Just one Tokyo bar made it on the 2022 World’s 50 Best Bars list

We blame Covid...

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
Staff Writer, Time Out Tokyo
Photo: Bar Benfiddich
Photo: Bar Benfiddich

We’ve entered the final quarter of the year and the annual list of the World’s 50 Best Bars has just been released, with an updated ranking of the finest watering holes around the globe. While Tokyo normally sees a handful of its local cocktail bars featured in the top 50, this year’s list included just one of the city’s venues at No 48. This establishment is none other than Hiroyasu Kayama’s Bar Benfiddich, which came in at No 32 on last year’s list

The Shinjuku bar is more than deserving of this honour. Kayama, who has recently taken to using tree branches instead of traditional bar spoons to mix custom concoctions, is a wizard when it comes to crafting unique and memorable cocktails for guests at his 14-seater bar. That said, we can’t help but feel slightly unsatisfied by the overall turnout on the list this year.

For this year's ranking, voters are allowed to nominate up to seven bars that they visited in the previous 18 months. This might have put Tokyo (and Japan in general) at a disadvantage.

Japan’s long bouts of quasi emergency measures continued through early 2022, which significantly affected business for food and beverage establishments. Bars were requested to close entirely or operate at a very limiting capacity. Though the mandate for serving alcohol was finally lifted in 2021, bars weren’t allowed to return to normal business hours until March this year.

More importantly, Japan's border closures could have meant that tourists, and quite possibly World's 50 Best Bars' international panel of judges, were not able to properly visit and experience the bars here. 

SG Club
Photo: The SG Club
With Japan set to fully reopen to international travel on October 11, Tokyo will finally be in a position to show off its cocktail scene to the world once again, along with all the other exciting things it has to offer. This will put Japan’s contenders on a more even playing field for next year’s list, where we’ll hopefully see our favourite bars like The SG Club – ranked at No 63 this year – climb their way back to the top.

Check the full list of World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 here.

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