A neighbourhood guide

Until recently, running a club in Japan was a risky business. The fueihō laws, created in 1948, put restrictions on any small venue where patrons had to “actively seek out pleasure” – including dancing. Though usually these laws weren’t enforced, any club or bar owners caught by police letting their patrons bust a move could face jail time.

But in 2016 the laws were finally amended – not entirely rescinded, and not helping everyone, but marking a cultural shift in how Japan views its own nightlife. Here’s our guide to some of the best places to enjoy a totally legal drink, dance or robot show in Tokyo.

 

Best for perfect cocktails and secret bars: Roppongi

It’s impossible to talk about Tokyo nightlife without mentioning Roppongi; though it’s reinvented itself as an artistic hub, in most people’s minds it’s still all hostess bars, aggressive touts and overpriced drinks. Stick to the main drag and that’s what you’ll get, but you’ll find some unexpectedly chic and clever spots in the side streets, especially towards Nishi-Azabu.

One which you’ll have to try harder than usual to find is Roku-Nana, a small “secret bar” in a nondescript residential building. You can either relax in the warm, low-lit bar or head up to the roof terrace for a gorgeous view of Roppongi Hills. We’d give you directions, but we promised not to tell…

There’s a similarly exclusive feel at Gen Yamamoto, though at least the address is made public there. The eponymous owner creates a daily-changing tasting menu of four or six cocktails, adjusting it to match customer preferences, the time, the weather, or just his own intuition. It’s an opportunity to see a master at work – and as there are only eight seats and no background music, you’ll be fully focused on watching him create these works of art.