Given up drinking, or just not a fan of the bar and club scene? Good news: sobriety doesn't mean boredom when the sun goes down in Tokyo. There are late-night museums, sushi joints that open round-the-clock, sports centres where you can work out a sweat at 10pm, bathhouses that stay open through the night, and more fun things to do even when you're avoiding the watering holes of Ginza and Shinjuku. Here are some of our favourite nighttime activities in Tokyo.
RECOMMENDED: Best night views in Tokyo
Since Tokyo is so orderly, it’s hard to tell just how dense the metropolis is – until you see it from above. At Toky City View’s rooftop Sky Deck, you’ll be confronted with the immensity of the capital, a sprawling urban jigsaw of tightly squeezed buildings stretching all the way to the horizon. It’s a breathtaking experience up here, and quite literally so as you’ll be walking along the (barricaded) edges of the rooftop – but keep your eyes on the prize and spot all the iconic landmarks including Tokyo Tower and Skytree as well as Tokyo Bay in the distance.
Tokyo is especially enchanting come nightfall when the lights are on, and we can understand if you want to spend more time soaking up the view. So stay: when the Sky Deck closes at 8pm, head down a few levels to the observation deck on the 52nd floor and you can continue to stare into the mesmerising vista until 1am (on Friday, Saturday and holiday eve). Who needs a drink when the views are this
While this temporary teamLab museum doesn’t contain as many works of art as the permanent Borderless over in Odaiba, the smaller crowds here make this a much more leisurely experience, and there’s also the bonus of a later closing time. But rest assured, this is still iconically teamLab, with digital art installations that are not just interactive and immersive but also tactile and sensorial.
You are to explore the museum barefooted: walking up a slope through running water, treading knee-deep in a pond with digital koi fish swimming around you, lumbering across a room whose floor feels like one giant bean bag... They’re all designed to make you more aware of your own body, especially how it moves across different surfaces. In one surreal installation, you’ll even feel like you’re spinning around an ‘outer space’ of larger-than-life flowers. It’s like you’ve fallen through a rabbit hole into a trippy, psychedelic dimension – no, you’re not hallucinating, not even the least bit inebriated.
The samurai has been an iconic symbol of courage, power and masculinity for over 700 years of Japanese warfare history. Finally, the gripping soul of the samurai can be felt at this Samurai Museum in Shinjuku. The well designed interior covers two floors, showcasing a wide array of samurai costumes, head gear, guns, swords and other related equipment. The highlight is a chance to have yourself photographed in a samurai costume of your choice...
In a perfect world, all bookshops would be like this. Tokyo's Klein Dytham Architecture won an award at the World Architecture Festival for their work on Daikanyama T-Site, which is spread across three interlinked buildings adorned with lattices of interlocking Ts. That 'T' stands for rental chain Tsutaya, whose seemingly bottomless pockets helped fund the kind of book emporium that most capital cities can only dream of. It's easy to lose hours thumbing through the selections here, which include a good range of English-language titles, art books, antique tomes and magazine back issues. There are also music and DVD sections as well as branches of Starbucks and Family Mart, while you'll find specialist camera, bicycle and pet shops elsewhere in the complex.
Derived from ‘purinto kurabu’ (literally ‘Print Club’, the photo booth brand that started this trend), purikura are a phenomenon in their own right: photobooth prints in which you can make yourself look infinitely cuter, creating an almost Japanese pop idol-esque version of yourself. You’ll find these booths at most large arcades, where a set of photos goes for ¥300 to ¥500. But if you want to experience the full range, head to Shibuya’s Purikura no Mecca. This famous spot has an extraordinary variety of these machines on offer, and it's open round the clock.
Step back in time and file on your marksmanship at this unique shooting gallery located right next to Shinjuku’s Golden Gai. With its tiny tiled roof, wood sliding door and red lanterns, the facade looks like it came straight from a movie out of the Showa era (1926–1989). Grab an air gun for ¥500 and show off your skills at a typical shooting game popular during Japanese festivals. Don’t worry, you won’t leave empty handed − pick up your prizes which are based on the points you earn during the game before you head on out.
If you thought ten-pin bowling was passé, check out this late night bowling alley that's livened up the game with 'Fantasic Lanes' featuring sound and lighting. Located a five minutes' walk from Shinjuku Station, this boisterous bowling alley is the perfect spot to let out a little steam after a rowdy night out on the town. Aside from bowling, the space also features a ping pong area, darts and a food concession stand if you start to get the munchies.
