Introducing Foreigner-Friendly Bars in Tokyo

Drink
June 17, 2024

Tokyo, a world-renowned metropolis in Japan, is a fascinating city where diverse cultures coexist. While there are numerous spots and attractions that foreign tourists can enjoy such as Japan’s legal gambling culture, and its adult nightlife including nightclubs and hostess clubs. However, today we will introduce some foreigner-friendly bars that you can enjoy various drinks whether by yourself or with friends. We have picked out establishments where you can experience Japan's unique bar culture without feeling the language barrier.

Recommended Areas for Bars in Tokyo

Tokyo boasts several areas with a high concentration of bars, each offering a unique experience. Here are some of the most popular spots, especially favored by international visitors for their foreigner-friendly atmosphere. These areas not only offer a wide range of drinking options but also ensure a welcoming environment for visitors from around the world.

Shinjuku: Golden Gai

Shopping district Shinjuku Golden Gai in Tokyo

Image Source: Google Street View

Golden Gai is an area located in the Shinjuku ward. It has a very unique atmosphere, where more than 200 bars line the alleyways. During the day it looks like a normal narrow street crowded with shops which is typical of Japan but at night the numerous bars light up and get ready for business, changing the typical street into a loud and bustling area at night. It is also popular with foreign tourists, and many bars have English menus and staff who can speak English. You can enjoy bar hopping while feeling the Japanese culture in a nostalgic Showa-era atmosphere.

Ginza

Exterior view of a bar in Ginza

Image Source: Google Street View

Ginza is characterized by its high-end streetscape due to the many high brand shops, busy salarymen, and high class eateries. Thanks to the overall classy atmosphere of Ginza many sophisticated bars gather here adding to the level. There are also many luxury bars catering to foreigners, and it is common for staff to be able to speak English. You can enjoy high-end cocktails while taking in the night view of Tokyo.

Roppongi

Exterior view of a pub in Roppongi

Image Source: Google Street View

Roppongi is one of the most internationally diverse areas in Tokyo, attracting many foreigners. During the day it is similar to Ginza with its high class shopping areas but by night it is a very lively entertainment district with an unending number of activities and places to visit. There are numerous bars and clubs aimed at foreigners, and you will likely have no difficulty conversing in English. There are also bars where you can enjoy cuisine and drinks from various countries, making it an ideal place for international exchange.

The Pricing System in Japanese Bars

Pouring drinks at the bar counter

The pricing system in Japanese bars can be quite unique and may be a bit confusing for foreigners. Here's an explanation of the main pricing structures.

1. Service Charge (Table Charge)

Some Japanese bars have a service charge or table charge. This is treated as a seating fee, where visitors pay a fixed amount to use the table. This fee often includes an otoshi (small appetizer), which justifies the charge. The fee typically ranges from 500 to 1,000 JPY, but it may vary depending on the location. Of course, there are also bars that don't charge a table fee.

2. Drink Prices

Drink prices vary greatly depending on the bar, but as a general guide, cocktails range from 600 to 1,200 JPY, beer from 500 to 800 JPY, and sake or shochu from 500 to 1,000 JPY per serving. These prices may be even higher in upscale bars or special areas.

3. Payment Methods

While many places in Japan still prefer cash, an increasing number of bars in urban areas accept credit cards and electronic payments. However, the accepted payment methods differ depending on the establishment, so it's recommended to always carry some cash with you.

*Tipping is not common in Japan, and there's no need to pay extra.

4. Other Charges

Some specific bars or special bars may have additional charges for enjoying entertainment such as karaoke or billiards. Bars with live performances may require a separate entrance fee or live charge.

A Guide to Enjoying Bars in Japan

Japanese style pub

Japanese bars have a unique culture and atmosphere, and knowing a few key points can help you fully enjoy your experience. Here's a detailed guide on what to keep in mind when visiting a bar in Japan.

