What are the best ways to enjoy Tokyo at night?

Rainbow Bridge Night

As hard as Tokyo works during the day, the city really knows how to enjoy itself at night. When the sun goes down and office doors finally close, tired but hungry workers pour out into the streets, gathering with friends or coworkers at izakaya, restaurants, and bars to share food, drinks, and gossip. While eating and drinking are at the core of Japanese nightlife, those looking to party harder will find plenty of options available in the clubs of Shinjuku, Roppongi, and Shibuya. Those in search of a quieter night out can opt for gorgeous city views, relaxing strolls through quiet neighborhoods, or the soothing hot waters of one of the city’s onsen or sento. If you would prefer some entertainment to liven up your night, Tokyo is home to many professional sports teams (especially soccer and baseball) as well as theater, game centers, and Tokyo Disneyland. For more on how to make the most of your night in Tokyo, read on!

Tokyo After Dark

Edward Seidensticker, the man responsible for translating Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country (1956) and Thousand Cranes (1958) into English (leading to Kawabata’s Nobel Prize in Literature), once described Tokyo as “the world’s most consistently interesting city.” Seidensticker also wrote A History of Tokyo (1867-1989): from Edo to Showa, the Emergence of the World’s Greatest City, a highly personal yet extremely insightful investigation into the development of Tokyo as a modern city, including its remarkable resurgence after the devastations of the 1923 Kanto Earthquake and the fire-bombings of World War II.

Along with great works of architecture and infrastructure, the book devotes many pages to the evolution of Tokyo’s nightlife. From the red lamps of the old Yoshiwara district to the first electric bulbs in glitzy Ginza to the blazing neon of Shinjuku today, Tokyo has long been a city that comes alive, and alight, at night.

There is no shortage of things to do after dark in Tokyo. For locals, it’s all about food and drink, with groups of friends gathering in restaurants or izakaya for conversation that flows almost as quickly as the sake, beer, and haiboru (“highballs”). Tokyo has a decent clubbing and live music scene as well, with many venues these days attracting a fairly mixed international crowd. Nighttime is also the best time to indulge in one of modern Japan’s great (?) gifts to the world, karaoke, where you can thrill (or horrify) your friends with your best rendition of Bad Romance or Sweet Child of Mine.

Those looking for calmer ways to spend an evening will also find that Tokyo has plenty to offer. You can enjoy spectacular views of the city at night from various locations or head out for a nighttime stroll through one of Tokyo’s quieter neighborhoods. For an even more relaxing experience, head to one of the city’s many onsen or sento for an authentically Japanese bathing experience.

As for entertainment, checking out a baseball game or soccer match at night in Tokyo is an unforgettable experience for visitors. A trip to the theater is also an option, though most performances are only available in Japanese. Younger visitors (or those of you who are young at heart…) might get a kick out of Japan’s many “game centers” where you can enjoy arcade games, bowling, ping-pong, darts, and other amusing diversions. And then, there is the ultimate draw for the youngsters (and some adults, I guess…), Tokyo Disneyland, which also stays open after dark.

Pick your spot! Unlike some cities where there is more or less one defined downtown or nightlife district, the size and layout of Tokyo can make a big night out something of a frustrating experience for the uninitiated. It is usually best to focus on one area around one major train station (businesses tend to cluster around train stations in Japan) and explore, rather than zipping back and forth across the city, unless you want to spend all night on the trains.

Right, let’s head out for a night on the town, and discover what Tokyo after dark is all about!

The Big Night Out

Tokyo springs to life after dark, particularly around its major train stations (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo) where restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and other nighttime attractions tend to congregate. Tired office workers stop for a beverage (or five) with coworkers before hopping the train home. Groups of friends cluster at izakaya tables to share food and gossip. After a few drinks, the debate begins: should we catch the last train home or stay on for a big night out?

