The Best Bars in Harajuku, Tokyo
The streets of Harajuku are lined with bars serving a range of drinks | © World Discovery / Alamy Stock Photo
Harajuku tends to conjure up images of eclectic people dressed in otaku fashion, Lolita dresses and trendy high-end brands. But what about dive bars, breweries and cocktail lounges? After all, fashionistas need a break too!
Baird Beer Taproom
Bar, Gastropub, Japanese, $$$
This is easily one of the best places to sample craft beer in Tokyo
, offering a wide selection of regular and seasonal beers on tap. Baird Beer Taproom resembles a traditional Japanese izakaya
(a type of pub) but with a Western twist; the couple who founded the brewery are themselves Japanese and American, after all. Classic local fare such as yakitori
(skewers) feature on the menu, as well as fusion treats like blue-cheese chicken spring rolls. The staff speaks both Japanese and English. Unlike many Japanese pubs, the entire venue is non-smoking.
Bar, Japanese, $$$
Operated by popular Japanese apparel company United Arrows, the UA BAR cleverly describes itself as serving “tailor-made” coffee and cocktails, making it a perfect stop any time of day. The interior design is classic, evoking stylish cocktail bars from the past. The sophisticated cocktails include ingredients like maple syrup and sport quirky names like This American Life. Food is also served at this gastropub, including fish and chips, hotdogs, salads and curries.
This bar does more than evoke classy drinking establishments of the past – it is one! Established in 1972, Bar Radio has long been recognised as one of the finest bars in the area. Cosy and non-smoking, this bar is extremely comfortable and welcoming. Cocktails concocted from fresh fruits are served in century-old glassware, expertly crafted by the knowledgeable bartender. Just tell him your preferences, and he’ll make something special just for you!
Bar, Japanese, $$$
PDX Taproom is a craft-beer bar serving brews primarily made in Portland, Oregon. It even conjures the spirit of the Pacific Northwest with its decor – look out for the piece of framed Portland airport carpet on the wall. In addition to its variety of beer types on tap, this cosy brewpub also serves hot food. Plus, the service is some of the best around. Travellers will find it helpful that this Japanese bar accepts credit cards!
Rock Bar Half Moon
Bar, Japanese, $$$
Don’t be shy about entering this super-friendly rock bar. The welcoming atmosphere is immediately apparent, making this spot especially comfortable for solo visitors. The owner, Shin-chan, is very chatty, and the music is always on point. There’s a record player and shelves of rock’n’roll albums to peruse. If you get hungry, Half Moon serves bar food like pickles and beef jerky as well as meals like European-style curry and mentaiko (spicy fish-egg) pasta.
Deus Ex Machina Café
Bar, Japanese, American, $$$
As the name implies, Deus Ex Machina will rescue you in unexpected ways. A bar, café, and motorcycle and apparel store all in one, this stylish, laid-back shop is a great place to unwind. There are many Deus Ex Machina concept stores around the world, but this is the only one in Japan. The venue serves everything from booze to burgers; its toasted sandwiches are especially good. Make this hip bar one of the first stops on your bar-hopping itinerary, as it closes by 11pm at the latest.
Bonobo is one of the liveliest bars in wild Harajuku
. It looks like a speakeasy (and parties like one, too), with regular live DJs regularly spinning upbeat tunes for a dancing crowd. The friendly bartenders stay busy mixing cheap but tasty drinks. The smallness of the dance floor makes it all the more intimate and exciting, though there are quieter lounge areas on the upper floors for those looking to relax. The clientele is inclusive, featuring a friendly mix of locals, expats and tourists. The vibes are amazing round the clock, making this the
spot to party any night of the week.
Cigar Bar Chardonnay
Cigar Bar Chardonnay, as you may have guessed, specialises in both wines and cigars. With plush red seating, exposed-brick walls and jazz music playing softly in the background, it evokes a cinematic ambience. The staff takes the art of cigar smoking very seriously, making this a great stop for both beginners and connoisseurs. The whisky selection nearly rivals that of the cigars (which are all Cuban by the way and relatively affordable), but the wine collection is where it’s at.
The dim lighting and intimate seating aren’t the best things about Donna Selvatica – it’s the chocolate. This bar specialises in pairing your favourite alcoholic beverages with rich, impeccable, melt-in-your-mouth cacao-based sweets. With a selection of over 40 types of fine chocolate as well as a host of liqueurs available, the combinations seem endless. The atmosphere is easy-going and the staff as sweet as the chocolatey goodness they serve.