Despite being one of the most advanced cities in the world, Tokyo has a lack of late-night public transport options. In fact, the trains end their service around 1am and only resume at about 4.30am.
So you’re out with your friends, and you know you ought to leave in time for the last train. You announce this to your group, swearing that the drink in your hand will be your last. Alas, time slips by and before you know it, you’ve missed the last train home. You’re now faced with three options: a pricey taxi ride, an even more costly hotel room or staying out until the trains start running again the next morning. Thankfully for those opting for the third way, there are plenty of exciting venues in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi to provide you with all kinds of enjoyment until the dawn trains depart. Here are our favourites.
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The best thing about catching a newly released blockbuster movie past midnight is not having to fight for the last remaining tickets and settling into a seat that’s too close to the screen. This seven-storey cinema, under the iconic Shinjuku Godzilla, features 12 theatres, with screenings starting as late as 4am. Toho Cinemas also boasts the latest theatrical technology including Imax screens and MX4D theatres with seats that can recline, move and even spray water at you for added special effects.
With its newly renovated lanes on the fourth floor and blacklit ones on the third, Copabowl is an especially funky bowling alley – plus it gives you the option of adding a few stakes to your game to liven things up a bit. Its ‘batsugame’ offers a series of punishments that the player with the lowest score will have to face upon losing the game. For ¥500, you can pick a formidable punishment from hard-to-swallow concoctions to edible locusts. Sentence your opponent to an even more gruesome challenge for ¥2,500, which will expand your choices of edible insects, including scorpions.
Tachigui, or tachinomi, refers to Japan’s age-old tradition of eating while standing up. This custom dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), when hungry merchants would stand around sushi or soba stalls on the streets, having little time to sit down for a proper meal between trades. Nowadays, you’ll be able to find ‘standing restaurants’ serving all kinds of fare from ramen to French food, but there’s something irresistible about the smell of yakiniku that wafts out from Jiromaru onto the streets of Kabukicho.
The meat here is displayed in glass cases, similiar to a sushi restaurant, with the grades and cuts of wagyu listed on wooden planks behind the counter. Meat can be ordered in single slices (prices generally range between ¥80 and ¥300), which you cook on your own barbecue, so you’ll be able to sample a full array of flavours from different types of beef.
In hectic, and at times grubby, Shinjuku, urban spa Thermae-Yu is an oasis of calm and cleanliness featuring eateries, lounge chairs and several hotspring baths. Spend a night soaking your worries away in a hot bath and consider getting a massage to help you snooze as you await your first train.
There are both indoor and open-air baths with different minerals, all at varying temperatures. Thermae-Yu has water delivered daily from Izu, an area famous for its natural volcanic springs, to fill the rotenburo (open-air baths). If you don’t fancy getting your hair wet, try a unique Japanese sauna experience in one of the stone rooms. The ganbanyoku stone saunas are set between 40°C and 50°C. Depending on what type of stone you’re lying on, benefits are said to range from improved metabolism to better blood circulation. It’s hard to vouch how effective one session will beat improving your overall well-being, but at the very least your muscles will become less tense from the heating effects of the stones beneath you.
Located on the second floor of an old wooden house in Golden Gai, Nagi comes steeped in the atmosphere of the neighbourhood, with a smell that hits you as soon as you walk in the door. And no wonder – the speciality here is pungent niboshi ramen, made by boiling vast amounts of dried sardines for 12 hours to create a distinctive, boldly flavoured soup.
We recommend the Tokusei Sugoi Niboshi Ramen, which comes generously laden with slices of chashu pork, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), scallions, nori seaweed and a soft-boiled egg, and with a mix of curly and wide, flat noodles. As an added bonus, Nagi is open for business 24 hours a day, meaning you can start and end a heavy night out with a bowl of their noodles.
Cook your own late-night snack on the hotplates of Kotegaeshi, where you can grill different variations of okonomiyaki at your table. These savoury pancakes originate from Osaka and consist of batter mixed with the fillings of your choice, to be topped with katsuo fish flakes and sauce after turning golden brown. Available fillings include pork, soft-boiled egg, kimchi, cheese and noodles. You’re given an hourglass to indicate when you should flip your pancake, but if you’re not confident in your cooking skills, staff will be standing by ready to take over the grill for you.
Plenty of shot bars in Roppongi will serve cheap tequila until the sun rises, but it’s hard to find a decent cocktail bar that is open past midnight. Tucked away in a corner of Roppongi Hills is Tusk, a relaxed bar reminiscent of the classic watering holes of New York. The spacious venue, complete with a DJ booth and VIP section, is accented by two vibrant artworks by Masashi Ozawa. Alongside classic cocktails, wine and spirits, the menu also includes a selection of bar snacks such as rusks with a mascarpone dip and a charcuterie board.
