Photo: Vent

Best clubs in Tokyo by music genre

Looking for a proper night out? Here are Tokyo's best music venues and clubs by genre, as selected by our editors and the city's music experts

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors

Tokyo may be a city with a vibrant music culture but its clubs (aka ‘event spaces’) are bound by a series of regulations. There are rules restricting small clubs from operating past midnight – although some of them craftily circumvent that by opening early in the morning, like 5am, to capture the after-party crowd. Also, there’s the infamous ‘anti- dancing’ law – although recent amendments to the bill have made it far easier to get your groove on. Larger clubs, on the other hand, usually impose a cover charge from ¥3,000 to ¥5,000, which is not exactly cheap.

Yet despite these hurdles, clubbing and music culture in Tokyo continues to thrive. In fact, Tokyo’s club scene is considered one of the most exciting in the world, with its wide range of genres and top-notch production values, plus a stellar and unusually diverse line-up of local and international DJs. Here are five remarkable clubs that are constantly bringing new stimulus to the scene, as chosen by Time Out Tokyo and the city’s music experts.

Eat, sleep, rave, repeat

  • Clubs
  • Ebisu

Mostly hip hop
A two-storey club and gig spot on Komazawa-dori in Ebisu, Batica’s ground floor is an all-white lounge space while the room upstairs is a lot flashier (think disco balls and chandeliers). Its top-grade facilities host musicians of all genres.

Why we love it
You get to explore up-and-coming artists and labels at Batica – in fact, this is where many now-famous rappers and bands broke into the scene. It also feels comfier and more welcoming than many other clubs. It’s the kind of place you want to keep going back to as it makes you feel like you’re part of a community. Manami Tada, street art and music writer

  • Clubs
  • Shibuya

A popular spot for all-night gigs, Shibuya’s premier club and event space WWW rebranded its basement lounge last year, christening it WWW B and installing a new Funktion One sound system to attract quality-conscious seasoned clubbers. The programming here leans towards techno and the alternative/experimental side of the electronic music spectrum.

Why we love it
Gig venue WWW hit on a winning formula when it added some Funktion One speakers to its subterranean lounge and started hosting club nights. It’s the place to get sweaty to the weirdest new dancefloor mutations – producers such as Klein, DJ Nigga Fox and M.E.S.H. have all played there recently, while Japanese DJ extraordinaire Yousuke Yukimatsu is a regular. James Hadfield, music writer

  • Art
  • Hatagaya

Bass music/avant-garde
There aren’t many compelling reasons to go to Hatagaya, a nondescript neighbourhood within the Shibuya ward, but Forestlimit is one of them. The café and music studio has been keeping things defiantly unpredictable since it opened eight years ago, with a diet of art shows, dance parties and left-of-centre music gigs.

Why we love it
Blame the dance police for the fact that Forestlimit is no longer able to hold all-nighters, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a magnet for Tokyo’s most adventurous DJs and musicians, serving up everything from noise to ambient, underground techno to footwork. Keep an eye out for ace resident DJ Akiram En and the weeknight K/A/T/O Massacre parties. James Hadfield, music writer

  • Music
  • Shimokitazawa

Mostly rock
From first-timers to big names, Three is a great spot for exploring the depths of Tokyo’s indie scene. Cover charges are low, and the place occasionally turns into a club on weekends.

Why we love it
In addition to being a great gig spot with excellent acoustics, Three is a playground for anyone looking to experience Tokyo’s contemporary culture. Its style, booking policy and attitude toward customers is unlike any of its competitors. Entrance is free on most Friday nights, and you’ll find everything from rock and hardcore to hip hop, Latin and techno. The staff are super-friendly, and it’s just a really open and welcoming space. Don’t miss out on the late-night teishoku meal, served during ‘bar time’. Manabu Morooka, Saitama-born photographer

  • Clubs
  • Aoyama

Located in a basement at the Omotesando intersection, Vent highlights both leading European DJs and Japanese stars. The venue’s sound system is one of the best in the capital.

Why we love it
Looking at both the clientele and the DJ line-up, the word ‘refined’ best describes Vent. The sound on the main floor has good depth and range, so you won’t get tired even if you hang out right in front of the speakers for hours. For the very best in Japanese techno, don’t miss the nights when DJ Nobu’s playing. Kunihiro Miki, Time Out Tokyo editor

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