There’s no beating the location of this singularly picturesque football pitch: it sits atop the Tokyu Toyoko department store, right next to Shibuya Station. Adidas Futsal Park opened in 2001, in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup that Japan and South Korea co-hosted the following year, and it's been doing a strong trade ever since. Prices start at ¥5,250 per hour for teams that are members (¥8,400 for teams that aren't), rising to over ¥20,000 for 1.5 hours at peak times.
This climbing gym has daily lessons for beginners who'd like to learn more about bouldering or rope climbing, and also features training sessions for first-timers and children. It's a great place to find new climbing buddies – no reservations are required, and all classes are free of charge (except for registration and entrance fees). Finally, the blacklight-decorated 'Space Wall' will remind you that you're still in Akihabara after all. The same company also operates a gym in Ogikubo.
Blow off some steam after work by swinging at mechanical pitches or perfect your fastball in the bullpen – this batting centre is instantly recognisable by the giant glove above the entrance and stays open until 1am every day.
Late-night spas and sento
Edoyu is a slick, modern and design-focused super sento
(bathhouse). In fact, it looks, feels and operates like a luxurious spa. The bathing area is especially gorgeous, what with the contemporary Mt Fuji mosaic wall presiding over many different types of bath: hot, cold, jacuzzi, herbal and carbonated. On top of that, you’ll also find two types of sauna – a Finnish version and a mid-temperature one that’s about 75ºC (the women’s section has a steam aroma sauna instead). There’s even two options for the waterless bedrock bathing, where you lie in a heated room, on a slab of natural stone to promote blood circulation and metabolism.
However, that’s not all you can do here. Spread across multiple levels, with a dedicated floor each for men and women, Edoyu also offers a restaurant, a café and lots of quiet corners, relaxation lounges and nap-inducing recliners, with free wi-fi throughout. It’s the perfect place to unplug and just be idle. There’s no need to rush when you get there: Edoyu is open through the night until 9am.
The impressive spa complex in Kabukicho is apparently inspired by the popular Thermae Romae series of manga and movies. Open 24 hours every day, Thermae-Yu features hot spring baths and rotenburo – supplied with onsen water from Izu daily – stone saunas, a full-on beauty salon, scrub treatments and a lounge complete with a café, bar and restaurant. Sounds like the perfect spot for relaxation after a long night out in Shinjuku.
One of the classiest spa complexes in central Tokyo, Spa Resta occupies an unlikely location: floors 10 to 12 of the Times Station parking garage and car rental facility in Ikebukuro. Don't let that get in your way though, as this spot is perfect for a long, lazy day of soaking, eating and relaxing. The men's side has a wide range of baths, a Finnish-style sauna, rotenburo and even a terrace area with deck chairs, while women can look forward to an open-air jacuzzi, a 'clear mist' sauna complete with refreshing aroma, and other beauty-enhancing facilities...
In many ways, LaQua feels more like a 'super sento' than an onsen. This sprawling bathhouse inside the Tokyo Dome City complex uses sodium-chloride-enriched hot spring water drawn from 1,700m underground, which is said to help circulation and relieve muscle ache, neuralgia and arthritis. In addition to an open-air rotenburo and foaming massage bath, the complex has three types of sauna, including an unusual rock salt one that's supposed to be good for improving metabolism. Spa LaQua is open all night, though note that there's a surcharge if you stay past 1am...
This popular public bath was established in 1949 and since its major renovation in 2010, it now attracts more guests due to its unique wall paintings. Inside, women can look forward to a large image of Mt Fuji fronted by Tokyo Skytree, Senso-ji Temple’s iconic Kaminarimon-gate and Sumida River, rounded off by a broom-riding witch in the upper left corner of the mural. The bathing area for men, on the other hand, sees nearly the same composition but topped off with an image of Godzilla (we're not kidding!) peeking over the mountain into the bath. In spring, the bathhouse is even more photogenic as the traditional architecture is surrounded by dozens of blooming wisteria flowers...
An influence from the Hokkaido capital city of Sapporo in northern Japan, parfaits are gaining traction as a night-time indulgence in Tokyo, and it’s just perfect for the teetotaling nightowl. This Sapporo parfait specialist is known for its gravity-defying creations. They are the Jenga block of desserts, with no fewer than 12 elements from jelly and ice cream of many different flavours to tuiles and cookies and fresh fruit balancing precariously on top of one another. These pretty ensembles play right into the feed of the Instagram generation, but the bigger joy lies in discovering the varying tastes and textures among the different layers.
