Be it after a nerve-racking day at the office or after a high-powered shopping session, Tokyoites like to grab a quick drink on the go. Due to this propensity, the city is littered with tachinomi (standing) bars in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the scruffy but loveable hole-in-the-wall joints to slightly more expansive (and expensive) quarters complete with full-fledged food menus. Our list of ten top pit-stop drinkeries includes a bit of both worlds and everything in between, so feel free to combine freely and design your ideal bar-hopping tour. We don’t recommend going through the entire list in a single night though – do remember to start slowly on your quest to discover the greatness of stand-up drinking. And if you prefer to get buzzed while sitting down, check out our guides to Tokyo's best bars, top bars with a view, and craft beer pubs.
The top ten stand-up spots
The venerable Akitaya is a great spot for enjoying a quiet beer while watching the hordes of busy-looking salarymen rushing by. The food’s also highly reasonable: try their refreshing signature stew (¥450) (or the tofu version, same price) before moving on to the irresistible seared tataki dishes (¥220, limited to one serving per person).
Fujiya Honten is Shibuya's most famous salaryman oasis, but the adjacent wine bar may be even better value. Wines start at ¥400 a glass, and light snacks like chicken liver, veggie wraps, and ratatouille go for ¥300. Although you might have to wait a while for a place at the counter, it never gets overly packed here either.
This is the place for everyone who likes chicken with their booze. The tataki-style rolls, prepared with carefully tenderised chicken meat, are highly recommended, while you may need a few drinks (beer for ¥450) before daring to savour the raw, wasabi-seasoned variety. The intimate atmosphere and the lengthy food menu ensure that visitors may find it hard to leave quickly once they get in.
Il Bacaro's standing bar is the place to go when you’re in the mood for some excellent wine but can do with just a nibble of food. Located right across from Isetan Shinjuku, this respectable Italian restaurant is best enjoyed at the counter, where snacks like grilled veggies, marinated sardines, and prosciutto start from ¥200. Aside from wine (glass from ¥300), they also serve delicious Venetian Spritz (¥530).
It’s worth travelling all the way to Nerima for this casual standing bar with serious(ly spicy) Thai food. The roasted nongai chicken wings are sure to make you thirsty, as are the super-hot onigiri. Friends of fiery tastes and a homely atmosphere will do well to give Hyotan a shot.
Table seating can be found deep inside this simple eatery, but the front bar is where it’s at. Pair your beers (from ¥300) with the famous cartilage plate, or snack on some original toasted bread on a stick. Among the ¥100 skewers, the soy sauce-flavoured pork giblets are a sure bet.
At a mere 13 square meters, ten patrons can fill up the entire area of this Ebisu back street wine bar. Overseen by an antique-loving owner and graced with Baccarat glasses and crystal cutlery dating from the 1800's, the feeling inside contrasts sharply with the nondescript surroundings. Red and white wine, primarily natural vintages from France and Italy, start from ¥800 a glass or ¥4,000 a bottle. The food menu on the blackboard changes daily.
The proprietor at this Kachidoki eatery is schooled in traditional Japanese cuisine, and brings in the freshest ingredients daily to create some truly appetising snacks and dinner dishes. The prices are higher than at a typical standing bar, but the quality of the food more than makes up for it. A colourful variety of the freshest seafood, simmered shiitake mushrooms, and omelet come together in the Sushi Box (¥1,200), a harmonious medley that delights both the eye and the taste buds.
Those partial to sake can’t go wrong at this shrine to rice wine, located right next to an actual Shinto shrine. The resident sake master’s collection is complemented by an array of delicious snacks, such as sashimi, pickles (from ¥350), and the wall decorations proudly display signatures of top Sumo wrestlers who have visited. The clientele ranges from sake snobs to construction workers, and visitors can ask for personal recommendations of food and a compatible glass of drink.
Akabane's Maruken Suisan is the place for piping hot Japanese oden stews and a glass of your favourite poison. Warm up with hot sake and a steaming bowl of oden on a cold winter day, or snack on a ‘Stamina Roll’ with garlic chives and fried fish, coupled with a swig of cold beer, on a steamy summer night.