Groovy Tokyo Bars

February 23, 2012

The Guardian have printed a list of trendy bars and clubs to check out in Tokyo. A nice variety of watering holes are featured in the article, and I can vouch for most of them, especially the brew pubs and whiskey bars, although I have yet to try Stand S’s “mojito beer”, which sounds like the contents of my stomach at 2:30AM. (I’ll try it nonetheless- anything for a challenge.) The only place mentioned that isn’t my cup of tea is the Trump Room, where I’m too old and flabby to blend in (and where apparently it is compulsory to wear black and silver, be anemically thin, and not drink anything.) Other than that place, there’s an epic pub crawl to be had!


May 31, 2010

Rocknococoro is a fine place to rock yer coconuts. A fun little DJ bar in Shibuya, it’s frequented by the kind of enthusiastic teenybopper fanboys/girls who attend the Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic festivals (indeed, they even throw parties themed around those festivals). I’m usually the oldest person in there, but fortunately I’m entirely shameless, and the endearingly sweet and nerdy crowd are always friendly anyway, especially after they’ve knocked back a few drinks.
It’s narrow, but there’s room to dance in front of the DJ booth, and the large windows give a compelling view of the goings-on on the urban streets three floors below.
Ladies take note- it’s half price drinks for you on weeknights. (I’d try to get round this misandrist policy by wearing a dress and a wig, but at 6’5″ I’d make an unconvincing tranny. Oh well- at least this policy ensures that there are always more than a few nice women in the place.)

Park Bld.3F,10-1, Udagawa cho, Shibuya-Ku,Tokyo JP
Tel: 03-5459-5326
URL: Rocknocoro
Open from 7pm-5am daily.

Beat Cafe

May 31, 2010

Beat Cafe is one of the best-known bars in Shibuya, thanks to it’s handy location at the end of the busy Center-Gai shopping street. It’s one of my fave hang-outs in the area, especially on week-nights, thanks its laid-back vibe, with dimmed lights, comfy chairs, friendly regulars, and tons of rock and pop music from the last 50 years. Usually manning the bar is the amiable Kato man, who is happy to chat until the early hours.
They’re always showing 80s VH1 videos on the big TV, while blasting out different music on the stereo, creating such illusions as Duran Duran perforing heavy metal. Occasionally, stray musicians from visiting bands pass through, leaving their scrawls on the walls.
Recently the Beat Cafe guys have also opened Echo, a larger room for band and DJ events, on the second floor of the same building. It’s decadently decorated like a seedy den from a 70’s film like Clockwork Orange or Jubilee. There’s more room for dancing in Echo, and it’s usually worth checking out depending on the night (although it could be something like German reggae night or a Peruvian polka party.) You can flitter between the two bars, with Beat Cafe making an excellent chill-out room.

Beat Cafe
33-13-3, Udagawa-Cho, Shibuya
Tel: 090-9334-4342
URL: Beat Cafe
Open from 7pm-5am daily.

So, to get there, simply come out of the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station, cross the famous crossing (if you can squeeze past the several thousand trendy western photographers, angling their cameras so as not to get other trendy western photographers in their shots) walk down Center Gai (the shopping narrow street) and its near the end, on the left, on the third floor. Look for the sign that looks like an early 80’s two-tone album cover.

Jackson Five Bar

March 15, 2010

The other day I stumbled upon a Jackson Five-themed bar in Nakano, Tokyo. Groovy!

Perhaps the bar was named to commemorate the famous quintet’s epic 1979 concert in nearby Nakano Sun Plaza.
Unfortunately, the proprietors don’t stick too rigidly to the concept, as you can see from the sign: “we play trance, reggae, and hip-hop”. I don’t remember hearing any trance anthems by the Jackson Five!
However, the drinks are all four hundred yen during happy hour (from 6-9pm) which is fantastically cheap, and they’ve got a dartboard, so who’s complaining.

