Tokyo only really comes alive at night. The Poppongi district with its countless bars, clubs and discos is lively seven days a week. Foreigners living in Tokyo as well as members of the US military base also travel here. Shinjuku, on the other hand, is Japanese and has an unbelievable number of eating and drinking places, from huge beer halls to tiny intimate themed bars, but also cinemas, massage parlors and Japan’s largest gay scene.
Dress codes are rarely particularly strict. Clubs charge a high entrance fee, but this usually contains several drinks. In the izakaya (Japanese pubs) and bars are often required to have a minimum consumption, which generally consists of small snacks. Drink prices depend on the environment and range from reasonable to outrageously expensive. If you are unsure about the prices, you should ask before ordering. Those who are inclined to go to one of the many hostess clubs? to go should know that a beer in the company of an attractive hostess can easily become very expensive. The gay bars of Tokyo can be found close to each other in the Shinjuku 2-chome area. Here one reacts suspiciously to foreign customers, which is why the accompaniment by a Japanese is appropriate. Several hotels have so-called ‘sky bars’, from which you get an impressive view of the city.
There are no statutory hours of taproom, but the minimum age for the consumption of alcoholic beverages is 20 years. Admission prices and opening times are very different, and the night scene in Tokyo is constantly changing. Directories and information on the hottest places can be found in the English-speaking Metropolis (Internet: www.metropolis.co.jp) or in the Tokyo Journal (Internet: www.tokyo.to).
In keeping with the traditions of the fun-loving inhabitants of ancient Edo, a remarkable number of festivals, rituals, temple festivals and celebrations are also held in modern Tokyo. The year begins with the traditional visit to the shrines on New Year, where one prays for happiness and blessings for the coming year. The rest of the year in Tokyo is filled with holidays and festivities, from the most popular to the most esoteric. Some events mark a special birthday or day in the Buddhist calendar and only extend to certain parts of the city, shrines or temples. B. the cherry blossom festival, are celebrated extensively throughout the city.
The traditional arts also flourish in Tokyo. Traditional drama, martial arts, the tea ceremony and the art of planting flowers are taught and performed everywhere. Many internationally known orchestras, dance troupes and pop groups come to Tokyo on their tours, but well-known art exhibitions are also brought to Tokyo and enrich the lively local art and entertainment scene. The Tourist Information Center (Tel: (03) 32 01 33 31) has a database with detailed information about the festivals in the city. Directories with tips on events, concerts and exhibitions also appear in the English language city magazines Metropolis (Internet: www.metropolis.co.jp) andTokyo Journal (Internet: www.tokyo.to). The two largest ticket agencies, Ticket Pia (tel: (03) 52 37 99 99) and Lawson Ticket (tel: (03) 55 37 99 99), which have numerous agencies in the city, speak English. Events are regularly sold out, so you should get tickets well in advance.
Buto is an experimental, sometimes grotesque form of expressive dance, developed in Japan in the 1960s and found a loyal following among the more avant-garde Japanese. Performances take place in various locations and are listed in the event sections of the city magazines Metropolis (Internet: www.metropolis.co.jp) and Tokyo Journal (Internet: www.tokyo.to).
The traditional religious festivals ( Matsuri) in Japan take place in the neighborhoods. These joyful, exuberant and yet harmless festivals show a completely different picture of the Japanese than you get in everyday life or in business. You start at the local shrines by moving with the mikoshi (portable shrine) carried by men, women and children in festive clothing through the streets, accompanied by traditional music and dance. Stalls selling food, jewelry and plenty of beer are sold at stands on the street. The three best-known Matsuri that are held in neighborhoods throughout Tokyo during the summer are the Kanda Matsuri in Kanda, theSanja Matsuri in Asakusa, both take place in mid-May, and Sanno Matsuri in Akasaka in mid-June. With thousands of participants and many more spectators, these festivals are great fun, but can be exhausting as there can be incredible crowds.
The cherry blossom festival takes place in April, during which the entire city population heads to the parks to picnic under the blossom and celebrate in a humid and cheerful way. In August, traditional bon odori dances take place under colorful lanterns to commemorate the spirits of the late ancestors. The very lively, colorful and not at all Japanese Asakusa Samba Carnival is hosted by the Japanese who lived in Brazil for a long time and takes place every year in late August in the streets of Asakusa. The Tokyo International Film Festival, which is always held in late October or early November, takes place at Bunkamura, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku (Tel: (03) 34 77 99 99. Internet:www.bunkamura.co.jp/english/index.html), and in the cinemas of the Shibuya district.
Roppongi has an international scene, where you should pay a visit to the gaudy, foreigner-friendly Gas Panic, 3-15-24 Roppongi.
Address: 3-15-24 Roppongi, Tokyo
In Castillo, 6-1-8 Roppongi, disco classics are played continuously, and so you usually find more people on the small dance floor than at the bar.
Address: 6-1-8 Roppongi, Tokyo
For a glass of Guinness, visit The Dubliners, 3-28-9 Shinjuku.
Address: 3-28-9 Shinjuku, Tokyo
You can get to know Japanese rock’n’roll in the noisy, shady Rolling Stone, 3-2-7 Shinjuku.
Address: 3-2-7 Shinjuku, Tokyo
Las Chicas, 5-47-6 Jingumae, Harajuku, is a modern bar-restaurant complex with a leafy courtyard that is a cozy place for a drink on a summer evening.
Address: 5-47-6 Jingumae, Tokyo
The Isn’t It ?, 3-8-18 Roppongi bar, opposite the Bunkamura Art Center in Shibuya, is a popular hangout. The drinks are very cheap here.