 Eating and Drinking

In a country where food is a national obsession, it is perhaps no surprise that eating is the first thing most Japanese people associate with a night out. The phrase “Nan-i shiyou?” which could be literally translated as “What should we do?” is often used as shorthand for “What should we eat?”

The options are endless. Those in search of a typical Japanese dining experience should head for an izakaya where you can fill your table with a variety of delicious dishes to share with your friends. Cheap izakaya can be found around virtually all train stations of any size in Tokyo, while trendier (and spendier) versions can be found in more upscale neighborhoods such as Ebisu, Shimo-Kitazawa, or Jiyugaoka).

If you are after a slightly earthier experience, you could try one of the many tiny eateries nestled under the train tracks of Yurakucho or Ueno, both once post-WWII yami-ichi (闇市) black markets.

Themed izakaya like the Ninja Shinjuku and Ginza Vampire Cafe target mostly a clientele of foreign tourists (or curious Japanese locals) looking to experience “weird Japan” but their food is not always worth their high prices. Many such establishments seem to be closing down these days (such as the infamous “Lock Up” prison restaurant chain, which mercifully now appears to be shuttered). Up to you, but I’d advise steering clear.

A heavy night out drinking ends for many Japanese with a quick stop at a ramen restaurant before stumbling home. If you come from the UK, ramen is sort of the “post-drinking kebab” of Japan. This is not recommended if you are currently training for the Olympics.

What is an izakaya (居酒屋)?

Izakaya come in many different forms, from the cheap and more raucous (try Shibuya, Shinjuku, or Ikebukuro) to the pricier and more refined (try Ebisu, Shimo-Kitazawa or Jiyugaoka). At the latter, you will generally be provided with a button with which to call your server; at the former, simply bellow Sumimasen! and someone will come take your order.

Many izakaya offer nomi-houdai (飲み放題) plans which allow you to drink as much as you want (or can…) within a set period of time (normally two hours). Sometimes these plans only include certain drinks, or require that you pay a seating charge or order a certain amount of food, so be sure to check the details before you dive in.

Those in search of fine dining will also find many, many attractive prospects. Tokyo is famously home to more Michelin-starred restaurants (not all “Japanese food”...many focus on cuisine from France, China, etc.) than any other city in the world, but one does not need to splash out quite that much cash to feel fancy. Ebisu and Daikanyama are filled with classy modern spots just perfect for a date, while Asakusa is known for providing a more traditional Japanese dining experience. Ginza is blessed with a pretty good mixture of both.

These days, Tokyo also contains many restaurants serving foreign (non-Japanese) food. However, keep in mind that as in most countries, foreign cuisine is generally adapted to suit local preferences in terms of flavor, spiciness, and volume. Chinese and Korean are both very popular and can be found everywhere, as can Italian and Indian (Indian food in Tokyo is generally not great though…).

With its high number of foreign residents, Roppongi caters more to an international crowd, but its restaurants therefore tend to be somewhat overpriced. You can visit Tokyo’s Koreatown, Shin-Okubo, to sample authentic Korean BBQ or bibimbap, or take a stroll down Italia-dori (near Shiodome) in search of pasta or pizza. Japan is even home to some surprises, with excellent Jamaican, Turkish and Israeli food all available if you know where to look!

To vegetarians, vegans, and those with other dietary restrictions…good luck. Check online. Try to learn a few Japanese phrases explaining your restrictions. Things are a bit easier these days, with more information available on the Internet and more Japanese people aware of vegetarianism and other diets, but if you are super strict, it can be somewhat tricky.

No tips! Tipping on top of your restaurant bill is not done in Japan and will usually be met with confusion verging on panic. It is not unknown for a foreign tourist to leave a few coins on a bar as a tip and be chased out into the street by a concerned server because it is assumed they have forgotten their change! The same goes for taxis, haircuts, and pretty much everywhere else. No tips!

 Nightlife (Bars, Clubs)

The good news for you party animals: Tokyo has plenty happening when it comes to nightlife. The bad news: most of it might not be quite what you’re into.