Jackson Five Bar:

東京都中野区中野5-67-12 SKビル B1F
More info (in Japanese) with a map: Jackson Five Bar

By coincidence, this week I also discovered Japan’s very own domestic answer to the Jackson Five, called “Finger 5”, who were great. Fronted by a pint-sized, bespectacled boy (who looks like a girl), and accompanied by his younger sister (who looks like a boy), and backed up by their three gangling teenage brothers, Okinawa’s Finger 5 made catchy bubblegum pop in the early seventies and had several smash hit singles (and even made four movies!) until an unsuccessful bid to crack America, combined with the inevitable onset of puberty and broken voices, put an end to their short-lived stardom.
Disappointingly, they all went on to lead normal lives, and didn’t become eccentric recluses, with pet monkeys and merry-go-rounds in their back gardens.
Check ’em out in action:

The Bourbon House

March 15, 2010

Here’s a recommendation from Andrew Hill. It’s a bar called “The Bourbon House” in Nishi-Kawaguchi. Sounds ace!
Cheers, Andrew.

This bar isn’t particularly crazy, but it is particularly awesome, especially if you like whiskey. On the outskirts of Tokyo, there’s a small suburb called Nishi-Kawaguchi. Not far from the station, there’s a bar called the Bourbon House. I visited during my first ever trip to Tokyo back in 07. The owner was friendly and the inside had the feel of an American western saloon, complete with six-shooters and confederate flag. The best part though was the selection, kentucky bourbons so rare you can’t even find them in Kentucky anymore. Scratch that, the best part was, after telling the regulars and friendly bartender, Kaz, that bourbon was my favorite drink, I drank for free, for two nights, of delicious 101 proof or higher bourbon that I can’t even find when I go home to the American south and walk the Bourbon trail. It’s not far from Tokyo, and if you need to stay the night, you can probably stay in the bar till the trains open, or stay at JGH, the cheapest hostel in Japan.

Tel: 048-251-8445
URL: Bourbon House

Rock Bar “F*ck Yeah!”

September 11, 2008

You can get away with some great bar names in Japan, such as “Rock Bar Fuck Yeah!” in Yokosuka city, a name which would make outraged old biddies run screaming to the nearest police station at home. “Fuck Yeah!” is an ass-kicking rock n’ roll bar, which plays loud music and has a mix of Japanese and foreign customers. The walls are decorated with classic record sleeves, and skulls and cross-bones. You can get draught Guiness and Sapporro, fish and chips and various pizzas.

I suspect the close proximity to a huge US military base has something to do with the name of the place. It probably also led to the following list of rules, from the bar’s website:

1. No drink No stay.
2. No food and drink brought in.
3. No fighting No breaking shit.
4. No puking.
5. No jacking off.

Rock n’ Roll!

Address: Rock Bar Fuck Yeah!
Central Hotel B1F, 2-8 Wakamatsu-cho, Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan 〒238-0007
Tel: 046-827-8696
“Rock Bar Fuck Yeah!” Homepage (with a map in English).
Happy hour is from 6pm-9pm

Here are directions how to get there, from Asaboo:

It’s located very close to Yokosuka Chuo station. After exiting the ticket gates at the station, go down the stairs on your left. Then you see a small, short, narrow street with a pachinko, yakitori and a ramen shop. Walk through that street and you hit Yokosuka Central Hotel. Go down the alleyway on the right, and you’ll see a sign with a skull on it, with the words “Fuck Yeah! Rock Bar”. Follow the sign.

Toki 80’s Bar

July 9, 2008

I’ve discovered a tremendous 80s bar in Tokyo’s Sangenjaya. They play classic music all night long, by the likes of Depeche Mode and the Cure. And it’s a “1 coin bar” which means all drinks and food are only 500 yen, and there’s no service charge. The bar is called Toki’s, after the amiable barman who runs the place. Toki looks much too young to have actually been around in the 80s.
I often round off the night with a drink in Toki’s, and inevitably end up chatting to solitary middle aged women, who were into the cheesy pop music the first time round. (These recurring drunken conversations can only lead to no good!)

A nice touch in Toki bar is the big, phone-book-sized list of songs from which you can make requests. It’s fun picking out old favourites, singing along, and wallowing in nostalgia. There’s all sorts of obscure stuff to choose from in that mammoth-sized catalogue, pretty much any tune you could imagine from the 80s. They’ve even got songs by New Order and the Police- sung in Japanese! Sting singing “Do Do Do, Da Da Da” in Nihongo is quite a mind-mashing thing to hear after too many cheap cocktails. I thought I was suffering from some kind of incurable brain-disaster.
Best of all, Toki has an unbelievably cheap happy hour everyday between 7 and 9PM (even on weekends.) Drinks are only 300 yen, which is a Godsend to a poverty-stricken wretch like me.

Toki 80’s Bar
Tel: 03-3487-4665
Open 19:00-04:00