Tokyo is a 24/7 city and there’s a lot of fun to be had even after the sun has come down. You will surely find an activity to match your interests. Here are 10 exciting ideas to enjoy the city at night:
Enjoy the City’s Night Views
Tokyo’s urban landscape transforms at night; definitely a sight to behold from different vantage points. For the best views, consider these options:
1. Observation Decks & Top Floor Restaurants
The view from the top is perhaps the most popular way to appreciate Tokyo’s dazzling beauty at night. The three best venues for this are: Tokyo Skytree in Oshiage, Tokyo Tower in Minato, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho) in Shinjuku. The first two are touristy facilities with abundant options for dining, shopping, and entertainment activities, while Tocho has two free observation decks open to the public. Alternatively, top floor restaurants and bar lounges are also common in Shinjuku, Marunouchi, and Shiodome; perfect for those who want to dine, drink and soak in the city’s skyline all at the same time.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/ENGLISH/OFFICES/observat.htm
Tokyo Skytree: http://www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/
Tokyo Tower: https://www.tokyotower.co.jp/of/en.html
2. Tokyo Bay Night Cruises
Tokyo Bay is illuminated by the numerous attractions that surround its banks. To name a few, these are Odaiba, Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Gate Bridge, and Haneda Airport. To be spotted at a distance are the high-rise buildings of nearby districts and famous landmarks like Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree. Summer is the best time to go on a cruise, and if your travel period happens to fall on the last week of July, your timing is just perfect. Sumida River Fireworks Festival is scheduled every last Saturday of July, and it surely is a wonderful spectacle.
There are many boat tour operators in the area for all types of budget, but you might want to consider getting on a Yakatabune for something more cultural. These are old-school pleasure boats used by aristocrats for riverside parties. Enjoy a Japanese feast and traditional entertainment as you sail into the calm waters and magnificent scenery of Tokyo Bay.
3. Sightseeing Bus Night Courses
The streets and tourist attractions of Tokyo have a different charm at night, and you can enjoy all these with just one bus ticket. Popular hop-on-hop-off double-decker buses also offer night courses that take passengers around the city’s major spots such as Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Odaiba, Rainbow Bridge, Ginza, and so on.
4. Winter Illuminations
Winter nights in Tokyo may be cold, but they are also brighter. This is the time of the year when twinkling landscapes are set up all over the city beckoning everyone for a nice evening stroll. Roppongi, Omotesando, Tokyo Station, and the area around Tokyo Tower are the must visit places to witness the season’s most dazzling lights.
Engage in Entertainment & Leisure Activities
From wild parties to relaxing massages and everything in between, Tokyo will always have something to match your moods and tastes.
5. Drinking at Izakayas
Tokyoites love drinking. It’s a fact that can easily be justified by the numerous Izakaya bars wherever you go in Tokyo – in the poshest neighborhoods and even under train tracks. Sake is the classic offering but these days, more and more establishments have ventured into serving other types of drinks. The food menu has likewise diversified although yakitori and sashimi remain the most popular.
In Shinjuku, there’s a popular Izakaya alley called Omoide Yokocho. It has many other nicknames which you might easily recognize – Piss Alley, Memory Alley, and Yakitori Alley. It’s a narrow strip of bars and eateries reminiscent of post-war Tokyo where there’s an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, a barrage of salarymen unwinding after work, and the mixed aroma of food and people.
Tokyo throws one of the hottest parties in the world. The clubbing scene here is bursting with energy, where the crowds are prepared to go over the top for an epic night of partying. Helming these parties are a talented mix of local DJs and even internationally renowned artists spanning different genres like EDM, techno, house, and drum ‘n’ bass. For a night of endless dancing, either go to Shibuya or Roppongi. These two districts have the highest concentration of top-rated party hot spots.
ageHa: http://www.ageha.com (Japanese only)
In the mood for singing instead? You can sing to your heart’s content all night long at a Tokyo karaoke. Your best bet is a karaoke chain like Karaoke Kan, Big Echo, or Shidax. They are sure to have branches in major areas and a wide portfolio of English songs, more than enough to sing to until the sun comes up.
8. Sports & Entertainment Facilities
Those who love sports and physical activities will find plenty of stuff to do at Round 1, Japan’s amusement store chain. The offering may vary per branch, but the concept is an all-in-one space for a wide array of activities such as bowling, arcade games, billiards, darts, ping-pong, batting practice, and even mini-soccer. There are 3 branches in Tokyo – in Itabashi, Odaiba, and Ikebukuro. Itabashi and Odaiba branches are open for extended hours, while Ikebukuro is open 24 hours a day.
9. Overnight Spa
If something more chill and relaxing is what you have in mind, then a visit to an overnight spa should be booked. There are a handful of these establishments around Tokyo, but if you head to Spa LaQua in Tokyo Dome City, not only can you pamper yourself with a massage, you also get to indulge in a therapeutic Onsen bath in the middle of the city!
Spa LaQua: http://www.laqua.jp/pages/en/index.html
Explore the Quirky Side of Tokyo
Part of Tokyo’s irresistible appeal is its distinctively weird and wacky side. It’s up to you how deep you want to go in exploring this subculture. It’s definitely interesting and worth checking out, but be warned that some establishments are out to test your tolerance levels.
10. Themed Restaurants
Alcatraz, Alice in Wonderland, and a vampire’s lair are some of the themes employed by Tokyo’s most unusual dining spaces. Many establishments use these alternate realities to set the mood, while some would go as far as serving food that doesn’t look appetizing at all simply because they look like body parts. Disturbing, right?
However, not all themed restaurants are this strange. Some are Otaku or interest driven. For instance, Bar Kodoji in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area is dubbed as a photographer’s bar because of its collection of fine drinks and rare photography books. On the other hand, if you fancy classic films and whiskey, you are most welcome in a bar called Zoetrope, also in Shinjuku.
Alcatraz E.R.: http://alcatraz-er.net (Japanese only)
Alice in a Labyrinth: http://www.alice-restaurant.com/meikyu/ (Japanese only)
Vampire Café: http://diamond-dining-shops.jp/vampirecafe/ginza (Japanese only)
11. Show Performances
“The greatest show on earth!”
International travel TV host Anthony Bourdain has this to say about Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant – where robots parade the stage accompanied by laser light effects, drum beats combined with futuristic sounds, and too many other things happening all at the same time. It’s a complete sensory overload, and indeed, there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. This is one of those quintessential nightlife experiences in Tokyo; so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Robot Restaurant: http://www.shinjuku-robot.com/pc/?lng=en
The absurd concept doesn’t end with robots, though. Curious about the Japanese idol subculture? Head to P.A.R.M.S. Theater in Akihabara. Want something avant-garde? Roppongi Kingyo is one of the city’s many stages to experience Neo-Kabuki performances. These nightly spectacles are certified crazy, and if you really are into flashy show performances, Tokyo’s dinner theaters will most definitely fill your nights with entertainment.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.