While Tokyo contains plenty of Western-style bars these days, these are not the norm for most Japanese people. They might head to a sports bar now and then to watch a game or split an oversized burger with friends at an America-themed restaurant, but for most it’s a novelty rather than a regular experience. The reverse is true for many long-term expats, many of whom tend to congregate in such places for a taste of home. The Footnik pub (Ebisu or Osaki) is one of the better spots, great for watching Japanese, English or European soccer, and the Taproom (Nakameguro or Harajuku) is at the top of the heap when it comes to craft beer. Numerous Irish- and American-themed bars can also be found around Tokyo, along with the ubiquitous HUB chain of English pubs, which are not really very English at all.

Japanese bars tend to be on the small side, often including just a few seats (often occupied by the same people every weekend) and frequently sporting strange English names. These are fun places for a quiet drink or a chat with the regulars, who are often (not always!) happy to have someone new to talk to! I began learning Japanese in one of these bars (possibly the reason why I tend to speak with a slight slur…).

For the tightest cluster of tiny Japanese bars, you can head to Shinjuku’s well-known Golden Gai (many tourists, but fun) or pretty much anywhere else in a back alley near a train station for a more authentic experience. Don’t forget to look up and down, as many bars in Tokyo are located on upper floors or down at basement level.

Clubbing is not really a mainstream activity in Japan. Shibuya is probably the most popular place for young people to dance the night away, with clubs scattered in amongst love hotels on the slopes of Dogenzaka. The international English-speaking crowd usually heads to Roppongi, a mixture of the classy and seedy that is often regarded as “dangerous” by many Japanese. It’s definitely not a place to let your guard down completely, but those from overseas may be slightly bemused by such warnings.


Every Tokyoite knows their last train home, but this never seems to alleviate the mad panic that ensues as people pay their bill, rush to the station, and jam themselves into packed train cars.

Last trains in Tokyo generally depart around midnight or shortly after. If you miss your last train, you will be waiting a while, as services generally start up again around five o’clock in the morning (so you might as well just go make a night of it!). Keep in mind that this is a big city, so taxi rides over longer distances can be ruinously expensive.

Various websites (Hyperdia, for example) and apps offer detailed Japanese train and bus information in English, though to be honest these days it's pretty hard to beat Google Maps for accuracy and convenience.

Also be sure not to fall asleep on the train! A friend of mine once orbited Tokyo on the Yamanote Line (the “circle line” around the city center) for untold hours until he finally woke up.


One of Japan’s best-known gifts (?) to the world, karaoke (pronounced ka-ra-okay, not kerry-oki!) is still very popular here, with numerous karaoke establishments (often large chains) located near major train stations.

To those of you horrified by the idea of dusting off your singing pipes in front of a whole bar of strangers, this is (thankfully) not how karaoke works in Japan.

Instead, you and your group of friends rent out one of many small karaoke rooms equipped with microphones, TV display, adequate soundproofing, and sometimes even tambourines and other instruments. You can select your preferred songs from an iPad-looking thing (ask an employee if you need help switching it to English) and order drinks via a small phone near the door.

Karaoke (カラオケ) is generally quite inexpensive and you can extend your time if you want to keep on singing. Many places are open late and offer nomi-houdai (飲み放題) so you can drink all you want while you belt out the hits (booze makes everyone better at karaoke).

