Tokyo’s bar scene is one of the best in the world, taking mixology to a whole other level of cool and sophistication. There are countless spots for nightlife including bars, clubs, restaurants, and izakaya spots. The best bars are tucked away in unimpressive areas such as office buildings and random corners. Once inside, you’re immersed in what feels like another dimension.
The nondescript dens pose as a challenge due to Tokyo being such an incredibly dense city. Sure — there are plenty of options, but from tiny Golden Gai to bustling Shinjuku, which bars are the best of the best? If you have a love for sophisticated cocktails and are not opposed to dropping some money to drink your experience, then read on!
These are the 5 best and coolest bars you have to experience in Tokyo:
1. Bar Ben Fiddich – Shinjuku
If there’s one bar you should go to in Tokyo, Japan, it’s Bar Ben Fiddich. I took my boyfriend to Ben Fiddich on our second night in Tokyo. Tucked away on the far end of a Shinjuku corner, there is one location on the 3rd floor, and another on the 9th floor. When we arrived, they had hit capacity on the lower level bar and we were taken up to the 9th floor which was more quaint.
The inside of Ben Fiddich’s 10-person capacity bar reminds me of a production set out of Game of Thrones. The medieval aspects of the interior were intriguing. The lighting was incredibly dark, but the bar was well lit. My boyfriend and I have a running joke that I ruined all bars for him after introducing him to Ben Fiddich because nothing else compared! They do not have a menu — instead, you describe to your bartender your liquor preference as well as what kind of drink you like. Do you like your cocktail smokey? Sweet? Bitter? It really makes you think about your day-to-day cocktail — well, it also made me realize I hate bitters.
So what is so great about Ben Fiddich? Well, for one, the decor and little “potions” they use are an experience in itself. Second, the hospitality is top notch. We were given snacks throughout the evening and the bartenders chatted with us for some time. The most impressive part about Ben Fiddich is the cocktail presentation. From a cocktail served in a glass jar filled with smoke, to a seemingly simple vodka tonic that hits all of your five senses, Ben Fiddich does not mess around when it comes to their delivery.
2. Bar High Five – Ginza
Sitting #12 on the World’s 50 Best Bars of 2018 list, Bar High Five is well-known — and for good reason. I have to preface this by noting that I wish we went to High Five before Ben Fiddich, because the latter was incomparable to all of the other bars we went to after. Nonetheless, High Five is solid establishment with an amazing lead bartender and assistants working behind the bar.
Just like Ben Fiddich, there’s no menu. You let the bartender know your drink preferences and they make a concoction for you. The Maitre D’ and the bartenders are friendly and keep you engaged in conversations. They also serve you snacks like Ben Fiddich, however, their pours fair much smaller. For the money you pay per cocktail, it only makes sense for a strong, full pour, right?
3. Bar Loop – Shinjuku
Just a block away from the Robot Restaurant, Bar Loop was an awesome, accidental find. The bar front is a huge boulder with an open door and next to it are three signs, one stating “The Coolest Place in Tokyo”. Once you enter, you have to take stairs down (watch your heard) since it is an underground bar in a literal cave.
If Sho is your bartender, you are in luck. He was amazing! We connected on our love for traveling as he showed us his many incredible photos of his adventures. Bar Loop is small, but it’s well worth a trip to grab a couple of drinks and hang out.
4. Albatross – Golden Gai
Golden Gai is such a magical part of Shinjuku for being pretty much a long and dark alleyway. Dating back to the 1950s, Golden Gai used to be considered a sketchy part of Japan with its black market and prostitution. Today, it houses compact bars and izakayas — strong emphasis on compact. I had seen amazing photos of Albatross and had to experience it for myself. This bar was not easy to find. Once we did find it, I was in both awe and shock at just how tiny Albatross is, even with three levels!
Albatross’ drinks are nothing to rave home about, but the experience itself was really fun. There is a green tee vodka cocktail that was really interesting and you meet fellow travelers to chat and make friends with. This is a decent bar to go to before dinner or a full night out.
5. THESE – Nishi-Azabu
Located in Nishi-Azabu where Kill Bill’s Gonpachi stands, THESE was almost a match for Ben Fiddich. It fell short by just one thing which I will get to in a second. Inside THESE, you’ll notice the bar has a huge library book stand filled with liquor, bitters, and books. We sat at the bar — again, no set menu. Instead, the bartender brings over a large bowl of seasonal fruits for you to choose from for your cocktail.
You can play card games while you wait for your drinks, or order some food. We did, but I would skip the food and stick with the drinks and games. Excited that we found another bar worthy of surpassing Ben Fiddich, we were quickly humbled when the bartender brought our drinks. Their custom cocktails are all blended. After finishing our fruity, blended cocktail, we decided to order a bottle of wine as our next round. However, I think THESE is well worth a visit – just stick to whiskey or wine unless blended cocktails are your thing.