night to see it with shining lights and whistles on. It’s the perfect spot for some late night shopping or simply to soak up the permanent fairground vibes. Just make sure you save room for dessert!
Step onto Shibuya crossing
There are certain things that every visitor in Tokyo needs to do, and seeing Shibuya crossing is one of them. While you can easily pass half an hour or more just watching the crossing in action during the day – the flurry of people! The organised chaos! The constant movement! – it’s even more fun at night.
As Shibuya’s crowds draw in to enjoy the Tokyo nightlife, the busy Shibuya crossing gets lit up by the flashing billboards around it. And it’s a pretty magical scene. Head to Shibuya to witness it yourself, then become part of it as you step onto the crossing and make your way to one of many surrounding nightclubs.
Take an overnight trip
Although the Tokyo nightlife could keep you entertained for months, if you plan on spending one week in Japan or more, spend at least one day exploring somewhere outside of the city. Or better yet, spend an entire night out of the city.
Many of the best day trips from Tokyo also make great 1-night trips – especially if you want to stick around for sunset or beat the crowds with some early morning exploring. If you only have time for one, spend a night in Shibu Onsen and go to see the Japanese snow monkeys bathing in hot springs first thing in the morning. It will be one of the most magical mornings you ever have.
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