Late-night dessert bars are hard to come by in a city that tends to prefer hot bowls of ramen for after-dark munchies, but Yelo is a gem for those looking to satisfy their sweet tooth after a late dinner. Tiramisu, matcha and mango milk are only a few of the basic flavours on the kakigori menu, along with more unusual combinations like avocado mascarpone and hojicha kinako (roasted green tea with soybean powder).
At first, the enormous mountain of fluffy shaved ice might look big enough for two or three people to finish, but it’s so exquisite you’ll find yourself easily demolishing the whole thing. Customise your snowy mound with toppings such as oreo, shiratama (mochi dumplings) and extra milk sauce if you’re feeling extravagant. There are also boozy kakigori options, like the mint-chocolate-flavoured Grasshopper which comes served in a martini glass.
If you’re in dire need of some rest and relaxation, recuperate with a massage and sauna session overnight at Olive Spa. Facilities at the Bali resort-inspired spa include a Mt Fuji lava stone sauna, where you can catch a break from the unrelenting cold of winter. Sixty minutes of aroma oil treatments, stretch massage and dry muscle massage are all ¥13,200 past 8.30pm, and ¥12,000 during daytime.
This branch of hip noodle chain Tsurutontan is busiest at lunch, dinner and 5am, when club-goers sit down for a wholesome meal to close the night before straggling home, and no wonder. The chain offers an extensive variety of dishes perfect for post-dancing calories. Menu items range from the simple kitsune (fried tofu) udon and classic curry udon with slices of beef to carbonara udon that might just pass for breakfast with its toppings of egg and bacon. You can decide on the amount of noodles you want: choose one bundle for the standard serving or up to double the noodles for no extra charge.
Some clubs will only open their doors during the weekends – Womb isn’t one of them. Every night is a party at Womb, with music ranging from electric house to hip hop blasting through the speakers across its three-storey venue. Each night of the week has a different theme; certain nights are reserved for bass music with some trap and hip hop while others are soundtracked by a mix of electro house. On Wednesday, women and international visitors are granted free entry. Fees on other nights vary, but prices start from ¥1,000 and you can often get a discount if you pull out the event’s digital flyer (available on the club’s social media channels) at the door.
A saving grace for fans of indoor recreation, EST Shibuya is a playground of ping pong tables, billiards and bowling alleys. There are four floors reserved for bowling alleys alone, where if you’re hungry you can order a snack from the touch panels available at every lane. Games cost ¥600 (5pm to closing) plus ¥350 for shoe rental.
If knocking down pins isn’t your thing, you can test your hand-eye coordination at the arcade on the first floor where there are a number of claw machines and photo booths that give you the chance to take home some memorabilia from your spontaneous all-nighter.
Late-night cafés are a trademark of Shibuya,and while Udagawa Café’s first appearance on the scene in 2001 was a quiet one, it’s now a popular haunt for the city’s night owls. The café has a retro art-deco look and serves up classic dishes including ginger pork and a series of old-school parfaits reminiscent of Japanese kissaten (traditional coffeeshops). The drinks menu is satisfyingly extensive, including flavoured lattes, decaffeinated coffee and a special Udagawa house blend, on top of a long selection of beer, wine, liquor and cocktails.
With an entrance that dazzles passers-by with bright red lights, café and bar Flamingo’s exterior is somewhat reminiscent of Paris’s Moulin Rouge, but step inside and you’ll be met with a funkier ambience of silver disco balls and red lips painted on the wall. There are flamingos too, of course, in the form of reading lights that nod at you from the bar counter as you spin on the matching red bar stools and sip on nostalgic diner classics like cream soda.
The menu after 11pm is less extensive than what’s available during the day but is eclectic nonetheless. Keema curry and Thai gapao rice is on offer for those craving Eastern flavours, and margherita pizza for cheese lovers. There are desserts as well, including crème brûlée and banana caramel cake, and the blue milk tea, which really does come in a curious shade of pastel blue.
Due to its convenient location in central Shibuya and the fact it is open until 5am, Mominoki House is popular with the post-party crowd. With a comfortable interior that fuses Chinese and Japanese design elements, the venue focuses on massage treatments using the healing practices derived from Indian Ayurveda traditions.
There's a foot bath installed under the seats, along a large window offering views of the bustling area below. ¥1,080 brings you a 45-minute foot bath, an Ayurveda herbal tea and a quick shoulder massage. For an additional ¥500, you can also get a piece of pound cake or coconut banana pudding to munch on.
More things to do after dark
The atmospheric alleyways at Golden Gai in Shinjuku are crammed with countless little bars of varied themes – perfect for a night of bar-hopping
A historic alleyway, Omoide Yokocho is a foodie destination with old-world charm, serving up sushi, ramen, yakitori and more
Want to gaze out at the mesmerising Tokyo skyline? Check out these great views of the city after dark
Where to find food whatever the hour in Shinjuku, Akasaka, Shibuya and Roppongi