Japan Travel Advisor Headline Animator

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ten Tips for Clubbing in Tokyo

Live Music at WOMB in Shibuya. Photo by Dat (flickr)
Whether you’re heading for clubs in foreigner-friendly Roppongi, fashionable Shibuya, trendy Azabujuban, or classy Omotesando, there are a couple things you ought to know before hitting the dance-floors of Tokyo. I've grilled a bunch of my Tokyo friends about their top tips about clubs in Japan, and added a couple things I found useful. Some of these might surprise you...

Ladies, listen up; the first two are for you. Guys can skip to #3 unless you're planning to wear high-heels. Hey, we don't judge, and you can totally rock the block in Shinjuku Ni-chome.

1. Wear closed-toed shoes: Even if you just spent fifty bucks on a pair of strappy wedges, it’s not a good idea to wear anything with an open toe. Some clubs are super-crowded (see pictures above and right), and after paying the cover-charge, you don't want to skip out because you get stepped on. Try a pair of cute pumps or knee-high boots to complement your style.
2. Bring flats: Most clubs are at least a block from the nearest train or metro station. There's nothing worse than having to limp your way to the first train because you've been dancing all night and there was nowhere to sit. Slide a pair of ballet flats or flip-flops into a tote and check it at the door – you’ll thank yourself at 5AM. (I usually wore my flats to the club entrance, then swapped into heels, cause I’m classy.)

3.Cover charges: Clubbing in Japan can be a little steep, so be prepared to pay a cover charge. Ladies usually pay between 2000-3000 Yen (except on ladies' night), guys between 3000-5000 Yen. Sorry, guys. Usually, this comes with two drink tickets/coins, but you’ll probably want more, so…

4. Bring extra cash: Most places in Japan work on a cash-only basis, especially clubs. Don't expect to be able to use a credit card to pay your way in. Also, while some clubs provide coins or tickets, anything extra often has to be paid for in cash or by purchasing more coins/tickets.

5. Go on an off-day: possibly boring, but the perfect opportunity to make friends with the staff. Sometimes you can get discounts, free drinks, and introductions to cool people.

6.Once you're out, you're out: last trains are often around midnight, and most clubs don't get going until between midnight and one. Once you go out, you'll want to stay out all night unless your hotel is close enough to take a taxi.

7. For those who stay late: clubs usually wind down between 5 and 6, but sometimes you can hang out and eat post-club ramen with your new friends. After 7AM, there's no night charge on taxis, so splitting a cab back home might be a great option at this time of night.

8. Drink the yellow-stuff: Before you go into the club, drink Ukon no Chikara. It's a turmeric-infused energy drink in a tiny gold bottle. Turmeric is known for its ability to absorb alcohol, and keep you from having a hangover the next day. This stuff is liquid magic.

9. Be prepared for smoking: Smoking is still legal inside of most buildings and clubs are no exception. If you are allergic to smoke then you might want to stick to larger, more open club.

10. Nomi-houdai! This means “all-you-can-drink” in Japanese. Some places offer these deals if you arrive before a certain time. You can also pay a little extra at places like Karaoke, and certain private bars are “nomihoudai” only. Just spit out this phrase with a question mark at the end, and the staff will tell you if they've got it.

And now a word from our gurus:

Gender Inequality

Japan favors men in just about every way: higher salaries, more job opportunities, more social freedom, and all the other “usual suspects”. The one scene where guys get the short straw is clubs and bars.

Raven Wei puts it best: “If you're a lady, research which clubs have ‘ladies night’ and things of that nature. You can save major money that way. Not to mention, places like Club Ai do things like ‘if you wear pink every third Friday, cover charge is free’. On the flip side, if you're a dude, just prepare to be screwed. You'll get charged for everything EVERY night.”

In addition, the cover charge at bars and clubs is usually 1000~2000 yen higher than their female friends. Sorry guys. I guess it’s cause you get higher salaries.

How to Get a Stronger Drink

A lot of clubs serve their liquor a little on the light side, especially the clubs with nomihoudai, but if you like your drink to bite back just tell the bartender "tsuyoi me" (strong-ish). If it's still not strong enough? Try "motto tsuyoi" (stronger).

Shabz Cho has a suggestion for finding the clubs that aren't so stingy with their mixed drinks: 

"My rule of thumb: always ask for the "susume" (recommendation) from the bar dude first. If it ain't liquored up enough, chances are I won't be coming back."

That’s no moon…it’s a Host-Club!

A typical Host. (Image by Kongoh from flickr)
You know what’s awkward? No, it’s not Kamenashi Kazuya’s drama ratings (ouch!), but that’s a good guess. Getting persuaded to go to a club, and then realizing you and your friends are standing in the entrance of a Host Club with all the blinged-out dudes in shoes that would make Liberace swoon, and enough hairspray to keep them burning for seven days and seven nights – that’s awkward.

Luckily, I watched enough Japanese dramas that I never had this problem, but I've known a few folks who have. 

Seriously, y'all: MISSION ABORT.

If you're not sure what a Host(ess) club is, check out this Wiki article on the subject

Generally the Host(ess) Clubs that allow foreigners aren’t dangerous, and can be fun for a laugh on an off-night. Just avoid holding a match near anyone’s head.

How Can You Tell? 

Some places like Roppongi or Shinjuku might seem a little sleazy with all the hawkers trying to get you to come to their clubs. How can you tell if it’s a host-club? If they hand you a menu-like flyer with pictures of staff members, you can be pretty confident it’s not a place where you can dance to the latest hit from Big Bang. Also, Host(ess) Clubs tend to have names like "Club Ren" or "Club Keiko", and the hawkers usually wear black suits, silver jewelry, ridiculous shoes, and hair to rival a Super Saiyan ------->

Not even joking.

INTERACT: Tell me about your clubbing experiences in Japan! Are there any tips you find useful? Do you have a club you'd like to recommend? Do you have a fun/funny/awkward story about clubbing in Japan? Leave a comment!


  1. Great post! I remember really enjoying the club Maharaja in Kyoto, and doing synchronized dances. I always felt the club folk were very welcoming, especially if you spoke Japanese. This was not the case in Roppongi, where I was told by one of the club streetside advertisers that I spoke Japanese too well.

  2. Juliette - were you there while the parapara dancing was en vogue? Roppongi clubs can be sort of funny, depending.

  3. http://www.louisvuittonhandbagsoutlete.net

  4. Admiring the hard work you put into your website and in depth information you present. It's good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same out of date rehashed information. Fantastic read! I've saved your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account. Shibuya VIP

  5. Hi there would you mind letting me know which webhost you're using? I've loaded your blog in 3 different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a fair price? Thanks, I appreciate it! Shibuya VIP