Western Style Nightlife And Shopping Guide.


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Roppongi can be accessed by the Hibya Line subway to Roppongi station, or by bus from Shibuya or Shinjuku. The last subway train leaves just after midnight from Roppongi and the buses stop running before that. Getting a taxi after midnight can be something of a nightmare if you are cold and tired. There is a taxi stand near to Roppongi crossing, waiting times can vary from one hour to over two hours on a Friday or Saturday night. I have always found it to be easier and warmer to walk in the direction of Aoyama and pick up a taxi along the way. My wife, though, doesn't like walking too much, but there is little choice in the winter, early morning in the summer, it can be quite pleasant.

Roppongi has changed since I first visited the area, over ten years ago. To my mind it has become a little more impersonal and cold. Maybe the reason I feel this is because, ten years ago there were fewer foreigners and more "Roppongi girls", also I have got a little older!

The bars were smaller, noisier and dirtier ten or so years ago. They did have a unique atmosphere of excitement and friendliness, a kind of back street dive sense of place in the scheme of things in Tokyo, where it was considered brave and/or hip for a Japanese girl to venture there by her friends. Sometimes a girl would come up to me and buy me a drink, what luxury !

One of my favorite bars, and also my wife's is Gas Panic. It started out as as one of the small dirty bars, mentioned above, now it has "come clean" and expanded into a multi bar complex. The music is still good and up to date, but it lacks charm. It is a good place to visit if you are new in Tokyo however.

The downside of Roppongi is at the end of the month, when the US military are paid and they descend on Roppongi to cause havoc. The majority of the servicemen are very friendly and not looking for trouble. The few that do cause problems, reflect badly on all the rest. I have seen fights breaking out in the street or sometimes in a bar, it is always wise to exit the scene quickly, or you may become embroiled in the fight and the local constabulary may well arrest you. There is always a fair sized contingent of Japanese police lurking in the back streets on a Friday or Saturday night, so beware !


There are many restaurants, bars, clubs and disco's in and around Roppongi. you will almost certainly find something to your taste and enjoyment.

Tony Roma's and the Hard Rock Cafe are located about 5 minutes from Roppongi Station. Tony Roma's Takes up the First floor ( ground floor) and the Hard Rock Cafe is located above it. On a Friday or Saturday night you may have to wait an hour or so for a table and the bar in the Hard Rock gets full around 9:00pm.

Bars tend to come and go quite frequently, it is really best to explore the area, not the main streets, but the side streets. They host a large variety of bars, cocktail bars and other attractions. There is even a love hotel, who advertise their rates by the hour, outside the entrance to the building. the side streets are pretty safe at any hour, but I would not recommend a  girl on her own to walk around later in the evening.

You may want to try the Irish bar, which is located along the main strip, towards Tokyo Tower on the right hand side. It is situated below a small shop complex, it is easy to miss if you do not look carefully. the bar gets jammed around 9 or 10:00pm, you will probably have to stand. The crowd is mixed, Americans, English, Japanese and of course, Irish, etc. They serve guiness on tap as well as a few other beers. The bar staff are fairly friendly and handle their jobs with speed.

However long you stay in Japan, Roppongi is a home away from home, even though it is an expensive area to enjoy yourself in. For the Japanese men who bravely go there, it is a little taste of a foreign culture and a chance to talk to some gaijin women. they usually find that all the bad press on Roppongi is generally untrue and they will return again and again. For the "Roppongi girls", it is a chance to let their hair down and have a brief taste of freedom. They can escape the restrictions of Japanese society, and also learn English for free.


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Shinjuku is one of the shopping and entertainment Mecca's of Tokyo. It is always very crowded on a Sunday, the shops are open all day. There are a selection of department stores to choose from. 

Isetan department store is one of the nicer stores, in my opinion, although it is a little more expensive than some others. There are a selection of restaurants on the top floor. French, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Indian and so on. There is a cheaper restaurant that is good for families, all the restaurants are busy around lunch time you may have to wait for a short time for a table. The elevator girls are all pretty and act like robots, I don't think they can speak English, so don't bother asking them for help. There is an information desk on the first floor (ground floor), someone will be able to speak English there.

Mitsukoshi department store is one of the most expensive Japanese stores, along the lines of Harrods in London. they do have a nice tea room, but again it is expensive.

