A rich neon-lit metropolis; an Oriental monument to the gods of consumerism; a Japanese bow to America and the west. We think we know Tokyo even if we haven't been there. But look closer, past the McDonald's on street corners, the kids in baseball caps listening to hip hop and eating in Hard Rock and you'll see something unique.

There’s no place on earth that throws together modernity and tradition quite like Japan’s capital, and the Tokyo bar scene embodies this tension. On one hand, this city is a technological mecca of screaming neon, anime and otaku, and you’ll find plenty of Tokyo bars pushing the boundaries and producing all sorts of weird and wonderful creations. However, this is only one side of the city, it’s also a leafy zen paradise which embraces precision and calm, qualities exuded by many of the most iconic bars in Tokyo. This combination produces one of the world’s most exciting bar scenes, one that perfectly complements the city’s renowned gastronomy (nowhere gets close to Tokyo’s 230 Michelin-starred restaurants).

If you want to experience traditional, meticulous, masterful cocktail making, then head to Ginza, which houses numerous temples of drinks making where experienced artisans produce peerless creations. At establishments like Star Bar Ginza and Mori Bar, there’s an atmosphere of quiet serenity, with smartly dressed patrons taking the time to appreciate the care and attention that goes into the creation of each expertly crafted drink. For a completely opposite experience, the Mixology Laboratory is the brainchild of maverick mixologist Shuzo Nagumo and has an exotic cocktails list that includes a blue cheese martini. Similarly, distinctive Tokyo cocktail bars include Bar Benfiddich, which specializes in apothecary-style creations involving herbal liquors and other natural ingredients; and Bar Trench, a speakeasy-style spot that gives unique twists to classic drinks. Devotees of Japanese whisky will want to seek out Zoetrope, a snug spot that boasts unrivaled expertise in the spirit and a drinks list that’s packed with rare blends and limited editions.
Finally, for a stunning view of this pulsing metropolis, head up to the 45th floor of the Keio Plaza Hotel for the Sky Lounge Aurora, which offers astonishing vistas and a drinks menu overseen by the legendary bartender Kazuya Watanabe.

See all bars in Tokyo