Wow. That's all I can say. You cannot even begin to imagine what the clubs are like in Tokyo. They are absolutely incredible, like nothing we have over here in the west! It figures that as much as the residents of Tokyo love to drink, they should have some damn cool places to do it.
For starters, the biggest difference is the sheer size of the clubs there. Every single one is designed to span several floors, usually with different themes and different styles of music for each. Rather than have one DJ per floor there were usually multiple, sometimes as many as six or seven DJs will constantly rotate out while all sorts of lasers flare and animation is projected onto the walls, plenty of fog machines working at full blast, countless girls dancing up on various stages...but that really does not even begin to describe the scene or do it the least bit of justice.
Let's do this instead: Picture the best rave you have ever been to here in the States or even in Europe, you know back years ago when they were GOOD. Next take everything from it, the lights, sound, fog, lasers, music, the essence, every single last thing except for the plethora of designer drugs. Now drop that mass of madness into the middle of a skyscraper in the heart of Shibuya, let's say spanning across the third thru sixth floors, and well then my friend you have yourself a bonafide Tokyo club.
Most of these clubs are located either a couple floors below-ground or a couple floors above-ground, occupying a few of the lower-level floors of a commercial high-rise. All the floors will be linked by a bank of elevators but also a set or two of stairs. There is just so much going on and because often each floor is distinctly different in both decoration and music, the best way to experience it all is to keep moving around and mingle your way through one floor before heading on to the next. And repeat.
These amazing clubs do come with a price, however. The minimum cover charge you'll ever see is ¥2000 (roughly $25 USD; i.e. crappy show) and although most are between ¥3000-4000 ($35-48 USD), I did occasionally see some shows advertised with covers of ¥4500-5000 ($55-60 USD). Its not all bad though. Most of these clubs hand you a token after paying your cover, which you can then redeem at the bar for one free drink. That way you won't feel so bad about just spending $90 to get you and your girlfriend in LOL. ;)
The tokens themselves are fairly simple, usually nothing more than pieces of plastic or coins with the club name or logo on it. I brought back several of these with me actually...now if I could figure out what I did with them...
One important tip though, at least for all you alcoholics: Through "painstaking" personal research I found out that if you display your free drink token up front, often the bartender will pour you a weaker drink, whereas not revealing it until your drink is fully mixed ensures a perfect pour. You're welcome!
Here is a handy feature and something which I am shocked is not more common elsewhere around the world, especially in regions with temperatures that vary significantly throughout the year. Every decent club in Tokyo that I explored is equipped with an enormous bank of small rental lockers immediately past the security checkpoint. Simple and traditional gym lockers, they are only big enough for a purse, a jacket or two, and maybe a set of shoes -- perfect for when the missus wants to wait till the last minute to slap on her heels or ditch them before the long drunken walk home. The cost is only ¥100 but offers a full refund if you make it back out in less than three hours. (Plus since you left early and didn't close down the club that night, you've saved even more LOL)
Not only does that make things more convenient in the winter by not having crowds in think bulky jackets trying to squeeze into an elevator pass through a thick crowd on the dance floor, but it also will help prevent anything from being stolen, misplaced, or even drunkenly left behind -- something that we have all been guilty of at one point or another. The solution is cheap, effective, helpful in multiple ways, and given how easy it is to install and implement, I am surprised that more places do not have a similar system in place.
They actually have numerous staff members who walk around occasionally looking for those super drunk girls, who are passing out while leaning against the walls or trying to lay down on the floor. The employees proceed to take them all out to the front entrance, where the entry staff is located. Out there is one guy whose sole duty is to take care of and watch out for the ladies that have had too much to drink and are completely FUBAR. He is proudly armed with roll of small black plastic bags, package of paper towels, even rubber bands to tie their hair up for them if they should happen to start heaving.
Can you ever imagine that back in the States?!? You would never see anything close to it! No one, regardless of their salary, would want to be the "throw-up guy" stuck taking care of the sick chicks all night, every night. It would just never happen. I believe that most Americans are too grossed out to help a stranger throw up in a small black plastic bag, let alone tie a knot in it for them and then toss it into the nearby throw-up can. Yes, that's right, there is a trash can for throw-up only.
