Whether you’re ordering a highball fifty storeys above the city or knocking back a pint of Sapporo in an otherworldly alleyway, Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighbourhood is packed with atmospheric sophisticated and humble drink dens.
A walk through Golden Gai or Memory Lane (otherwise known as Omoide Yokochō) pretty much promises a great night, but we’ve collected some of our favourite watering holes to help create a winning bar-hopping itinerary. Read on for our picks for the best bars in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighbourhood – whatever your poison of preference, this party-focused prefecture has you covered.
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Craft cocktail aficionados flock to Ben Fiddich for its herbal infusions, house-made liquor and keen attention to detail. In fact, the groundbreaking bar is not only one of the top cocktail bars in Tokyo, but in the entire world. The no-menu watering hole serves up different off-the-cuff cocktails each night – with whisky, gin, absinthe or amaro – in what can only be described as an alchemist’s lair.
After making your way up to the 52nd floor venue, you’ll probably be hit with a sense of déjà vu; you’ve seen this bar before – on the big screen. Nearly half of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) was filmed in the Park Hyatt Tokyo, with many scenes taking place in its cosmopolitan New York Bar, but its jet-setting bragging rights are only part of the appeal. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto every corner of Tokyo’s dramatic skyline below, a live jazz band, premium whiskies and the largest selection of American wines in Japan, this glitzy bar in the sky is well worth the visit.
Tucked quietly behind a sliding wooden door, The Open Book is essentially an unpretentious speakeasy for lovers of literature. Run by the grandson of award-winning novelist Komimasa Tanaka, whose collection of literature fills the shelves here, this welcoming nook of a bar fits a very small handful of patrons at a time. Don’t expect a menu upon arrival; the house speciality is a tasty lemon sour made from shōchū (a Japanese spirit typically distilled from rice or sweet potatoes), soda water and fresh lemon juice.
If cheap and quirky is what you’re after, look no further than Café Lavandería. From the outside, this neighbourhood haunt looks like your average coffee shop, but step inside and you’re suddenly greeted by a cuddle puddle of live-in tabby cats, a wall of books that guests are invited to browse and a healthy rotation of live music and political talks to punctuate sips of moderately priced Spanish and Japanese beers, coffees and soft drinks.
Somewhere between Art Deco and dive bar, there’s Sting. Named after George Roy Hill’s classic heist 1973 film, this cosy Shinjuku bar whisks you back to the ’30s in every way possible – from the decor to the cocktails, but especially the well-crafted martinis. This beloved bar caters to a healthy mix of businessmen and students thanks to its convenient location directly above Shinjuku-Sanchōme station.
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