Marui department stores are common throughout Japan, the quality is quite high, but at more reasonable prices. The Marui stores in Shinjuku are split up between Men's, Ladies, Young people, Sports and furnishing. So if you want to look at many different things then you will have to walk a little way to the next building. Virgin Records is also in the basement of one of the stores. It is a large branch with their own DJ.

Times Square, in western Shinjuku is one of the largest in Japan. It is truly enormous, opened a few years ago, it also houses Kinokuniya Bookstore. You can find a large selection of books in English, fiction or non fiction. Be careful not to get lost in there, as I did when I first visited the complex.

Alta store is famous because of the large TV screen, on the outside of the building. It is also a meeting place for people, so the front of the shop is usually congested.


The basement level of Shinjuku station also has a wide variety of shops and also an underground walkway, where you can access most of the stores along San Chome, without ever having to go outside. Very useful on a rainy day, or when the streets are too congested with people.

Apart from department stores there are a large selection of shops, from electrical appliance stores to a Chanel boutique.


There are a large number of bars and restaurants to choose from. Kirin and Sapporo breweries have their own beer halls, offering beer on tap and a selection of other drinks. They also offer a wide range of food to accompany your drink. These are very popular places in the evening, so you may well have to wait for a time. My Favorite restaurants include: 

El Torito, a popular Los Angeles chain restaurant. Take the South exit from Shinjuku station. This is a newly opened branch. As always good food but a little expensive but children are admitted even for dinner. Around 15.000 Yen for two people, including drinks.

Tiki Tiki, Hawaiian style, complete with hula dancers in the evening. Nice decor too. The food is o.k., the tropical cocktails I am told are very nice, again a little expensive, but I have always had a good time there. The hula dancers usually try to get people to join them, a foreigner is a prime target, so if you don't want to dance just wave them away. Around 18,000 Yen for two people with drinks.

In the Isetan restaurant complex there is a very nice but expensive Spanish restaurant. Nice decor, dimmed lights and candles on the tables make this a romantic setting for dinner. The food is good and there is a small selection of wines and other drinks. Flamenco dancers perform in the evening. I sat with my wife just next to the stage and had my eardrums rattled. If you try this restaurant be sure to sit well away from the stage. Around 24,000 for two people with a few drinks.


Kabukicho is one of the seedier parts of Tokyo. Very similar to Soho in London, before it was cleaned up. There are many female hawkers in the streets to try and persuade you to go to their bar. I would not advise trying such a place. They are of course hostess bars and very expensive. I have heard quite a few different stories about them. One such story:

Two young Japanese men went to Kabukicho one evening and they were persuaded to enter a hostess bar. They sat with two very pretty girls. They had a total of eight drinks (two each). They stayed for two hours, and were charged 30,000 Yen for the drinks and chat with the hostesses. They started to complain to the cashier but were soon confronted with a large bouncer who asked them if they had a problem. They quickly said no problem and paid up. There are many kinky type hostess bars such as lingerie, topless and nickerless. But you will be ripped off.

Kabukicho is a little dangerous at night, many of the establishments are run by the Yakuza (gangsters), they have on occasion fought in the streets, foreigners are generally not welcome in this area.

For your safety it is best to stick to East and West Shinjuku, there is such a variety of interesting bars and restaurants that you will find something that you like.


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Shibuya is a more fashionable area, composing of shops, department stores and an entertainment area. The main department stores are:

Young Marui, as the name suggests is for young people. The fashion is up to date and at a reasonable price. The main Marui store is the standard department store set up.

Seibu department store is made up of two buildings, split up by a road and the buildings are connected by an enclosed walkway spanning the road below. A little more expensive than Marui, but has a wide selection of products.

Tokyu Hands is an interesting store, it has many "do-it-yourself" products and is very popular with young people. If you like jigsaw puzzles, they have a wide selection. The wax food department is another fascinating place to browse. If you look outside a restaurant window, you will generally see the food that is served represented by these wax copies. They are not cheap though, but very life like. An interesting souvenir to take back to your home country, I think. If you are setting up a home in Tokyo then there furniture is at a reasonable price, as well as their other interior products, with quite a wide choice.

