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The best Tokyo bars: top 10 date bars

From hotel hideouts to whisky temples – get your romance on at these superb Tokyo bars

By Tamasaburau

There are those who say that bars are no place for a date. These people are fools. True, you run the risk of the bartender eavesdropping your sweet nothings and your date being horrified as you outdrink them at a ratio of three to one, but conducting your courtship at the counter also means great views, killer cocktails and a place to drown your sorrows should it not work out. Here we guide you to ten of the city’s finest date bars, so dress up, keep it classy and, please, be nice to the good men and women mixing your drink – they’ve probably heard your killer ice-breaker a few dozen times already.

Photos by Kisa Toyoshima and Keisuke Tanigawa

Ten unmissable date bars

Ishinohana

Seasonal cocktails are the speciality at Ishinohana, Shibuya's answer to the high-end cocktail bars of Ginza. At a basement location just a minute's walk from Shibuya Station, owner Shinobu Ishigaki wields an array of fresh fruit and vegetables when creating his distinctive drinks: try sharing your mood, and that of your companion’s, with Ishigaki and watch as he conjures up a gorgeous creation sure to satisfy both of your cravings. There are entire menus devoted just to mojitos and martinis, plus a sizeable list of originals in constant flux...

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Shibuya

Bar Tiaré

Named after the supposedly luck-bringing national flower of Tahiti, Tiaré is the domain of Yasuhiko Mizusawa, a former All-Japan bartending champion and a great proponent of making couples happy through the magic of cocktails. Known as the ‘Crown Prince of Fresh Fruit’, Mizusawa has published a book on the topic of fruit-based cocktails but doesn’t just use tropical fruits in his drinks: he is also fond of crafting little butterflies out of peel to decorate the glasses. Tiaré is the perfect spot for lovebirds who just want to focus on each other...

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Akasaka

Angels’ Share

When newly distilled whisky is stored in casks and matured, a minuscule amount of it evaporates every year, This lost portion is said to have been drunk by angels, and is thus referred to as the ‘angels’ share’. In other words, the powers that be give their blessing to the distiller in exchange for a tiny portion of his or her product. With its name derived from such an obscure term, you might suspect that this specialist bar in chic Futako-Tamagawa is one of those places where connoisseurs go to have endless conversations about whisky and its many nuances, scaring any couples far away before they even make it through the door. But you’d be wrong...

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Futako-Tamagawa
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Bar Noir

A veteran barman with stints at luxury hotels such as the Westin Tokyo and the Ritz-Carlton under his belt, Takeshi Saito exudes an aura of quiet confidence – this is a man who has seen the world, served it a stiff drink and listened to its stories. Saito’s Ebisu haunt follows his lead – the decor is smart, but the atmosphere is very welcoming. The conventional thing would of course be to just sit at the counter and watch the proprietor craft whichever cocktails he deems appropriate for the two of you, but we’d recommend heading to one of the table seats facing the windows. Looking down from the fifth floor...

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Ebisu

Maduro

A welcoming atmosphere, service that won’t let you down, rare whisky and brilliant cocktails, a cigar if the occasion calls for it, live jazz and a lavishly decorated interior – everything appears perfect for a date at Roppongi’s Maduro. Only thing is you’ll need to reach it first: after taking a winding approach through the lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel and navigating a maze of hallways and elevators, you’ll need to cross through a mysterious passage that feels like walking on water before arriving at the bar’s heavy wooden doors, beyond which you’ll find a total of 108 seats reserved exclusively for sophisticated sippers...

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Roppongi

Le Marquis

The journey to the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo’s classy bar is a significant part of its charm. Get yourself to Edogawabashi Station then, rather than hailing a cab, walk along the Kanda River with your date until you reach the hotel’s Kabukimon gate. Enter and admire the gorgeous Japanese garden you’ll find yourself in. Once you start feeling thirsty, cross the Benkei bridge and pick out a table at the luxurious Le Marquis. The four seats at the Italian marble-covered counter are appealing, but sinking yourself into one of the sofas probably makes for a more intimate atmosphere...

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Mejirodai
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Tokyo Whisky Library

Couples not very familiar with but willing to learn more about whisky best make straight for this Aoyama hideout. Pass the church on the ground floor of the elegant Santa Chiara complex and climb the stairs to find the door to Whisky Library, distinguished by – of course – its bookcases. And as you’d expect, these shelves are filled not with dusty old tomes but with a stunning collection of more than 1,200 different distilled spirits, sourced from all of the world’s major whisky (and whiskey) regions. Aiming to help newbies learn more about the overwhelming variety of fine malts...

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Aoyama

Motif

Finding your way up to this hotel bar right by Tokyo Station can be tricky, but nailing it on the first try is also a sure way to impress your companion. Skip the main entrance to the office-filled, 31-storey Pacific Century Place building on Sotobori-dori and instead make way for the right-hand side of the structure, where you’ll see a sign for the Four Seasons Hotel. Enter through the sliding doors, go all the way to the end of the corridor, take the dedicated elevator to the seventh floor and head around the back to encounter a bar so blissful that you’ll hardly believe it sits inside a faceless glass-and-steel tower...

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Marunouchi

Mandarin Bar

Nihonbashi, the heart of old Edo, now has its share of high-rises, but none of these towers stand out quite like the one housing the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Directly accessible from Mitsukoshimae subway station and perched on the 37th floor, the hotel’s signature bar affords impressive views of the surrounding business district. But it’s not all about those Blade Runner-esque vistas. The Mandarin Bar is famed for its interior: local design hotshot Ryu Kosaka was asked to create ‘something sexy, but like nothing you’ve seen before’. His spacious layout incorporating a Zen pool and an array of designer furnishings succeeds on both counts...

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Nihonbashi
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Sky Lounge Aurora

Picking the Keio Plaza’s Sky Lounge as one of Tokyo’s top date bars might seem like a cliché, but we maintain that this expansive spot, reopened in December 2016 after a complete overhaul, is a reborn classic. The spectacular views of Shinjuku’s business district remain unchanged, but the chic, black-toned interior is all new. Also spruced up is the laidback counter-only bar in business since 1971 on the north side of the space. Its windows look out over all of Tokyo’s greatest hits: the metropolitan government building in the west, the Skytree, Tokyo Tower and central Shinjuku to the east, and Nishi-Shinjuku’s futuristic towers to the north...

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Shinjuku

Tamasaburau

Born 1965 in Shibuya, Tokyo, Tamasaburau studied British and American literature at Rikkyo University before embarking on a journalistic career. He continued his studies at New York University and the City University of New York, and later worked for the likes of Berlitz Translation Services and CNN. Since returning to these shores, he has specialised in writing about bars, visiting more than 1,000 watering holes across Japan while publishing articles and several books on topics like the joys of booze, noteworthy bartenders and the role of bars in modern society. He is also the author of 'My Lost New York', an essay on pre-9/11 NYC.

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