Getting lost in Tokyo at night - a book and a film

It is not Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s best-known work, but his short novel After Dark delves (dreamily, in typical Murakami fashion) into the seedy side of Tokyo’s nightlife. I’d also recommend his short stories Birthday Girl, Second Bakery Attack, and Drive My Car, all of which take place in Tokyo (probably) after the sun goes down. As for films, it is hard to beat Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation for foreign visitors preparing to get lost in the Tokyo night. You can even retrace the steps of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in the film with a drink at “that bar” atop the Shinjuku Hyatt or the actual karaoke place they go to in Shibuya. Don’t forget, of course, to sit in a nice chair, pour yourself a whiskey, and deliver those immortal words, “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”

The Quiet Night on the Town

For such a famously huge and busy city, much of Tokyo is remarkably quiet, especially at night. For every Shibuya or Shinjuku, you’ll find a hundred sleepy little neighborhoods perfect for an evening stroll. The city also offers many spectacular nighttime views, both at dusk and after dark. For a romantic evening, you’ll find no shortage of intimate dining experiences. And if your muscles and joints are aching after a hard day of sightseeing, a soak in one of Tokyo’s many onsen or sento will easily cure what ails ya.

 Beautiful Night City Views

Tokyo’s skyline is particularly gorgeous at night, lit up against the inky sky, and can be enjoyed from various vantage points across the city.

For a full view of Tokyo, you simply can’t beat the towering Skytree (an antenna-like building that is the fifth-tallest structure in the world), day or night. Clear weather, more common in late autumn or winter, is essential. It is the only place (other than a helicopter or plane) high enough to appreciate the full shape of the city, with the hills and large skyscrapers of West Tokyo (the “Yamanote” region) falling off into the flatlands and low buildings (the “Shitamachi”) in the east around the Sumidagawa river. You might even catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the horizon for a sunset to remember.

Elsewhere, there is no shortage of high-up places offering great night views. Tokyo Tower – modeled on the Eiffel, just in traffic cone orange – is open until 10:30 pm. The nearby Mori Tower has an indoor observatory with panoramic views. Those in search of a drink while they gaze at the city could head to the aforementioned (Lost in Translation) bar atop the Shinjuku Hyatt or to Shibuya’s new outdoor rooftop Cé La Vi bar-restaurant.

Watery views of Tokyo…

While the city of Edo (now Tokyo) was once interconnected via a network of rivers, moats, and canals, many of these waterways have long been concreted over. But you can still take a float on a boat down the Sumida River, which is prettier at night than by day.

Another good viewpoint is Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay that looks back towards some of the city’s most iconic buildings as well as the Rainbow Bridge (which connects Odaiba to Tokyo). The bridge is actually only a rainbow at night, when it is brilliantly illuminated in all seven colors. Odaiba’s best views are from its beach or nearby Decks shopping mall. Sadly, Odaiba’s huge Ferris wheel has now been dismantled.

Those in search of a (very) quiet and secluded but expansive view of Tokyo across the bay could head to Jonanjima. You can actually camp there, though the planes soaring just meters overhead to and from nearby Haneda Airport might make sleep hard to come by.

 Quiet City Walks

For such a big busy city, most of Tokyo is remarkably quiet, especially at night. Apart from the major nightlife districts, it is possible to enjoy a pleasant evening stroll almost anywhere, particularly in late spring or early autumn.

For a classic city walk at night, head to Ginza to marvel at its lights, tall buildings and long straight avenues. Back in the Meiji period, Ginza was one of the first districts in the capital to receive electric street lighting, making it the place at the time to be seen out in Tokyo at night. This led to the coinage of the term Gin-bura, which means “to wander around Ginza” and is still in use today!

From Ginza, it is a fairly short walk to the Imperial Palace. You can circle around the entire palace grounds and moat in about an hour (almost exactly 5 km, making it popular with joggers), taking in the serenity and majesty of the palace alongside the bright lights of the modern city.

Tokyo’s rivers are also nice spots at night. The Sumidagawa river has a promenade near Asakusa with views of the Skytree, and you can visit the gorgeous temple of Sensō-ji all lit up after dark. The Megurogawa river, known for its spectacular cherry blossoms in spring, is no beauty itself, but its tree-draped paths make for a lovely evening walk. Earlier in the evening, I recommend a stroll along the Tokyo side of the Tamagawa river between Tamagawa and Futako-Tamagawa stations (also 5 km!) for stunning sunset views of Mount Fuji over the river.

