Behind closed doors… Japan’s Hidden Bars

Japan’s big cities at night are chaotic, loud, intense places – an overload on the senses that can send you into a baffling tailspin when trying to find a place to simply sit down and have a drink. Tokyo has 16,000 bars, most of them tiny, all vying for your attention, coaxing you in with their flashing, neon lights.

Major roads are marked in English, but many of the smaller side roads don’t have any signs, so that adds to the confusion for tourists. Choosing one, can be a mind-boggling choice to make.

The best thing to do is take a deep breath and follow your instincts. For me, there’s nothing better than stumbling across a late-night speakeasy, mingle with the locals and drink beer or two with them, well into the early hours.

Usually, the best hidden gems are the battered wooden doors, discreetly tucked away on a quiet side street where only the locals lurk.

Or a tip that a friend has given you about a new swanky bar that serves the best cocktails in town.

For me it’s 0 star or 5 star – anything in between just isn’t worth the bother.

But if you really want to blend in, follow these simple Japanese drinking ‘rules’

  1. Everyone should order the same drink on the first round
  2. Pour everyone else’s drink before you pour your own
  3. Don’t tip, it’s considered insulting
  4. Don’t drink directly from the bottle 
  5. Don’t drink before everyone has been served
  6. Say cheers in Japanese: Kanpai!

Adhere to these six simple customs to avoid being shown the door. Kanpai to that!