If you go out drinking in Tokyo, anything could happen, because Tokyo is a city full of mind-bogglingly bizarre bars and peculiar pubs that make other countries’ boozers look as dull and sterile as hospital waiting rooms by comparison (although, come to think of it, there’s probably a novelty bar actually designed like a hospital waiting room somewhere in Tokyo.) Below, in no particular order, is a round up of my top ten favourite eccentric establishments.
The chief appeal of this utterly mental Shimbashi pub is the amazing host, Mark Kagaya, who surprises his customers by making them play weird games, and serves drinks in surreal international costumes. The menu is a puppet show.
Read more about it here.
Kagaya, Hanasada BLDG. B1F, 5-12, Shimbashi 2-Chome, Minato-Ku, Tokyo.
2: ALCATRAZ + ER
At this truly macabre prison-hospital-themed eaterie in Shibuya, the waitresses wear nurses’ uniforms, the drinks are served in test-tubes, and your drinking is occasionally interrupted by a deranged escaped convict in an ice hockey mask. A classy joint.
Read about it here.
Tel: (03) 37707100
Alcatraz ER Website
3: DINING BAR SUBMARINE
This sub-aquatic-themed izakaya is submerged beneath the sleazy streets of Kabukicho, Shinjuku. Sit and drink rum in a cabin with portholes, and meet the proprietor, jolly “Captain” Kaji Aishin, who looks like a Japanese Captain Birdseye.
Read more here.
Dining Bar Submarine, Pocket Building B1, Kabukichuo 1-17-4, Shinjuku-Ku
Tel: (03) 5285-3480.
Dining Bar Submarine
4: ALICE IN WONDERLAND
A trippy destination for a party, this place is based around Lewis Carroll’s delirious story, with all the psychedelic decorations and costumes you might expect, and over a hundred different cocktails to choose from. Prepare for mental meltdown!
Address: Taiyo Bldg, 5F, 8-8-5 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo 104 0061
Tel: (03) 35746980
Alice In Wonderland Website.
5: CHRISTON CAFE
In Japan, Christianity is still a novelty, so they’ve turned it into a theme-restaurant in Shinjuku. This place looks like a church and is full of religious imagery and statues, which makes it an unorthodox venue for knocking back cocktails. Worth a visit, (but you might feel compelled to behave yourself.)
Address: 8F Oriental Wave Bldg, 5-17-13 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku.
Tel: (03) 52872426
More details at the Christon Cafe website.
6: ABSOLUT ICEBAR TOKYO
Why not come and freeze your nuts off in a bar full of ice? It costs a lot to get in, but that includes use of gloves and a cape, and your vodka stays cool all night. I wish I’d known about this place in August. In December it’ll be about as appealing as a trip to…er… a prison hospital.
Address: 4-2-4 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-Ku, Tokyo.
Tel: (03) 54642161
Absolut Icebar website
7: VAMPIRE CAFE
This vampire-themed joint in Ginza is both creepy and strangely kinky at the same time. the waitresses wear French maid outfits and the vermilion red decor is complemented by crucifixes, spiders, and Dracula’s coffin.
Address: 7F La Paix Building, 6-7-6 Ginza, Chuo-Ku.
Here’s the Vampire Cafe website.
8: ARABIAN ROCK
Arabian Rock is a novelty restaurant in Shinjuku, designed to transport you to the old Arabia of Sinbad and Aladdin, complete with hookahs, Persian rugs, and the obligatory costumed staff (this time they’re wearing belly dancer costumes and MC Hammer trousers.) There are even cocktails themed around signs of the zodiac, and the “Magic Lamp Abracadabra,” which is six liqueurs you mix yourself in an Aladdin-style lamp.
Read all about it here.
2-3F Square Building, 1-16-3 Kabuki-Cho, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0021.
What could be more Japanese than a Ninja-themed restaurant? At this cavernous underground Ninja-hideout in Akasaka, the food and booze are classy, and the waiters are dressed-up as Ninjas and perform brain-bending magic tricks. It ain’t cheap, though- you’ll need another drink when you see the check.
Address: 2-14-3 Akasaka Tokyo Plaza, Chiyoda-Ku.
Tel: (03) 51573936
Where better to let off steam after a hard day at the office than a bar that…er… looks exactly like an office? This place in Aoyama comes complete with a photocopier, desks, filing cabinets and a view of the city. Somehow it’s very cool.
Address: Yamazaki Bldg, 5F, Kita Aoyama 2-7-18, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tel: (03) 57861052