Walking across the Rainbow Bridge

One walk that offers incredible views (day or night) taken by surprisingly few tourists (and locals) is the pedestrian walkway of the Rainbow Bridge between Tokyo and the manmade island of Odaiba.

You can cross in either direction (1.5 km each way) which takes about 20 minutes. Both sides offer nice views, but the east side (Tokyo Tower side) is probably more dramatic.

Note that access to the bridge closes at 9 pm between April and October but at 6 pm during the winter months. Cycling is also not allowed on the bridge (you can push your bike across, but you have to tie your back wheel to a sort of skateboard thing to prevent the possibility of riding). The cars (and train!) alongside also make it difficult to hear your friends, so it’s maybe not the best place for a long conversation.

 Intimate Dining Experiences

Tokyo has many restaurants that offer intimate dining experiences for couples, families or friends who want to get away from the crowds and enjoy dinner in peaceful seclusion. Traditional restaurants, often with tatami floors, will actually close you off in your own little room. Upscale restaurants also offer private booths or tables separated by large dividers.


While onsen are usually associated with the Japanese countryside more than its larger cities, Tokyo is home to a surprisingly large number of places to immerse yourself in a soothing pool of hot water. Certain districts still contain many sento (銭湯), local bathhouses that were once the place where the whole neighborhood gathered to relax, chat, and get clean. Nowadays they are no longer a necessity, but their creaky floors and bright mosaics offer a welcome dip into the camaraderie and community of Tokyo’s past.

For those in search of a fancier bathing experience, there are also quite a few “super sento” in Tokyo that are larger and contain more modern amenities along with in-house dining. Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a sort of Edo-flavored onsen theme park in Odaiba, has now permanently closed, but a sister park has opened up in Urayasu (not far from Disneyland).

In Search of Entertainment

Aside from the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, screeching out karaoke songs, and strolling around town, there is also a lot to do in Tokyo at night if you know where to look. The city is home to many professional sports teams and frequently hosts international sporting events. It is possible to attend concerts given by Japanese or foreign musicians as well as live theater, both modern and traditional. Younger visitors might catch a thrill or two in Tokyo’s colorful game centers or at the ultimate draw for youngsters (and many oldsters), Tokyo Disneyland.

 Sporting events

While tourists in Tokyo tend to flock to traditional Japanese sporting events such as sumo (which I recommend, though it finishes around 6 pm), the biggest spectator sports in Japan are baseball and soccer. Both sports are typically enjoyed by vibrant chanting crowds powered by plenty of snacks and beer.

Tokyo is home to two professional baseball teams in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, the Yakult Swallows (who play in Meiji Jingu) and the Yomiuri Giants (who play in the Tokyo Dome). For American baseball fans, the Giants are sort of like the Yankees of Japanese baseball while the Swallows are sort of like the Mets (though the Swallows won it all in 2021). Some games are held during the day, others (especially in summer) at night under floodlights.

As for the world’s favorite game, the J-League is one of international soccer’s best kept secrets. Despite the league only turning fully professional in the 1990s, Japanese players now feature in some of the world’s best teams and the national team has become a constant presence at the World Cup. FC Tokyo is currently the capital’s lone representative in the top tier, playing in the large Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu. A closer (and in my eyes, better!) alternative is Kawasaki Frontale, who play just across the river from Tokyo at Todoroki Stadium. I guess you could also head out to the Nissan Stadium (venue for the 2002 World Cup final) to watch the Yokohama F Marinos (but if you do, we aren’t going to be friends…). Many matches (especially in the summer months) are held at night under floodlights.

Other professional sports (such as basketball or rugby) can also be found in Tokyo, but will probably be only of interest to truly die-hard fans.