Store 109 is a young peoples store, with up to the minute fashion and accessories. This was the place to buy, for example, the latest in Techno gear, hand fans, boas, T-backs and so on, during this particular disco period. An interesting store to look around even if you do not want to buy anything.

Parco is another interesting store, split into three parts, again this store is little expensive, but has all the latest fashion.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) museum is worth a visit, the companion girls (guides) can speak a little English. The exhibits are on the history of electricity in Japan and they also have models of a nuclear reactor and nuclear power generation. There is also an interactive floor, good fun for kids !


The Sega complex has a games floor and a few coffee shops on the first floor (ground floor). On the second floor there is a selection of food counters, a large variety of food is served here and it is fairly cheap. The big drawback is that you must wait at the counter for your food and drink. Tables are not easy to find as this is a very popular spot to eat. The tables are also miniscule and you must clear your plates up after you have finished.

Night life in Shibuya is pretty good if you don't mind spending a little money. It is generally an area for young people, high school girls abound here, some of them are maybe selling their services. This has been an infamous area for middle aged salary men to find a very young girl to "date" (Enjokosai). The law has changed a little to ban this practice but it still continues as usual.

There are many disco's around Shibuya, foreign style pubs, Isakaya's (Japanese style pubs), bars, cocktail bars, restaurants and so on. There are too many to describe here, it is of course best to walk around Shibuya and select a likely looking establishment. Average prices for cocktails in many of the establishments start at around 1,000 Yen (around 8 US dollars), beer averages for a small bottle at 700 Yen.


Spain Street, as the name implies, is designed on a Spanish street, the architecture and coloring gives this street a rather special atmosphere. There are bars and restaurants dotted along this street, but a little expensive.

There are also several large game centers, and movie theaters to choose from.


The Dogen Cho district of Shibuya is famous (or infamous) for its large variety of love hotels. You can see many young couples walking along this area after 10:00pm on a Friday or Saturday evening. I am told that the room charges start at around 10,000 Yen, from 10:00pm and check out by 10:00am. They are usually full before midnight, which I guess is surprising considering the large number of hotels in the area. Rooms with basic facilities, bathroom and bedroom (10,000 Yen), to luxury rooms with vibrating bed, surround stereo, large TV screen and even a video camera, to make your own porno video, are offered. These rooms are very expensive. All the love hotel rooms have a mini bar and you can usually order food. you select the room by looking at a display board which contains a photo of the room, a list of facilities in the room, and the room charge. If they are not lit up then they have been taken by another couple. Once you have found a suitable room you should press a button on the display board for that room and pay the clerk. the clerk cannot see your face because the window is quite low down. They also have a unique security system. If you exit your room, the front desk clerk is alerted. This is to try to prevent rapists or murderers using the establishments to commit their crimes.

Shibuya is an interesting area day or night, but if you are trying to find a Japanese female date in the evening, in this area, be sure she is not underage !



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Harajuku is an area for mainly young people Takeshita Dori is comparable to London's Carnaby Street. The length of the street on both sides, is taken up with jeans shops, young fashion stores, the occasional coffee shop, fast food and a kinky clothing shop (sadomasochistic), which is especially fun to look at. Their leather and rubber suits are especially amazing, how do people get in to them, or wear them!!??

This street is packed at the weekends and public holidays, mainly with young people, promenading in their latest fashion and hair color. Many foreigners visit this street, I think, to gawk at the pretty young things walking along the street.

This is not a high fashion area, but it is interesting to see the very latest in young fashion in Japan. I believe that I

have mentioned in another section that the Japanese are better dressed than the average Westerner. I think it is also true of the young in Japan. Even the "punks" look clean and fairly tidy, not like the zombies who haunt the streets of many European and American city streets. One reason must be, the limited drug use still prevalent in Japan.

At the bottom of Takeshita Dori (the other end from Harajuku Station), on the left you will find a rather nice coffee shop, designed like a Parisan bistro. you can sit at a table outside. In the summer though it is best to sit inside, as the heat, high humidity and dust will surely get to you.

If you turn right, then there are many kinds of shops. Towards the next intersection you will come to Laforet store, which has a certain amount of fame in Japan. A popular fashion store, the basement has an HMV store. Also, there are many individual boutiques, ranging from the mundane to the insane. Check out the "Shirley Temple" look boutique. the other floors, have various kinds of young women's fashion.

