Nagano’s nightlife scene is varied, intimate and sometimes wild, merging international aspects (food, drink and music) with local personality and hospitality. No matter what kind of nightlife you’re looking for, be it grunge, underground, house or something else entirely, Nagano is sure to keep you entertained.
Culture Trip speaks to Blair Guardia, from Nagano’s Tourism Organisation, who shares some of his favourite nightlife locations in Nagano. This list of clubs and venues includes Guardia’s recommendations, as well as everything from Mediterranean-inspired lounges, to intimate bars, eateries with stunning mountain views and even grunge clubs.
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For music lovers visiting Nagano, Guardia recommends Music and Bar Fame, which is just a 10-minute walk from Nagano Station. “Music and Bar Fame caters to all kinds of musical tastes, securing DJs and artists in genres ranging from disco to techno, and hip-hop to house,” he says. “Recently, DJs have been including games and anime soundtracks into their sets – a theme that has been a real hit.” For good alcohol, better conversation, and the best beats in Nagano, it’s got to be Music Bar and Fame. Fresh gigs are always on the schedule and might range from reggae lounge to techno and jazz.
In search of good food? Guardia recommends Tracks Bar as a great place to pass a few hours enjoying BBQ dishes, burgers, imported beer and enlivening DJs from all over Japan. DJs are scheduled months in advance, so check the calendar and consider planning your visit to coincide with a night when Tracks Bar is featuring your favourite genre of music. The bar is located in a house, lending it a uniquely cosy, homely atmosphere. This intimate house-party vibe makes it easy to strike up conversations and make new friends.
After a day spent on Nagano’s slopes, head into The Rabbit Hole for hearty food and beer. Famous for their Chuck Norris burger (beef patty, bacon, cheddar, pickles, lettuce and a top-secret sauce), The Rabbit Hole is an international establishment with fusion dishes inspired by American, Mexican and European cuisine. Other highlights here include the draft beer (Belgian, Japanese and American beers are represented), great wine and the company of friendly staff – and often other travellers. The Rabbit Hole hosts live music gigs by local and foreign artists with serene views of Nagano’s alps as the backdrop, whose snow-capped peaks glisten in the starlight.
The Aegean aesthetic of FLAT mimics a luxurious Mediterranean resort. The venue has a spacious, wrap-around bar and white upholstery, while countertops with blue tile accents complete the establishment’s interior decoration. Enjoy this luxurious atmosphere while sipping a citrus-infused cocktail or eating fresh ice cream from a thin waffle bowl. Then, rent one of FLAT’s private karaoke rooms with your friends to pass the evening singing your heart out to classic ’80s tunes as well as Japanese pop songs.
Guardia suggests heading down to GNU, “if you’re feeling especially groovy”. “GNU is close to Matsumoto Station and is a spacious establishment with enough room to dance the night away. The decor is fresh, lounge-like and minimal, with interior lighting that mirrors the ambience of the music and mood.” Another highlight is GNU’s superior cocktails. Try one of their popular Red Bull and tequila cocktails for a concoction that might inspire you to challenge your friends to a game of eight-ball on GNU’s pool table or a dance-off. If you are looking for a memorable, laughter-filled night, try to catch one of GNU’s regular disco parties.
Spend a night out in Nagano playing billiards or darts, listening to live music, and enjoying the engaging atmosphere at EXIEV. This locally owned, nightly entertainment venue encourages guests to organise bar games while enjoying a glass of regional sake. The establishment is also known for serving delicious, seasonal starters and snacks so make sure you check out the menu for some light fare to accompany your sake.
For travellers looking to make new friends in Nagano, Guardia recommends Bar and Karaoke Box Heaven. Enjoy a mug of draft beer or Japanese sake while listening to live music (jazz and blues are popular genres) and chatting with other travellers. The interior has moody, speakeasy-style lighting, lots of dark-wood furnishing, and a huge selection of alcohols lined behind the bar top. Choose your cocktail from an expansive menu of more than 20 unique mixed drinks or pick one of Bar and Karaoke Box Heaven’s malt whiskeys. If you come with a group, consider hiring one of Bar and Karaoke Box Heaven’s private karaoke booths, which will lend you hours of entertainment and laughs.
Looking for a varied selection of tunes and an excuse to explore Nagano’s grungy, underground music scene? Nagano Club Junk Box is a retro, industrial establishment that hosts local and well-known Japanese artists in a varied number of genres (rock, house, loft and more). Get in touch with the local music scene by spending a night here dancing to passionate musicians and making new friends in the lively crowd.
This nautical-themed, tropical bar has a quirky, beachy interior and expansive menu. Drink recommendations include the Mangoyan Pina Colada, the Caribbean Sunset Beach, and the establishment’s signature drink, The Beach Cocktail. Despite the fact that it’s up in the Japanese mountains, far from the coast, The Beach Bar is a place where a laid back, fun-loving and friendly beach-style culture, lively company and tropical cocktails come together. The establishment focuses on keeping the party alive through live music, skilled DJs and bar games (including darts or card games). As a result everyone – guests and staff alike – will soon be your friends and you will spend most of the night chatting, laughing, drinking and fighting it out to prove who is the champion at darts.
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