But those guys at the clubs in Tokyo are all over it and I'll be damned if they don't always do it with a smile! Even if the boyfriend showed up to check on his lady, like I did one night when I noticed Mayu had been gone for too long, that proud little throw-up man would not let me help, insisting he had everything under control and to 'go back to the dance floor until I was ready to claim Mayu and leave.' It was fantastic! I pondered it for all of about half a second before saying thanks and making my way back past the lockers and towards the elevators. After all, might as well let Mayu rest and get through the worst of it downstairs while I reclaimed the buzz that I'd lost a few minutes before while hunting for her.
Now is that amazing or what? Have you ever seen or heard of service like that before? Where I come from, and everywhere I have been, its just unheard of to be that nice to strangers. But that is just one of the hundred reasons that Japan is my favorite country!
Would you accept a job as the throw-up man? Share your thoughts below!
As I mentioned before the clubs don't open until 11pm or midnight so most do not start to get fully packed until 2am or 3am. But that last start frequently keeps the clubs open until 6 or 7am. As long as it is profitable, they won't close until the party is over. You can literally dance, drink, and party until the sun comes up. How fantastic! I would advise everyone who enjoys an active nightlife to check out the party scene in Tokyo for a week or a weekend -- but do it while still young so that you can actually hang!
While exploring Shibuya I managed to find dozens of phenomenal clubs, cool little bars, amazing restaurants, and excellent places to shop. By day I got in my shopping and saw the cultural sights, but come nightfall I entered drinking mode. Every night I would hunt for a new club or bar to test it. I was not always successful, sometimes I would be lured in by previous haunts, but either way I got a lot of drinking done! A multitude of those venues are on the map below, for anyone who might be visiting Ebisu/Shibuya in the future.
While experiencing the nightlife of Tokyo be sure to also visit some of the big clubs in Shibuya, which are utterly amazing and very much worth investigating, despite their high cost. Club Atom is one of the clubs that I definitely recommend. We went there almost every weekend while Jared was in town visiting. It is located six stories up in this skyscraper, covers three independently-themed floors each with multiple bars, and is always packed full of cute local women! Club Harlem right next door is nice as well, but harder to get into on the weekends. The list goes on and on...
And of course you cannot forget my favorite area Nonbei Yokocho, which translates as "Drunkard's Alley" or "Alley Of The Drunkards." I stumbled upon this place online and had to check it out for myself. Turns out that Nonbeiyokocho is just a few feet north of Shibuya Station. It is comprised of two parallel alleys that are home to around 50 miniature bars, usually only about 8 or 10 feet square with nothing more than four or five bar stools and a single bartender inside. Check out my photos from Non to get a better idea of just how small these bars really are.
There are a couple that are unfriendly to gaijin (durogatory term for a foreigner), but you will know those instantly as they will either not even serve you or hand you one beer but say that is all because "they are closing" or some similar excuse. If that should happen to you, no worries, just walk down to the next one and try again.
Nonbei Yokocho became like a second home to me while I was there. If I ever had a night where I was not sure what to do, I would start it at Non and before you know it the night would manifest itself. All of the best friends I made and best times I had originated from Nonbei Yokocho.
For even more clubs check out the map below. Also marked cpl good restaurants and a universal ATM.
Yep, the clubs over there are something else. Check out my article on the different locations around Tokyo for a better idea of just how much Tokyo varies from district to district. Below is a snippet from my old drunken ramblings on the original Shibuya Daze blog, provided for your amusement or, more likely, complete lack thereof:
...for any of y'all that have ever been to a rave, that is probably the closest thing I can compare it to -- but even that does not do justice to these kick-ass clubs. Let's try something: Imagine a rave, complete with a DJ, light-show, and fog machine, but now up the number of DJs to half-dozen and through in more lights and more fog machines. Take away all the people doing drugs and replace it with people getting drunk; Not too drunk though, most people here know when to stop. Now, still imagining, forget all the drama and arguments / fights that come up at raves and replace those with people all smiling, laughing, and telling stories. Now, still imagining, throw in a few huge bars offering great drinks at great prices, staffed with cute Asian ladies that refuse to take tips, and don't forget to add a couple more cute Asian women dancing up on the bar or stage. Then take this image that you have in your head, and put it on steroids, to really knock it up another few notches. That, my friends, is what all the clubs over here are like. It is unbelievable to say the least.
And, you know, while I was writing that I realized something else: in all the bars and clubs that Mayu and I have been to, we have not seen so much as one dispute or argument between people, not the slightest thing, whether it be between couples or just friends. Does not happen here. There is no drama whatsoever. Its the exact opposite of clubs back home, where there is always some drama or a fight about to break out, usually due to some drunken idiot. I am still amazed that with a city this size, and with that many people partying, that nothing happens. At least on the surface.
