Shibuya's Nombei Yokocho (Drunkards’ Alley)
Shibuya is famous for its bright lights, fashionable stores, and it's busy intersection, but there are some quieter spots around. Nombei Yokocho, or Drunkards’ Alley, is one of the best hidden spots in Shibuya. It lies just east of Shibuya Station and Hachiko intersection, alongside the tracks of the JR Yamanote Line. The alley, actually two alleys and a few cross streets, contains about 20 small eating and drinking establishments. Similar to the bars of Golden Gai in Shinjuku, most of these businesses are tiny places, seating only four to six customers. Better than Golden Gai, many Nombei Yokocho bars serve food, along with a variety of alcoholic beverages.
A great place to experience a quieter, cozier side of Japan, just steps from the huge crowds and neon of Shibuya.
The Watering Hole craft beer bar - Yoyogi
The Watering Hole, located on the east side of Yoyogi Station and within easy walking distance of Shinjuku, is one of a growing number of Tokyo craft beer bars. While some of these bars specialize in American or European microbrews, this one is mostly Japanese. I sat at the bar during my visit, and enjoyed three beers and a hamburger.
Coedo Setsugekka is a saisson ale brewed by Kawagoe's fantastic Coedo Brewery. Coedo brewery is located in Kawagoe, a town also known as "Little Edo" or Co-edo in Japanese. The name stems from the town's historic area that resembles pre-World War II Tokyo, which was then known as Edo. Setsugekka is a collaboration beer brewed by Coedo and Luc Bim LaFontaine (formerly of Dieu de Ciel! Brewery). This is a saison beer that originates from France and Belgium and and is typically a sweeter summer beer. This beer pours a nice brownish color with thin head. The taste is sweet, fruity and crisp. A fantastic beer!
Iwate Kura beer is brewed by Sekinoichi Shuzo in Ichinoseki-Shi, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. They brew six regular beers (IPA, Red Ale, Oyster Stout, Passion Fruit Ale, Pale Ale, and Weizen), along with a number of seasonal and specialty beers. The Iwate Kura Red Ale was pumped from the keg by hand, and it was served chilled. The beer was a cloudy red color, with slight head. The smell was more fruity and sweet than you might expect, but drinkable.
Miyajima Weizen is brewed at Miyajima Brewery in Hiroshima. It brews some of its beers at Chitei Ryoko and some at Niigata Beer. They specialize in German beers like pilsner, dunkel, weizen, and kolsch. The beer poured a cloudy yellow color. The taste was probably too sweet, an average weizen at best.
The hamburger was big and juicy, topped with tomatoes and lettuce and your choice of spicy mayo sauce or barbeque mustard sauce, along with a tiny order of fries.
Beers are expensive, around 850 Yen for a tiny half pint, and 1050 Yen or more for a full pint. The great burger was reasonably priced, at 1100 Yen.
Irish Pub County Claire - Tachikawa
Irish Pub County Claire is a good Western-style pub with a friendly Japanese staff located just north of Tachikawa Station on the outskirts of Tokyo. They have a number of European beers, some local beers, and surprisingly good food.
We stopped in early on a quiet Saturday evening, and took two of the seats at the bar. We decided to try some of the Japanese microbrews from the Hitichino Nest brewery, including their weizen, smooth stout and extra high. Later we also had an order of fried onion rings, which were delicious! Our bill for four beers and onion rings was about 4,000 Yen.
Beers generally cost about 800-900 Yen, but they have happy hour specials on most varieties. Snack foods start at about 500 Yen, and meals are in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,500 Yen. County Clare has some of the best spicy chicken wings around.
Bar Rincon Flamenco NaNa - Golden Gai
We recently stopped at a bar in Golden Gai called Rincon Flamenco NaNa. Called NaNa for short, this establishment has about 6 seats at the bar and a few more at tables along the wall. The friendly bartender and customers welcomed us and freed up some seats at the bar. We started with a few bottled Japanese beers, and we also had a few glasses of a nice dry sake. Each drink was about 700 Yen, pretty standard prices for Golden Gai.
My favorite part of this bar is the tiny restroom with only a Japanese squatter and a flush chain hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered in English and Spanish graffiti, and the light is a bare incandescent bulb sticking out of a hole in the wall.
Golden Gai is a small area of Shinjuku that is known for its tiny bars that date back to the end of World War II. The area has six main alleys, connecting about 200 ramshackle bars and restaurants, most of which are just big enough to seat five to ten customers. While this is a very unique area of modern Tokyo, it is said that most of Tokyo was comprised of similar neighborhoods following the last World War, and up until the economic boom of the 1980s and 1990s.
Golden Gai is famous for its nightlife, and despite the rickety appearance of the bars, the area is somewhat trendy and expensive. Golden Gai is specially known as an area that attracts artists, including musicians, painters, actors and writers. Many of the tiny establishments have a few regular customers, and they save seats for these regulars, sometimes even refusing to serve new faces, especially Westerners. However, if you see English signs and menus, that is said to be a good indicator that the bar welcomes foreigners.