Another landmark is the Condomania shop, on the corner and across the intersection. This shop always seems to have many visitors, a good percentage of which are young girls. They sell many types of novelty condoms, glow in the dark, different flavors, condoms to wear on your head ?? and so on. They do, of course, sell condoms that can be used as a condom as well.

At the intersection you can return to Harajuku Station or walk up to Aoyama, or in the other direction head for Shibuya.

Whichever way you decide to go, you can enjoy the sights and the shops.

Another interesting place to visit is the famous Meiji Shrine. This shrine is literally swamped with people during the New Year celebrations ( January 1st - 4th). At other times the shrine is peaceful, you may catch a glimpse of a ceremony taking place, if you are lucky. The grounds are quite extensive and makes for a very nice walk, eventually leading to Shinjuku.

Next to the shrine is Yoyogi Park, a nice green space to take a rest after plodding around the shops. This park also gained a rather unsavory reputation, because of the large number of Iranians who used to gather there at the weekend. The police believed that they were selling "doctored" telephone cards and possibly drugs. When I was out walking with my family one Sunday afternoon, about four years ago, we found ourselves among around 2 or 3 hundred riot police. I guess the police were fed up with the Iranians and decided to arrest them all. So, as the Iranians escaped from the park, being pursued by other policemen, the riot police, who we had run into, stood ready to nab them, which they did, with very little violence on either side, I might add. I did feel sorry for the Iranians though. I don't believe that the two or three hundred Iranians arrested that day, were all selling black market produce or drugs.

Nowadays, there are not many Iranian citizens to be found, the new target for Japanese peoples anxiety, appears to be Brazilians. Maybe after the Brazilians have been repatriated, it will be the Americans (military?) or the English (free ticket home ?).

I must stress that the above incident is rare, shopping in and around Tokyo is still relatively safe. Only, you should take precautions when in a very crowded place, such as on a train, where gangs of pickpockets operate. The Japanese media has blamed gangs of Chinese for these crimes, but I do have my suspicions that there may also be Japanese (unemployed?) committing the crimes too.


Walking from Harajuku via the NHK studios is pleasant if you have an hour or so to spend. On Sunday it is especially interesting, as you can see a variety of people out shopping or just out for a stroll.

In the other direction, walking to Aoyama is equally interesting, you will be able to find one or two antique shops, selling a range of oriental antiques. In Aoyama itself you will be able to find Kinokuniya Supermarket. This supermarket stocks a wide range of foreign food products. It is on two floors, with an elevator and elevator girl. Beware, it is very expensive. It is easy to spend 20 or 30,000 Yen, for only a hand basket full of things. Their bakery department is very good and also very popular, they usually sell out by the afternoon.

Near Aoyama crossing their is an El Torito restaurant. It is usually very busy on Friday and Saturday night, waiting time for a table can be very long.

Night life in Harajuku to my mind is not very exciting, there are various bars and restaurants. At least one of the bars seem to cater for poseurs, both foreign and the home grown variety. If you are not in the mood to pose then a different area of Tokyo would be a better bet, to relax in the evening.



Some relevant facts below:



Source: Citizen Watch Company.

326 people were polled. 215 women and 111 men.

23% of men were conscious of brand names.

46% of men said, men with pierced ears repulsed them.

23% of women said the same.




Source: Health and Welfare Ministry

Average alcohol consumption a year per person: 6.6L

Alcohol abuse, including efficiency, medical fees, accidents absenteeism cost: 6 trillion Yen + a year.

 People hospitalized due to alcohol related illnesses; 17% of all patients.



Source: Five Main Breweries in Japan

Beer shipments from January - June 1998: 231,724,000 cases, down 7.2% from last year.

One case = 20 x 633 ml bottles.


Credit card sales

Source: Ministry of International Trade and Industry

Combined annual sales of \21.49 trillion in 1997. A new record !


Department store sales in Tokyo

Source: Japan Department Store Association

September 1998: 5.4 % down from a year before

October 1998: 6.7 % down from the same time last year

The sixth consecutive month of decline.


Movie goers

Source: Ministry of International Trade and Industry

The number of movie goers in 1997 was 95.84 million. Up 4.3% from 1994                                                                                                                        

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