For those interested in traditional forms of Japanese theater, the National Noh Theater in Sendagaya and the refurbished Kabuki-za of Ginza are Tokyo’s premier venues. Noh (能) is an extremely old slow and stylized form of theater that is all but incomprehensible to modern Japanese audiences. Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a livelier and more narrative dramatic form that rose to prominence during the Edo samurai period. Check before you go whether headsets providing English explanations are available. Trust me, no matter how good you think your Japanese is, it’s not this good (imagine going to the opera thinking that your classroom knowledge of Italian will suffice, then multiply this feeling by a thousand). Even Japanese patrons tend to use headsets explaining the plays in modern Japanese.

There is also a decent contemporary theater scene in Tokyo, though keep in mind that even foreign plays and musicals (such as the wildly popular Lion King and Aladdin last year) are usually performed only in Japanese.

Movie theaters and cinemas are plentiful in Tokyo and many show films from overseas. Just check first that you are seeing the subtitled version (字幕), not the one dubbed into Japanese (吹替). Unfortunately, it will be quite difficult to enjoy any Japanese films while in Japan, though some movie theaters (Roppongi/Shibuya) occasionally do show Japanese films with English subtitles.

 Game Centers

In the land that gave the world SONY, SEGA, and Nintendo (I can’t believe I never realized until my 30s that the world’s most famous Italian plumber was conceived in Japan!), game centers (ゲームセンタ) have not yet quite been squeezed out of existence by home gaming.

To call a Japanese game center an “arcade” is kind of like calling a slice of Kobe beef a hamburger. The larger ones are stocked with an astonishing array of games, many requiring quite a bit of physical effor such as the taiko drums and the one where you dance around like a fool trying to step on multicolored lights. I’ve even seen a full Yamanote line driver’s cabin where you pilot a train between actual stops in Tokyo. Game centers are also often attached to bowling alleys, batting cages, futsal courts, pool or ping-pong tables, and other attractions.

Game centers can generally be found in shopping malls, though there are some large standalone ones as well. ROUND1 is a nationwide chain that has particularly impressive facilities.

 Tokyo Disneyland

Please don’t invite me if you’re going, but Tokyo Disneyland is without a doubt one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Located just across the Edogawa River from Tokyo in Chiba prefecture (I guess “Chiba Disneyland” wasn’t catchy enough), it is actually composed of the two separate but parallel worlds of Disneyland and Disney Sea (I call Disney Sea “the one that has beer” but this may have since changed).

Visitors to the Magic Kingdom can opt for various passes. These include two evening passes: the Early Evening Passport (weekends and holidays, 3 pm onwards) and the Weeknight Passport (5 pm onwards). Both parks usually close at 9 pm. Facilities for families with small children are excellent, though the size of the parks requires quite a bit of walking around, so be sure to bring a stroller (push-chair). Evenings at Disney are popular with couples on dates as well as large groups of giggling teenage girls.

If you are traveling with children and need something to do on a rainy day in Tokyo, Odaiba has a small Legoland that is engaging enough for a few hours. A better option is Kidzania in Toyosu, where the kids work “real jobs” to make “real money.” The companies on offer are real Japanese outfits such as Mitsubishi and Mos Burger (my kid made me a serviceable teriyaki burger) and English-speaking staff are available and eager to help. You can opt for a morning, evening, or full-day ticket.

Theme Parks - Reserve your tickets in advance All attractions listed above are extremely popular attractions so be sure to reserve tickets in advance.

Conclusion: What are the best ways to enjoy Tokyo at night?

Whether you are a true night owl or just an early evening bird, Tokyo has something for you to enjoy and discover after dark.

The size and layout of the city mean that a bit of time spent planning first will save you cost, time, and hassles, but don’t overplan either. Part of Tokyo’s charm is that there are not too many must-sees or must-dos, leaving you free to explore the city’s most interesting neighborhoods and make discoveries that are all your own. You can eat, you can drink, you can sing. You can even just sit and watch the trains go by. It’s all up to you.

And it’s all here in Tokyo, at night.