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Roppongi Kaguwa 1/3
Photo: Yuki Nakamura
Tantra Tokyo2/3
Roppongi Kingyo3/3

Best show pubs and burlesque clubs in Tokyo

Show pubs combine cabaret and burlesque performances on stage with food and drink served to your table – here are our favourites

By Emma Steen
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Exorbitant prices and the fear of finding yourself in an abysmally seedy strip club by accident put many people off cabaret clubs. However, head to the right places and you’re in for a night of titillating adventure. In Japan, these venues are known as ‘show pubs’ and mix laughter-inducing acts with sultry dances. As opposed to burlesque clubs, show pubs are a more casual affair, offering food and drinks to accompany the performances. You can opt to have a meal in front of the stage or sip on a martini as you watch awe-inspiring shows late into the night.

Most of Tokyo’s premier show pubs are crammed into tight venues located on back alleys, so don’t expect Moulin Rouge-style theatrics involving dozens of performers and elaborate stage sets. Instead, expect a friendlier, more intimate setting as you sit mere feet away from the action and let the show take your breath away. Here’s a run down of our five favourites.

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Show the Konparu

Theatre Performing arts space Ginza

With its red leather booths and yoshoku (Japanese take on Western cuisine) dishes, this retro basement venue in the heart of Ginza perfectly encapsulates the quintessential Japanese show pub. With quirky headpieces and wide, multi-ruffled dresses, the costumes here are elaborate to say the least, but there’s substance to go with the style: rather than presenting multiple unrelated short numbers, Konparu aims to tell stories through its hour-long show.

The stage cleverly expands on the limited space by featuring split levels, and the ensemble expertly navigate the tight area as they incorporate dance, drama, humour and live vocals into their roles. There’s a cover charge of ¥4,000 to watch the show and audience members are asked to order at least one food and drink item each. Party animals are better opting for the ¥6,800 package deal which includes the show charge, a meal plus all you can drink for the duration of the performance. 

Kokucho no Mizuumi

Nightlife Cabaret and burlesque Shinjuku

Despite its relatively small stage, Kokucho no Mizuumi finds a way to put on bawdy spectacles that alternate slapstick humour with sultry dance numbers. Don’t be alarmed if you get plucked from the audience and put on stage halfway through the show: the cast often selects an audience member to take part in one or two songs before they’re guided back to their seats. Look out for an eclectic mix of material, from European-style cabaret dancesto a band of cutesy demons with horns and blue hair.

A sister establishment of Roppongi Kingyo, Kokucho no Mizuumi uses the same price system where every guest must order at least one food item and a drink each. The first show starts at 7.30pm, with the second following at 10pm.

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Roppongi Kingyo

Nightlife Alternative nightlife Roppongi

From kabuki actors to aerial silk dancers, Roppongi Kingyo offers a ravishing show that includes the type of classic burlesque common in clubs around the world as well as Japanese acts unlike anything you’ve seen before. Kingyo operates as a ‘Neo Kabuki’ theatre, combining traditional and contemporary performances with modern stage technology. The dazzling 50-minute show is performed on a stage with a moving platform, adding an extra element of surprise.

There’s a policy of at least one food and drink order per guest, on top of a ¥4,000 cover charge to watch the performance. You can opt to eat a full meal here if you have booked the first show of the night at 7.30pm, or just go for a light snack if you’re watching the second show at 9.30pm.

Roppongi Kaguwa
Roppongi Kaguwa
Photo: Yuki Nakamura

Roppongi Kaguwa

Nightlife Alternative nightlife Roppongi

For audiences interested in catching a performance that’s uniquely Japanese, Kaguwa is the place to head. Here, dancers in vibrant kimono and shinobi shozoku (ninja costumes) tackle some elements of the country’s history through modern dance and staged sword fights. On top of the Japanese-themed segments, the show also features eccentric acts that can feel cute and creepy in equal parts (one number tells the story about a cursed doll). The first 45-minute show starts at 7.30pm, with the second following at 9.30pm. After the show, commemorate the night by having a picture taken with the dancers.

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Tantra Tokyo

Nightlife Roppongi

Tantra brands itself as an ‘artistic lounge’ and offers choreographed performances that last for 20 to 25 minutes each, beginning at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 12 midnight and 12.45am. Entertainment outside those time slots are unstructured to say the least, with performers taking to the poles to dance (don’t worry; it’s tasteful and artistic) or mingling with the audience members. With dancers who hail from all corners of the world, language barriers don’t tend to be an issue here in case you were curious enough to ask about the ins and outs of pole dancing.

As you can expect from venues of its kind, Tantra offers a package for bachelor and bachelorette nights where you can bring your whole party to the club to celebrate the occasion. Not involved in any weddings? Every night is ladies night and women can watch the show for ¥5,000, which includes a 90-minute all-you-can-drink session. For men, a ¥6,900 cover charge includes two drinks within a 90-minute set if you go between 8pm and 10pm, with every hour thereafter costing an additional ¥3,000.   

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