Address: 3-8-18 Roppongi, Tokyo
Things are a little finer in the chic Bar Highlander, 2-10-4 Toranomon, in the Hotel Okura, where there are over 200 types of whiskey to choose from.
Address: 2-10-4 Toranomon, Tokyo
New York bar
The New York Bar, 3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, is a classy jazz bar on the 52nd floor of the posh Park Hyatt Hotel.
Address: 3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
Club Asia, 1-8 Maruyamacho, Shibuya, hosts important DJ evenings and ‘The Ring’, an always eagerly awaited gay / straight dance party. The adjoining room invites you to take a break from dancing and surf the Internet.
Address: 1-8 Maruyamacho, Tokyo
The code, Koma Gekijo, Kabukicho, Shinjuku, has a huge dance floor and plenty of places to relax from dancing.
Address: Koma Gekijo, Tokyo
The Liquid Room, 1-20-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, is a modern venue for live events and occasional club nights.
Address: 1-20-1 Kabukicho, Tokyo
A huge disco palace over several floors is the Velfarre, 7-14-22 Roppongi, in Roppongi, where there are strict dress codes and a high entrance fee.
Address: 7-14-22 Roppongi, Tokyo
The chic Lexington Queen, 3-13-14 Roppongi, is particularly popular with models and showbiz people and is a good place to meet celebrities.
Address: 3-13-14 Roppongi, Tokyo
Trend-conscious students can be found in the progressive Yellow, 1-10-11 Nishi-Azabu.
Address: 1-10-11 Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo
The Salsa Sudada, 7-13-8 Roppongi is ideal for listening to a different kind of music, where not only Latino music but also cocktails can get to your head.
Address: 7-13-8 Roppongi, Tokyo
Tokyo’s local pop and rock scene takes place primarily in the ‘Live Houses’ – dark, disco-like venues with a small stage. One of the best known is the loft, 1-12-9 Kabukicho.
Address: 1-12-9 Kabukicho, Tokyo
The Crocodile, 6-18-8 Jingumae, Harajuku, is a well known ‘live house’.
Address: 6-18-8 Jingumae, Tokyo
The Cave, 34-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya, is a well-known ‘live house’.
Address: 34-6 Udagawacho, Tokyo
Club Quattro, 32-13 Udagawacho, Shibuya, is a well-known ‘live house’.
Address: 32-13 Udagawacho, Tokyo
The modern indie rock site Milk, 1-13-3 Nishi-Ebisu, is a mix of a club and a live house.
Address: 1-13-3 Nishi-Ebisu, Tokyo
Tokyo’s leading jazz eatery is the Blue Note, 5-13-3 Minami-Aoyama, where top international performers regularly perform.
Address: 5-13-3 Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo
An important venue for large rock concerts is The Budokan, 2-3 Kitanomaru-Koen, Chiyoda-ku.
Address: 2-3 Kitanomaru-Koen, Tokyo
Telephone: (03) 32 16 51 00
Large rock concerts take place in Tokyo Dome, 1-3 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku. Tickets are expensive and should be reserved in advance.
Address: 1-3 Koraku, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 58 00 99 99
Bunkamura Orchard Hall
Lovers of classical music have a lot to offer in Tokyo. There are several symphony orchestras located in the city and often performances by guest orchestras, choirs and opera companies. The numerous venues include Bunkamura Orchard Hall, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku (arrival: Shibuya train station). Traditional Japanese music with taiko (drum) and shamisen (string instrument) can occasionally be heard in Bunkamura.
Address: 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 34 77 99 99
A venue for classical concerts is Suntory Hall, 1-13-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku.
Address: 1-13-1 Akasaka, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 35 84 99 99
Tokyo Opera City
A venue for classical concerts is the Tokyo Opera City, 3-20-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku.
Address: 3-20-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 53 53 99 99
Tokyo International Forum
In the Tokyo International Forum, 3-8-1 Marunochi, Chiyoda-ku, various musicals and cultural performances are performed in four halls. With 5000 seats, one of the halls is one of the largest in the world.
Address: 3-8-1 Marunochi, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 52 21 90 00
Takarazuka Thousand Days Theater
You can enjoy the extravagant performances of the glamorous Takarazuka dance troupe, which consists only of women and is currently performing at the Takarazuka Thousand Days Theater, 3-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku.
Address: 3-8-3 Marunouchi, Tokyo
Telephone: (03) 52 51 20 01
In Tokyo there are regular guest appearances by foreign dance troupes – from ballet to tango ensembles. Performances often take place at Bunkamura, 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku.
Address: 2-24-1 Dogenzaka, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 34 77 99 99
Of the traditional dramatic arts in Japan, Kabuki is probably the most impressing with its fantastic costumes, elaborate productions and complex plot sequences. Kabuki is regularly performed at Kabuki-za, 4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, and headphones with English commentary are also provided. Performances are long and sometimes take up to five or six hours, but tickets for just one act are also available.
Information on the performances of other traditional performing arts, including noh (reserved, highly stylized drama that has hardly changed since the Japanese Middle Ages), Bunraku (puppet theater) and Kyogen (short satirical pieces that are often used during breaks in noh dramas) are available from the Tourist Information Center (Tel: (03) 32 01 33 31).
Address: 4-12-15 Ginza, Tokyo
Phone: (03) 35 41 31 31
The Panasonic Globe, 3-1-2 Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, was modeled on Shakespeare’s original London Globe Theater. Occasionally plays in English by visiting foreign theater companies are performed here.
Address: 3-1-2 Hyakunin-cho, Tokyo
Telephone: (03) 33 60 11 51