Each evening, as the sun goes down, Tokyo undergoes a transformation.
One city – the daytime urban sprawl with its temples, parks, and local neighbourhoods – begins to fade away.
In turn, it is replaced by the bright metropolis of Tokyo at night – with the vivid neon colours, bustling restaurant districts, and games emporiums.
For a visitor to Tokyo, you need to experience both of these sides of the city to begin to appreciate it. They are as different as… well, night and day. Daytime and nighttime in Tokyo each have their own ambience, their own character, and their own list of things to do, of course.
I’ve written previously about some of the best things to do in Tokyo at night and that’s a good place to start if you’re looking for some ideas. I’ve got suggestions for some amazing viewpoints, some cool neighbourhoods to explore, and some fun local activities.
But there is so much to do in Tokyo at night that it’s impossible to include everything in just one article. That’s why I want to tell you about some other cool things you can do in the city once the sun goes down.
Asakusa Saryo Ichimatsu and its geisha experience
It’s sometimes a bit hard for people to define exactly what a geisha is. Traditionally, they were a mixture of hosts and entertainers – looking after guests who’ve come together for a meal or drinks, but also putting on a show.
At the Asakusa Saryo Ichimatsu restaurant in Asakusa, you can experience this geisha heritage for yourself – and have an incredible meal while you’re at it.
There’s a set kaiseki menu where you’ll be served a meal of nine dishes, each a well-presented and careful balance of flavours. A kaiseki meal is a special way of dining and I recommend you try it at least once while you’re in Japan. In line with tradition, you’ll sit on a tatami mat for the meal.
You can also reserve the geisha entertainment as an extra. Just like the old days, these women are hosts, as well as entertainers. Expect special service, as well as performances that could include classical music, dance, games, and even just some conversation.
It’s quite fitting that Asakusa Saryo Ichimatsu is in the Asakusa neighbourhood, because this is where the city’s entertainment district was in the Edo period. When you finish your meal, I would recommend visiting the Senso-ji Temple, which is illuminated at night.
Asakusa Hoppy Street
Most tourists who head to Asakusa just go during the day and, even then, it’s just to see the heritage of the temples and the Nakamise traditional shopping street. The neighbourhood is quieter at night… or so it may seem at first glance!
There’s actually lots going on in the evenings in Asakusa. As well as the high-end restaurants like Ichimatsu, there is a really fun area called Asakusa Hoppy Dori.
Hoppy Dori is a street where you’ll find cheap and cheerful izakayas (traditional Japanese bars). Find a seat inside or at a table on the street, and grab a drink.
Of course, there are options like beer, whiskey, and sake – but you could also try the drink the street is named after, hoppy. Hoppy is a soft drink (about 0.8% alcohol) that tastes like beer – although it’s normally added to shochu to make it more alcoholic.
The izakayas also serve bar food – things like meat skewers, giblets, and tofu. They’re all reasonably priced – as are the drinks – so it’s a cheap and fun way to spend some of your evening.
You might like to bar hop down the street a bit, although I would recommend Asakusa Sakaba Okamoto, which has been here for about 60 years!
Normally at the end of a night of drinking, you might grab a burger or a kebab on the way home. In Japan, it’s quite common to get a bowl of ramen. But a slightly unusual trend has started in Hokkaido to have a parfait at the end of the night – and now the idea has arrived in Tokyo.
The Parfaiteria beL store began in Hokkaido and has now opened a store in Shibuya in Tokyo. It opens at 5pm and doesn’t close until midnight, allowing people to pop in on their way home. It gets particularly busy after 9pm.
There are six parfaits that are always on the menu, and then there are usually seasonal specials, depending on what fruit is available. Each of them is a delicious mix of cream and fruit with extras like biscuits or nuts.
Of course, you don’t need to be out drinking to visit. Pop in any evening to try some of the best parfait in Japan!
Mitake Valley and the Ginkgo trees
Tokyo may be an enormous city but it still has lots of ways to enjoy nature. As well as the large parks in the centre of the urban area, there are expansive tracts of greenery on the outskirts that are easy to reach.
One of these areas is Mitake Valley, which you can get to by train within about 90 minutes from Shinjuku. This large valley has a river running through the middle of it, which has some of purest water in Japan (incredible considering how close it is to Tokyo).
You can visit during the day but it takes on a whole new atmosphere at night when the beautiful ginkgo trees are illuminated around November. There are four kilometres of paths going along both sides of the river that you can walk on.
The scenery looks different with the seasons, so visit in spring to see cherry blossoms, in autumn to see red and orange leaves, and in winter to see the area with snow. You can also visit the Gyokudo Art Museum and Kushi Kanzashi Art Museum when you’re here.
Sawanoi sake tasting
Once you’ve made the journey out to Mitake Valley, it is worth visiting the Ozawa Shuzo brewery, which makes the popular Sawanoi sake. Ozawa Shuzo was founded in 1702, making it the oldest sake brewery in the Tokyo region.
The brewery offers free tours throughout the day which are in Japanese but with English information provided. A few times a month there are English tours. You’ll learn about the different types of sake, how they are made, and their different qualities.
One of the reasons the sake is considered to be so good is because of the purity of the water. You’ll be able to see the spring water pouring through 140-metre-deep holes dug into the rock formations.
There is also a free sake tasting as part of the tour, which gives you the chance to try the different varieties that are made here. And, of course, there’s a shop to pick up a few reasonably priced souvenirs.
Hachioji Ukai-Tei teppanyaki
For a special dining experience, you might like to head to the Hachioji Ukai-tei restaurant, which is in a traditional house on a hill overlooking Hachioji City on the outskirts of Tokyo.
The restaurant has a collection of Japanese and western antique furniture, creating an atmosphere where art-nouveau and Japanese styles meet. It almost feels a bit like a museum.
But the highlight is the food, which is done teppanyaki style, which means it is cooked on an iron griddle right in front of you. You can choose from one of the multi-course set menus that will give you a variety of dishes, with seasonal seafood and vegetables and the specialty – Japanese Black Beef.
From the service, to the interior design, to the heritage and – of course – the food, this will be a memorable meal, and a wonderful way to spend a night in Tokyo.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION AT TOKYO STATION
Tokyo is a huge city and there are lots of different areas you could stay. For tourists, I would recommend either around Tokyo station or Shinjuku.
If you’re looking for a backpacker option, you can get comfortable dorm beds at the great Wise Owl Hostel.
Tokyo is expensive but APA Hotel Ginza-Takaracho is a good price for a nice hotel near the station.
For a trendy modern hotel close to the station, I think you’ll like The Gate Hotel Tokyo by Hulic.
And for one of the best hotels in Tokyo, I would recommend The Peninsula.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN TOKYO: SHINJUKU
Staying in Shinjuku puts you in one of the busiest parts of city, which is great for exploring during the day and at night.
For backpackers, you can get good dorms beds at the cool Imano Hostel.
An affordable hotel in central Shinjuku is IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku.
If you’re looking for a cool design hotel, then Bespoke Hotel Shinjuku is a great choice.
And for a luxury stay, you can’t go past the gorgeous Park Hyatt.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau.
3 thoughts on “Experience Tokyo at night – beyond the obvious”
Useful tips and very informative touring experience in Tokyo Nightlife at Japan. Thanks for this blog updates….!
Hey Michael! I loved seeing Tokyo through your blog. Planning my visit to Tokyo soon.
Tokyo is love, thanks for your beautiful post.