Have you partied in Japan? Still thinking about a job as the throw-up guy? Apply below!
Tokyo (東京) is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and ilocated on the eastern side of the biggest of Japan's 3,000 islands, Honshu. Home to 36.9 million people, it is not only the most populous city in the world but also the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, as well as the home of the Japanese Imperial Family. This great city is comprised of 23 special wards, each of which governs itself. One of those wards is Shibuya, the inspiration and namesake of my original site, Shibuya Daze, which would eventually become the HoliDaze.
The famous (and busy) Shibuya Crossing
Each of those wards are in turn divided into separate districts, many having a dozen or more. But the Shibuya ward, the one I chose to call home for a couple months, is the only one that also includes a district of the same name. I found that normally when there is talk of Shibuya, it is usually referring to this particular district and not the ward as a whole. It is one of the busiest of the districts, crammed full with people, stores, restaurants, markets, hotels, arcades, even soccer fields atop at 20- and 30-story skyscrapers.
Not only is Shibuya one of Tokyo's most colorful and busy districts, but the ward as a whole is also birthplace to many of Japan's fashion and entertainment trends. Most of the area's large department and fashion stores belong to either Tokyu or Seibu, two competing corporations. In addition there is also a very prominent nightlife in Shibuya, yet another factor in making this the most popular area of Tokyo among the younger generations.
Japan's oldest and finest beer
The other primary districts of Shibuya are Daikanyama, Ebisu, Harajuku, Hiroo, Higashi, Omotesando, Sendagaya, and Yoyogi. Ebisu (pronounced 'yebisu'), the area where I had my flat back in 2008-09, is proudly referred to as "the area Tokyo locals love to live." It is conveniently located next to Shibuya and was — believe it or not — founded and developed around the Japan Beer Brewery. Yebisu Beer, introduced in 1890, has long been a local favorite. There is even a famous beer brewery and museum and tasting bar you can visit. I did. Fun stuff.
Ebisu is also home to many quirky restaurants and bars, but without the late night intensity and noise of Shibuya; in other words, it is perfect to come home to. Top it off with trendy neighboring communities like Daikanyama and Hiroo, which offer high-class boutiques, vintage stores and hip patisseries all within easy walking distance from Ebisu station. And there is also Yoyogi, home to one of the largest parks in all of Tokyo, Yoyogi Park.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
The special wards (特別区, tokubetsu-ku) are 23 municipalities that together make up the core and the most populous part of Tokyo, Japan. They vary greatly in both area (from 10 to 60 km²) and population (from 800k) plus some are expanding as artificial islands are built. Setagaya has the most people, while neighboring Ota has the largest area. For the full list of wards and districts, see below.
Eventually, as I catch up on my writing I hope cover a good chunk of these areas.
|The Wards||Kanji||The Districts|
|Adachi||足立区||Ayase, Kitasenju, Takenotsuka|
|Arakawa||荒川区||Arakawa, Machiya, Minamisenju, Nippori|
|Bunkyō||文京区||Hakusan, Hongo, Yayoi|
|Chiyoda||千代田区||Akihabara, Iidabashi, Kasumigaseki, Marunouchi, Nagatachō, Ōtemachi, Yūrakuchō|
|Chūō||中央区||Ginza, Hatchōbori, Kachidoki, Kayabachō, Nihonbashi, Shinkawa, Tsukiji, Tsukishima, Tsukuda|
|Kita||北区||Akabane, Ōji, Tabata|
|Kōtō||江東区||Aomi, Ariake, Etchūjima, Fukagawa, Kameido, Kiba, Kiyosumi, Monzennakachō, Shirakawa, Sunamachi, Tōyōchō|
|Meguro||目黒区||Jiyugaoka, Meguro, Nakameguro|
|Minato||港区||Aoyama, Akasaka, Azabu, Hamamatsuchō, Odaiba, Roppongi, Shinbashi, Shinagawa, Tamachi, Toranomon|
|Nerima||練馬区||Hikarigaoka, Nerima, Ōizumi|
|Ōta||大田区||Den-en-chōfu, Haneda, Kamata, Ōmori|
|Setagaya||世田谷区||Karasuyama, Kinuta, Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tamagawa|
|Shibuya||渋谷区||Daikanyama, Ebisu, Harajuku, Higashi, Hiroo, Sendagaya, Shibuya, Yoyogi|
|Shinagawa||品川区||Gotanda, Osaki, Shinagawa|
|Shinjuku||新宿区||Ichigaya, Kagurazaka, Ōkubo, Shinjuku, Takadanobaba|
|Suginami||杉並区||Asagaya, Kōenji, Ogikubo|
|Sumida||墨田区||Kinshichō, Morishita, Ryōgoku|
|Toshima||豊島区||Ikebukuro, Komagome, Senkawa, Sugamo|
Despite all being part of the metropolis that is Tokyo, the districts here are more akin to a couple hundred small, separate, and unique towns squeezed right next to each other. Each one comes with its own distinct atmosphere and feel in style, shopping, and businesses. Many vary greatly from their surrounding neighbors and have evolved into areas specifically known for one or two things.