Dubliners' Irish Pub, Shinjuku
Dubliners' Pub is located in Shinjuku, just a minute or from the station's east entrance by foot. This pub sits on the second floor above a busy intersection and a big Japanese pub called Lion.
We started with a couple of pints of Kilkenny, which were 1000 Yen apiece since we just missed the Saturday happy hour. We also had Mexican-style nachos with beef, cheese, peppers, beans, and nacho chips for 750 Yen. They were pretty tasty, but kind of small for two of us to share.
The pub offers Guinness and Kilkenny for 1000 Yen and local Yebisu for 850 Yen per pint (prices are reduced by about 20 percent during happy hour, Mon-Fri 3pm to 7pm, and Sat-Sun noon to 3pm). They also have a number of Irish dishes such as fish and chips (1,100 Yen), Irish stew (1,000 Yen), and Shepard's pie (1,000 Yen).
This is probably the best Irish pub I have found in Tokyo so far.
Dubliners Irish Pub, Shibuya
Dubliners is a great pub, perhaps 100 meters from Shibuya Station's Hachiko Statue as you walk up toward "Love Hotel Hill." This bar, one of five Dubliners in this Tokyo chain is comfortable, with a compact interior, and a nice second floor deck overlooking a busy street below. We stay at the APA hotel just up the hill from this pub occasionally, and this is an easy stop on the way to or from the station or the restaurant and shopping areas of the neighborhood.
On our last visit, we sat on the deck, which was encased in clear plastic to maintain the temperature in the cool winter nights. We waited here for a friend, and enjoyed a few pints of the Sapporo Shirohonoka white ale, a very good beer for a Japanese macro (1,000 Yen per pint).
They also offer Kilkenny and Guinness (1000 Yen) and local Yebisu for 850 Yen per pint with a 20 percent discount during happy hour, Mon-Fri from opening at noon until 7pm. They also have a number of Irish dishes such as fish and chips (1,100 Yen), Irish stew (1,000 Yen), and Shepard's pie (1,000 Yen), and some American bar foods like Mexican nachos with beef, cheese, peppers, beans, and nacho chips for 750 Yen.
The Aldgate British Pub - Shibuya
We recently spent a night in Shibuya, and we stumbled upon the Aldgate British Pub. This place looks like it has been here since the 1970s at least, based on the wear and tear, but it is very comfortable and friendly, and it has a great beer selection.
We grabbed three seats at the small non-smoking bar (yay!) and scanned the beer pulls, the menu, and the chalkboard list of recent additions. We quickly decided on a few Japanese microbrews--the Sankt Gallen London Calling and the Baird Beer Jack the Ripper, which can be found only here at the Aldgate. The Jack the Ripper is a very bitter IPA, but tasty. The London Calling is a good pub ale, poured from a hand pump. Later I also tried a Isekadoya Oyster Stout, a sweet, dark beer, whose taste has little to do with oysters.
The bartender is a friendly young Brit, the food selection interesting (British specials like Toad in The Hole and Pasties), the beer selection excellent and diverse, and the 6000 records are said to comprise the largest collection of vinyl in Tokyo. They also have a good sense of humor, with a list of bar rules posted, and a price list for different bathroom services (100 yen per meter of toilet paper after the initial meter, for example).
Great spot for a beer and football.
Tachikawa Brewery - Tachikawa (CLOSED)
Tachikawa Brewery is not a brewery, but it is an impressive craft beer bar located in Tachikawa just outside of the station's south entrance. This restaurant is located on the 6th floor of a building next to the train tracks, one floor above its sister bar, Rose Hogs. While Rose Hogs specializes in American microbrews, Tachikawa Brewery features beers from small Japanese craft breweries.
We stopped here for drinks one night after dinner, and had some good beers and good appetizers. We tried three different beers, and we enjoyed a small appetizer of sausage and french fries. I had the following beers here: Okazaki-Hacchou Miso Lager, North Island Weizen, Miyazaki Hideji Beer Weizen.
As of December 2013, Tachikawa Brewery is closed. Luckily, Rose Hogs, a beer bar under the same ownership and located just downstairs, is still open.
Maltan Pub - Kanda
Maltan is a cozy beer bar on the northwest side of Kanda Station in central Tokyo. Worn by thousands of beer-swilling patrons over the last few decades, Maltan is not the nicest place around, but its good food and great beer selection keep drawing a crowd.
When we arrived, around 10pm on a Friday, it was smokey and filled with drunk Japanese patrons. We grabbed a small stool, ordered a few beers and got their smoked, peppered duck appetizer. The duck was fantastic, but small, with about 5 or 6 tasty slices of smoked duck breast, along with 5 or 6 similarly sized Saltine crackers.
When we scanned the beer list at Maltan, I noticed a section of the beer menu listing three or four Ezo beers. I had never heard of Ezo, so of course, I was intrigued. I walked over the the beer cooler and selected the Brown Bear Beer, which the menu listed as "heavy."