You’ll find this chain standing sushi bar in a few areas around Tokyo, including its newly reopened outlet in Shibuya Dogenzaka. The best part about visiting this joint is watching the sushi chefs up close as they whip up your order at lightning speed. There’s an English menu – or you can just point to the seafood you recognise at the counter. Apart from Dogenzaka, there are branches all over town, including in Kyobashi, Akihabara, Kojimachi, Kichijoji, Asakusabashi and Akasaka.
If you’re craving tender, juicy grilled slices of meat 24 hours around the clock, then this yakiniku joint located in Shinjuku’s lively Kabukicho district is your place to go. Open daily from 7am to 6.30am the next day, this eatery is cherished by a large number of barbecue lovers due to the smoky taste provided by the charcoal grills on each table. The all-you-can-eat course menus range from ¥3,480 for the girls and ¥3,980 for the guys (all-you-can-drink plan included). Choose from more than 70 dishes including their A4-grade meat options and Korean delicacies such as bibimbap...
Located just behind Sensoji in Asakusa, Yadoroku is the oldest onigiri specialist in Tokyo. Choose from a range of different toppings including salmon, ume, tarako, shirasu and okaka, all for an affordable ¥280-330. The place stays open until 2am – perfect if you're craving a late-night snack.
Sushi Zanmai's main branch is in Tsukiji, where visitors can whet their appetites with a tuna-butchering show, but it also has two restaurants in Shibuya: one close to Tokyu Honten Department Store and another opposite the east exit of Shibuya Station. Covering two floors, the latter boasts a more easy-going atmosphere than its siblings, and stays open 24 hours a day, year-round.
Sister shop to their ever-popular Kyoto-based restaurant, this is the perfect spot to get your late-night gyoza fix as most nights it's open till an early 3am. The Kyoto-born shop is best known for their signature dumplings stuffed with a savoury garlic and leek filling and crisp exterior, but their ginger gyoza which contains no garlic or onion are a popular alternative for those who are wary about serious garlic breath.
The original Fuglen coffee shop in Tokyo looks like it came straight out of the pages of Monocle magazine; its second outlet, opened last year under the Nine Hours capsule hotel in Asakusa, doubles down on that mod Scandinavian aesthetic. The space is bigger too, with two floors of comfy seating, a communal table made for digital nomads, plus nooks and crannies perfect for chilling out. More importantly, it is one of the very few cafés in the city that opens till late, 2am on Friday and Saturday. Fuglen Asakusa is also a place to which you can bring your imbibing friends along: they can peruse the small selection of craft beer and cocktails (we love the ginger daiquiri) while you stick to tea, coffee or even a glass of warm milk with honey.
Furnished in a Western style that's both ostentatious and deeply ersatz, this café dispenses cups of siphon coffee 24 hours a day, at prices ranging from higher-than-average (¥800 for the Kizoku original blend) to eye-watering (Royal Blend, ¥3,000). That said, you can normally get a couple of cups out of each pot of coffee, while the free Wi-Fi will have you linger a little longer.
Ebisu's dinkiest coffee spot feature seating for twenty-five people, and while most of the customers seem to be getting takeaway when we visit, the chill-out soundtrack encourages us to linger a little longer. The owner got his start in drip coffee, which is available with five varieties of bean; he also makes espresso drinks on a Synesso machine. The best part is, this café is within walking distance from Ebisu station and it's open until 12.30am daily.
Coffee shops in Tokyo tend to open late (usually after 10am) and close early, which kind of defeats the point of caffeine – to help wake you up in the morning, or to help keep you awake at night. But coming to the rescue is Unir, where you can get your caffeine fix any time of the day or night. Located on the first floor of the fittingly titled Hotel Innsomnia Akasaka, this smart, slick speciality coffee haunt offers espresso, French press brews, granola and excellent pastries.
It's a special kind of retail chaos at Don Quijote, an odds-and-sods shop that stays open 24 hours a day, year round. The floors are crammed with a bewildering selection of products – from groceries and liquor to brand goods, fancy dress and sex toys – most of them squeezed into disorderly, narrow aisles that are unlikely to appeal to the more claustrophobic shopper. However, it's the best place to stock up on souvenirs, Japan-exclusive snacks and daily necessities any time of the day.
Specialising in basic but stylish secondhand clothing from the '80s and '90s, Aobadai's Tam is where to pick up brand sweaters at as low as ¥6,000. You'll also want to check out their original button-down shirts and inspiring import selection, which faithfully reflects current trends. Make your purchase after 9pm and get 10 percent off.
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