Tokyo’s Alcatraz ER
Have you ever wanted to party in a spooky, haunted mental institution themed restaurant and club? Probably not, but of course there’s the option to do so in Tokyo. With its blood-splattered walls and grimy prison cells, Alcatraz ER located in the heart of Shibuya is the horror movie style izakya that is arguably the weirdest place you’ll ever drink. The drink menu is horror themed and drinks are loaded with (safe) syringes or served out of severed heads. If the décor wasn’t enough the staff also perform acts of faux-violent depravity on the clientele who are used as ‘human’ experiments. If you can survive the night it’ll be one you won’t ever forget.
2-13-5 Dogenzaka Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0043 Harvest Building, +81 3 3770 7100
Buddhism is one of the country’s major religions, and drinking is one incredibly popular pastime here in Japan, so it kind of makes sense that there’s a bar staffed by Buddhist monks. Vowz in Shinjuku is a Tokyo drinking institution, having been running for 17 years. This spiritual watering hole has been serving delicious cocktails and Buddhist philosophy with great success. Because many people don’t go to Temples anymore, this bar was founded as an alternative way to teach others about the teachings of Buddhism. In a city filled with niche and gimmicky cafes and restaurants, this bar is a far cry from being a joke-style establishment. In fact, all the people who do work here are real monks on their own personal journey of spirituality. It is open to tourists but typically Vowz cateres to locals
6 Araki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0007 Tokyo, +81 3 3353 1032
A big leap from its neighbour, Vowz bar, its another Shinjuku institution, The Robot Restaurant aka probably the strangest show you’ll ever experience in your life. A dinner and show/ nightclub hybrid. Leather bikini-clad performers ride giant robots, robot snakes and perform taiko style drumming to tell a multiple act story that’s part concert, part mythical legend and all around bizarre. Be aware it’s a pretty touristy experience, but worth a visit if you’re in Tokyo for the night.
Shinjuku Robot Building 1-7-1 Kabukicho Shinjuku Ward, 160-0021, Tokyo, +81 3 3200 5500
This one is for music lovers. With walls lined by meticulously ordered vinyl records, JBS Bar in Shibuya is a cosy whiskey bar with a music history like no other. JBS stands for Jass, Blues Soul though owner Kobayashi-san’s collection goes way beyond those three genres, branching out to the incredibly local and niche, to the weird and bizarre. The décor is simple, 11,000+ records the only ornaments in the space, but it’s all the place needs. Over the years Kobayashi-san has become a local expert in what Japanese call ‘black music’ (think jazz and soul to contemporary hip hop) having been published in a number of books and magazines. Part bar, part late-night institution and part music library, JBS is a must visit for music fans from all walks of life.
17-10 1 – chome Dogenzaka Shibuya – ku, Tokyo 150 – 0043 2nd Treasure Building 2F, +81 3 3461 7788
Penguin Bar Ikebukuro
If there’s anything more out there than drinking in a faux-psych hospital, it’s probably drinking with penguins, which believe it or not is something you can do at Penguin Bar in Ikebukuro. Open every day until 4 am the bar serves food and booze with an incredible view of ridiculously cute penguins. Don’t stress about the safety of the penguins, they’re located behind a thick wall of glass. If you are inclined to do so, you are able to hold the penguins, feed them and even get a photo with them. It’s all unforgettably cute.
38-2, Ikebukuro Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 170-0014 COSMY, +81 3 5927 1310
The biggest club in Tokyo, AgeHa is a multi-space indoor and outdoor venue that also has a swimming pool on one of the dance floors! Home to some of the biggest names in dance, hip hop, electro and pop, the music is pumping all weekend long and during the week it’s a live music venue hosting rock performers from across the world. Because it’s located a little further outside of the heart of Tokyo there are a number of buses that run over the weekend bringing guests to and from the heart of Shibuya, making it incredibly accessible for city dwellers.
2-10 Shinkiba, Koto Ward, Tokyo 136-0082 Tokyo, +81 3 5534 1515
Warning, this is not a place for the faint of heart. Vibe Bar in the heart of Shibuya is home to probably the largest and most varied collection of vibrators you’ll ever witness in your entire life. Sitting inside the Wild One sex shop, this unique watering hole is hidden on the third floor of the store. If you’re interested in purchasing a little souvenir from the bar’s collection, vibrators are also for sale and the friendly staff will gladly assist you with making a selection. There’s one strict restriction for this bar however, and that’s that male guests must be accompanied by at least one female to enter.
Neko Bar Akanasu
Tokyo is the home of the cat café so it really only makes logical sense that it’s also the home of the Neko Bar, the city’s popular cat bar. This cosy little waterhole serves beer, mixed drinks and unlimited cuddles from the five chilled kitties that call the bar home. Nothing like the typically shiny cat cafes at all, Neko (which means cat in Japanese) Bar is a lot more laid back, letting the furry locals stroll around the premises and do as they please.
So there have been plenty of weird spots on this list but it arguably doesn’t get any weirder than Kagaya Bar in Minato-ku. Known as the city’s craziest bar, Kagaya doesn’t rely on lavish interiors or wacky lights to draw customers, but rather the performance styling of the venue’s bartender and waiter. Each drink on the menu represents a country and once you order that drink you’re privy to a very unique performance that’s meant to encapsulate that county’s culture and history. It sounds strange and that’s because it is, but there is nothing like experiencing the scene for real. Words fail most people when it comes to describing Kagaya, it seriously just has to be seen to be believed.