I got the Brown Bear Beer, and poured a glass of the dark brew. The head was light and tan, and the smell was strong. The taste is bold, with a little sweetness and a little smoke. 5.7% ABV, so a bit stronger than your average beer.
Halfway through the beer, I noticed that the label said "Brewed and bottled by Rogue Ales, Newport, Oregon." Later I looked up the beer and discovered it is sold as Rogue's Shakespeare Stout in the US, but bottled with a different label for the Japanese audience.
Ezo doesn't brew its own beers, but it imports from small breweries in seven European and North American companies such as Rogue and Lost Coast.
Apple Martini Bar - Hachioji Station
Dress Code: Apple Martini is a great little Korean-owned bar in downtown Hachioji three streets west of Hachioji Station's North Entrance. This can be a fun spot late in the evening, as it is full of a mix of Japanese and Westerners, enjoying good food and drinks. They play a variety of Western music, and the food is a mix of various Asian dishes and American bar food, offering even simple things like kimchi.
We stopped here on Saturday night, and it was very quiet, but we've heard it can be a lot of fun late in the evening. The bartenders often entertain guests with flaming drinks and twirling bottle like in the old 80s movie, Cocktail.
Here is a video someone else posted about Apple Martini a few years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJDFqZyt-TA&feature=player_embedded
The Hub Pub - Hachioji Station
The Hub is a chain of British pubs in Japan with about 25 Tokyo locations, 5 more throughout the broader Kanto Plains area, and 6 other locations in Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya. I have visited a number of Hub locations in the Tokyo area including Ikebukuro and Roppongi.
I recently visited the hub location in Hachioji. This Hub, located less than 100 meters from the station, is one of the nicer locations I have visited. This Hub is located in the basement of the street that runs at an angle to the northwest of the Hachioji Station. I had a one pint Hub Ale for 860 Yen and fried scallops with balsamic "sause" for 460 Yen. The beer is one of the better Japanese brews, and the scallops were tasty, but served in a very small portion.
Sherlock Holmes English Pub, Hachioji Station
Sherlock Holmes is a new English pub with a traditional feel, located just a few dozen meters from the north entrance to Hachioji Station. This was recently opened by the same owners of the well established, nearby Gulliver's Pub.
We stopped in one night and sat at the bar, where we enjoyed watching 1980s and 90s music videos and watching the variety of customers. We drank a few pints of Kilkenny (980 Yen) and Heartland (680 Yen), and we tried an order of calamari for about 800 Yen. The beer was good, but the calamari was just OK.
While we relaxed, we watched a Japanese girl at the bar, who acted confused by the alcohol selection. First, she looked over the whiskey selection before settling on an Irish whiskey, and wincing after each sip. Then she had a Long Island Iced Tea, followed by a martini of some kind or another. She acted like she never drank, but she put these three drinks away in about 30 or 45 minutes with no ill affects.
How do you say Sherlock Holmes in Japanese? How about "Syahrokku Hohmuzu?"Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Business Travel
Public Bar Okamoto - Hoppy Street, Asakusa
Public Bar Okamoto is the name of one of numerous restaurants located in the area known as Hoppy Street is Asakusa, Tokyo. This street is on the west side of Senso-ji Temple, a bit off the beaten path for many tourists, is known locally as either Hoppy Street (due to the sales of Hoppy drink) or Motsuni Street (for the area's famous pig intestine stew). Here there are a few dozen small izakaya, most with street-side, open-air seating.
We stopped at the restaurant called Public Bar Okamoto, with a blonde Japanese waitress who spoke good English. We started with a few draft beers, and we had some snacks like edamame and chicken skewers. Our total bill for four people was about 5,000 Yen, about average for the area.
The Galway Irish Pub - Hachioji
The Galway Irish Pub is one of four or five nice Western-style pubs in the western Tokyo city of Hachioji (the other nice pubs I have visited are The Hub, Gulliver, and Sherlock Holmes). This bar is located in the 6th floor of a building just a few blocks from the Hachioji Station. The space is rather large inside, with a small bar, but many tables on either side of the bar.
Galway Pub sells a variety of beer and basic foods. Their beers include Irish staples like Guinness and Kilkenny (900 Yen a pint) as well as Japanese beers like Heartland and Asahi for 500 to 600 Yen a pint). They also offer a few simple entrees like sandwiches (800 Yen), salads (500 to 700 Yen), fish and chips (500 to 600 Yen), and pizza (500 to 700 Yen).
Hachioji is located about an hour from Shinjuku on the Chuo Line. The bar is on the north side of the station, to the left.
Kirin-City Bar, Shibuya
With a motto like "Beer Communication" how could you go wrong? We stopped in the Shibuya store because nearby Goodbeer Faucets was not yet open.
We started with beer. They had mostly Kirin beers like Braumeister, Heartland, Kirin Lager, and Kirin Stout, along with a few international beers like Guinness and Heineken. I had a Heartland .
We also had a plate of fried calamari for 680 Yen. It was exceptionally well seasoned and perfectly fried to be tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Good enough place for a beer and some snacks. Very busy bar.
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