1. Choosing the Right Type of Bar

Japan offers a wide variety of bars, each with its own charm. Traditional izakayas are perfect for experiencing Japanese culture, while cocktail bars offer a sophisticated, grown-up atmosphere. Other themed establishments such as jazz bars provide a relaxing environment to unwind. It's best to choose a bar based on your preferences and mood. Check online reviews and photos beforehand to get a sense of the ambiance.

2. Etiquette When Entering

 Popular or small bars may require reservations, so it's recommended to book in advance to secure a seat. Some traditional Japanese-style bars may require you to remove your shoes upon entry. Pay attention to instructions at the entrance and follow the appropriate etiquette.

3. Ordering

Upon entering the bar, you'll be given a menu. If there's no English menu, feel free to ask the staff. Especially at cocktail bars, asking the bartender for recommendations is part of the fun. Japanese bartenders are highly skilled and knowledgeable, so they'll likely provide you with an excellent cocktail based on your preferences.

4. Payment and Tipping

Unlike Western countries tipping is not customary in Japan, so you can simply pay the bill as is. Sometimes if it is a special themed bar the service fee will already been included in your bill when you go to pay so be sure of the various prices and charges. When you do go to pay, keep in mind that some bars may not accept credit cards, so it's advisable to bring cash just in case.

5. Last Train/Bus Times

Public transportation in Japan often ends relatively early, so it's crucial to be aware of the last train or bus times when planning your return. Check the schedules and make sure to leave the bar with plenty of time to spare otherwise you may need to spend the whole night at the bar drinking!

Points to Keep in Mind When Enjoying Bars in Japan 

Japanese bars have a unique culture and atmosphere, which can be a refreshing experience for foreign visitors. However, it's important to understand some key points, such as language barriers and differences in etiquette. Here are some tips to help you fully enjoy your time at a Japanese bar.

Language Barriers

Many Japanese bars may have staff who are not fluent in English. To ensure smooth communication, it's recommended to learn some basic Japanese or visit with a Japanese friend. Even a little bit of Japanese, such as simple greetings and ordering from the menu, can make your interactions with locals much more enjoyable. If you have bad memory then installing a translation app in your phone is also an option.

Observing Etiquette

Manners are highly valued in Japanese society, and bars are no exception. Avoid speaking loudly or engaging in behavior that may disturb other patrons. When sitting at the counter, maintain good posture and refrain from crossing your legs, as it is considered proper etiquette. By following these basic courtesies, you'll likely make a good impression on the locals.

Smoking and Non-Smoking Rules

Many bars in Japan have clear rules regarding smoking or non-smoking areas. Before entering, check the signs or notices at the entrance to understand and follow the rules. Even in smoking-permitted establishments, be considerate of those around you and use ashtrays to maintain proper etiquette.

Monitoring Alcohol Consumption

Many Japanese alcoholic beverages, particularly shochu and sake, have a higher alcohol content and may be too strong for beginners. Be aware of your tolerance level and adjust your pace accordingly. Remember to enjoy yourself at your own pace without feeling pressured to overindulge.

Safety

Bars are places where you can drink and party, so it’s easy to lose track of your belongings when you’re having too much fun. Always keep your valuables on you and prioritize your own safety. Stay aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your drinks to avoid any unwanted incidents. If you're with friends, look out for each other and have a plan to get home safely. Remember, a little caution ensures a fun and worry-free night out.

Foreigner-Friendly Bars in Tokyo

Tokyo has many bars, located in its numerous wards, where foreigners can casually drop by and have a great time. If you're looking for a foreigner-friendly spot to enjoy delicious drinks in an international atmosphere, here are some recommended places so be sure to try them out if you are in the area.

1. Ginza 300 Bar 5-Chome (Ginza)

Exterior view of Ginza 300 Bar in Ginza Japan

Image Source: Google Street View

Welcome to Ginza's first 300 yen standing bar! Here, you can enjoy great value drinks with no table charge, allowing you to relax and indulge as much as you want. Established in 1992, this bar has been operating daily without a break, ensuring top-notch quality and service. It's the perfect spot for your next party! Whether you're winding down after work or celebrating a special occasion, this bar offers a unique and vibrant atmosphere.