One of the most internationally well-known districts is Harajuku, the fashion capital of the world. If you are a sumo fan, Ryōgoku is the district you should visit. Electronics more your thing? Visit Akihabara, the hotspot for electronics, computer, anime, and otaku goods. For international business, Shinjuku is the place to be. And the tourist district? That is Roppongi, probably the only district in Tokyo where you need to watch your wallet/purse.
Yes, the wealth and diversity offered throughout these districts is unparalleled anywhere else in the word. I spent countless hours exploring the city and trust me the joy found in wandering these streets never ceases. The variety does however make it important to do a little research when deciding on where to stay. My choice was Ebisu, home to an abundance of sophisticated upscale bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. This area has the kind of quality nightlife preferred by the 30-something crowds. It was also only a quick five-minute walk to Shibuya, the major local party scene of the 20-something crowd and stocked full of huge clubs, love hotels, and all night eateries.
Have you ever visited Tokyo before? Which distrcit was your favorite and why?
Have you heard of the Ice Hotel in Sweden, or any of the subsequent ones that have opened in nearly two dozen other countries?
The bar, the chairs and tables, the artwork, even the cups, all of which are handcarved and actually imported from the Ice Hotel in Sweden. You are even bundled up in an authentic Ice Hotel jacket; upon paying your cover charge the staff graciously helps you suit-up. From there you proceed through a intermediary room — kind of like when entering a shooting range — kept at or below 10° C.
This was definitely a cool ass place, no pun intended. The drinks were small and a little expensive though, but obviously you are paying for the scenery. It was ¥3500 cover just to get in (roughly $45 USD, but that is a normal Tokyo cover charge), and drinks were ¥1200 each ($15 USD). And yes, they were ridiculously small! Even though the ice cups are physically big chunks of ice, there is only a narrow hole drilled at the top of it, about an inch in diameter and maybe four inches down — basically nothing more than a Texas-sized shot. And you are forced to re-use your cups, as they are all imported from Sweden at great cost. The first one comes free with the first drink but after that, if you need a new glass due to melting or breakage you are charged ¥800 for the glass plus ¥1200 cost of the drink. If you keep your gloves on, you should be able to get about a half dozen drinks out of your ice cup before heat from your lips have melted it to the point of needing a new glass.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the Ice Bar Tokyo is owned by Absolut Vodka and as such you only have a choice between about a dozen-and-a-half to two dozen varying drinks, all containing a multitude of flavored Absolut vodkas mixed with assorted juices. Regardless of the fact I hate vodka now (too much of it when I was a younger), it was intriguing enough to spend an hour and a couple hundred dollars there in the freezing temperatures. It was also interesting to see how frequently the bartenders would swap out with the front stay, so that they could warm up briefly.
Yes, Tokyo's IceBar is one of those places that you only go for show. Now that I went once, I have no urge to go back. Its going to be exactly the same, the initial thrill is gone now that I have seen it. But it has visitor appeal, you know, its a fantastic place to take someone who is new to the city or never seen anything like that. Just be prepared to shell out a hundred thousand yen at the absolute minimum.
Have you experienced this ice bar or any of the others? Share your comments below.
[ UPDATE ] Regretfully as of September 30th, 2011, IceBar Tokyo has closed their doors as part of the effort to control energy consumption in the wake of the earthquake is eastern Japan. With so many other businesses and families working hard to control their power usage, it is unjustifiable for IBT to waste such vast amounts of energy freezing a warehouse and maintaining such cold temperatures. Please visit the IceBar Tokyo official web site for more information on when they will open their doors again.
Other notable cities around the world with ice bars: Monterrey, Mexico City, Panama City, Orlando, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Barcelona, Athens, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Saint Petersburg, New Delhi, and Dubai.