[Prices]

  • From 300 JPY

[Opening Hours]

  • 4:30 pm - 11:30pm 
  • (* On the official website, it states that the opening hours are from 4:30pm to 12:00am on weekdays and Sundays, and from 4:30pm to 2:00am on Fridays, Saturdays, and days before holidays.)

[Address] 

  • 104-0061 Tokyo, Chuo Ward, Ginza, 5-9-11, Fazenda Bldg. B1

Website: https://www.300bar.com/

2. Geronimo Shot Bar (Roppongi)

Exterior view of Geronimo Shot Bar in Roppongi Japan

Image Source: Google Street View

Geronimo is a lively shot bar with a diverse music selection that will keep everyone’s feet tapping. This shot bar offers fun activities, including the thrilling 15-shot challenge. If you can handle 15 different shots in one night, you’ll earn a brass plaque with your name on the wall and an exclusive Geronimo shot challenge t-shirt. If you can’t speak Japanese then don’t worry as there is an English menu readily available for you in store and an Englsh version of their website for more information.

[Prices]

  • Shots from 1,200 JPY

[Opening Hours]

  • Monday - Friday: 6:00 pm - 5:00 am
  • Saturday - Sunday: 8:00 pm - 5:00 am

[Address] 

  • 106-0032 Tokyo, Minato Ward, Roppongi, 7-14-10, Yamamuro Bldg. 2F

Website: https://geronimoshotbar.com/ja

3. Music Fashion Bar RUN (Shinjuku, Kabukicho) 

Exterior view of Music Fashion Bar RUN in Shinjuku Kabukicho Japan

Image Source: Google Street View

Whether you want to take advantage of the all-you-can-drink plan for special events or groove to the beats of guest DJs, Bar Run Shinjuku is the place for you. With a wide range of drinks to suit every taste including classic beers, Japanese shochu, shots, and even non-alcoholic options this bar has something for everyone. Most of the staff can speak English and are friendly and ready to help and recommend some drinks if you don’t know what to get!

[Prices]

  • Beer From 800 JPY

[Opening Hours]

  • 8:00 pm - 4:00 am
  • Closed: Sunday

[Address] 

  • 160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku Ward, Kabukicho, 1-10-3, G3 Bldg. 1F

Website:  https://run-shinjuku.jp/

Discover Great Bars on YouTube

Immerse yourself in Tokyo's dynamic nightlife through this engaging video.

▼Tokyo's Nightlife Is WILD! 🇯🇵 Kabukicho & Shinjuku (Japan) / Jumping Places

Experience a thrilling tour of Tokyo's famous Kabukicho and Shinjuku districts by watching this video. Explore some of the city's top bars and vibrant nightlife spots. Dive deep into the local culture and find out where to spend an unforgettable night. Whether you're looking for a cozy spot or a lively venue, this video is your gateway to the best that Tokyo nightlife has to offer. Don't miss out on this fantastic journey through one of the world's most exciting nightlife scenes!

Summary

Tokyo offers a wide variety of foreigner-friendly bars, particularly concentrated in major entertainment districts. Many of these establishments provide English-speaking staff and an environment where visitors can easily experience Japan's unique drinking culture. While it's important to be mindful of pricing and entry etiquette, these bars allow you to soak up the local atmosphere and interact with residents, ensuring a fulfilling and memorable experience. Don't miss out on the chance to add some vibrant color to your Tokyo nights!

PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer
PIJ Writer, a seasoned connoisseur in his 40s based in Japan, boasts an unparalleled depth of knowledge and experience within the vibrant landscapes of both drinking and gambling, alongside his well-documented ventures into various red-light districts. This extensive exploration encompasses not just the nocturnal delights of Japan's red-light areas but also its myriad of bars, horse racing, pachinko, and many others. Drawing on his firsthand experiences, he conveys the appeal and characteristics of Japan's diverse adult entertainment districts and his enjoyment of the nightlife scene through his writing for PIJ.

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