Tokyo has some of the world's greatest bars with awesome customer service and attention to detail. But that can often come at a significant price, especially when you consider that in addition to the pricey drinks, many bars have additional charges. Wouldn't it be great to enjoy bars like that without having to throw down a pile of cash?
Easy solution: happy hour!
Happy hours are found pretty much everywhere in Tokyo. But in this article I have personally selected a handful of gems that truly stand out with a nice balance of price, drink quality, service, menu variety, duration, and an upscale atmosphere.
Just a warning: while I've done my best to list any extra charges, if you're on a strict budget, it may be best to check directly--or through your hotel's concierge--with each bar before heading out for the night. Also remember that Japan is a no-tipping country!
Shiseido Parlour Bar S
Internationally-renowned cosmetics brand Shiseido began as Japan's first Western-style drugstore, located in Ginza, Tokyo. In 1902, they added both a soda fountain and ice cream machine to the store -- again a first for Japan. The company has continued that side of their business and today operates various confectioneries, cafes, and restaurants through its "Shiseido Parlour" subsidiary.
The current Tokyo Ginza Shiseido Building stands in the same location as that original drugstore. On the lower floors you'll of course find sweets, cafes, and restaurants. But our focus is the top floor (11F), which is home to Bar S, a luxury bar with a chic atmosphere that you would expect from an international cosmetics brand.
With a high ceiling, massive artistic chandelier, violet accents, and lounge area with a fireplace, the space feels like a transplant from a five-star hotel. Their "Ginza Happy Hour" is a great way to enjoy the drinks, service, and high-end Ginza aura without blowing your entire dinner budget. It runs from 5-7PM and offers a limited menu of beer, wine (including champagne), cocktails, and hors d'oeuvres all priced at 800 yen. Importantly, you also won't need to pay the 1000 yen per-person charge if you arrive in time for happy hour, making things even more affordable.
A hidden treasure of the Tokyo happy hour scene is Shiodome's so/ra/si/o. Located on the 46th floor of advertising agency Dentsu's headquarters, this French restaurant features a sweeping view of the Tokyo Bay area near Rainbow Bridge. In addition to the magical dusk/nighttime scenery, the happy hour in the bar area is pretty amazing: 50% off all drinks in the bar. Beer, wine, champagne, whisky, cocktails--whether or not it's shown on the drink menu--it's 50% off. Since cocktails start at around 1200 yen here during normal hours, it's a significant savings. I don't know of any other "sky bars" providing a happy hour this happy.
The happy hour runs from 5-7PM everyday, even weekends, and there's no seating charge. It's only applicable in the bar area, which seats around 12 people at most, so be sure to arrive early. Given the location, so/ra/si/o is also a popular location for wedding receptions, thus I recommend calling in advance to make sure they will be open when you plan on going.
6th by Oriental Hotel
Conveniently situated just across the street from Yurakucho's Bic Camera is 6th by Oriental Hotel. While the hotel itself is in Kobe, the restaurant here has an extensive food menu. There are a wide variety of seating options: indoors, on the terrace, at the bar, or in the cigar lounge. Since the main dining can get noisy, if you are only here for drinks, I recommend sitting in the bar or lounge (pictured).
No matter where you sit though you can enjoy the daily happy hour from 5 to 7:30PM, where a selection of drinks drops to 500 yen each. Of course there are standard options like beer, sparkling wine, and highballs. For the heavier drinker, there is always at least one of their signature martinis available for happy hour. Those will ordinarily set you back around 1200 yen, so a discount to 500 yen is 60% off.
Due to its location, this restaurant tends to fill up quickly regardless of the day of the week. Arrive early to ensure you get a seat!
As the glimmering sheen of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown has faded over the years, Roppongi has turned from being a place to "be seen" at to a place that's ridden with touts, outright scams, terrible bars, and entirely too Instagrammable clubs. Or perhaps that's how it's always been, and I'm the one losing my shiny sparkle?
In any case, one thing that has remained steadfast is the happy hour at Havana Cafe. Located near Tokyo Midtown, the Havana Cafe has plenty of decent Mexican menu options to satisfy your cravings for enchiladas and nachos.
The happy hour is especially well-known for its affordability: the menu consists of drinks at three tiers: 300 yen, 400 yen, or 500 yen. The 300 yen menu, while basic, has draft beer and wine, then 400 yen moves into cocktail territory, and at 500 yen you're in margaritaville. Definitely an affordable happy hour! Though the happy hour used to start at a mere 100 yen, 300 yen still isn't breaking the piggy bank. It's still a great way to begin one of those Roppongi nights bursting with excitement, joy, frustration, club bouncers, exasperation, someone losing their phone, Nigerians, kebabs, police, and regret all at the same time.
The Royal Park Tokyo Shiodome
Located just a stone's throw away from so/ra/si/o, The Royal Park Hotel Shiodome's 24F lobby bar presents a collection of beers, wines, and classic cocktails like the Margarita, Gimlet, and Martini during happy hour. They're all at half off the regular menu price, so enjoy the nice view as you relax with a drink. Stay for the live jazz as well.
You can also save even more by sitting at the bar instead of at a table -- this will shave off the 500 yen table charge.
Hyatt Centric Namiki 667
One of Ginza's newer hotels is the Hyatt Centric, a budget-friendly option from the chain that has a bar/restaurant occupying the entirety of the third floor. There's a terrace as well if you want to enjoy the weather.
Dubbed Namiki667, the bar and restaurant area offers a similar budget-friendly drink menu. Whether you're here to eat or just for drinks you can take advantage of the "Namiki 5 to 7" happy hour. At the moment that happy hour features six different Japanese craft gin & tonic options with Suntory's Roku Gin, five different beers, and two wines.
Fans of bubbly will also be pleased to know that the two hour free-flow sparkling wine option is a mere 1500 yen -- and that's even if you don't order food. You won't find prices like this anywhere else in Ginza, and certainly not in a space like this!
Nihombashi is considered the center of old Edo-Tokyo, as Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered construction of the bridge as part of Japan's first major road network. The first wooden bridge was built way back in 1603. Even the current stone one is over a century old, dating back to 1911. It's the official starting point of Japan's highway system.
On the southwest bank of the river is a restaurant named after its address: Nihombashi 1-1-1. The happy hour here is a selection of wine, beer, shochu, and basic cocktails, and they're all priced at an affordable 380 yen. The happy hour is only available at the bar and on the terrace. Since that terrace overlooks the Nihombashi itself, you can kick back after a long day of sightseeing right next to one of Japan's most famous and historical bridges!
The New Otani Tower Cafe, Trader Vic's
Many of us can't afford to actually stay at Akasaka's The New Otani, but at least we can drink there. That's because the hotel's 40th floor Tower Cafe puts on a daily happy hour from 5-7PM which starts at 1000 yen for a drink. That may sound pricey but this is The New Otani we're talking about. Non-happy hour cocktails here start at around 1800 yen, so it's a big discount.
You can choose your two (or more) drinks from a list that includes plenty of classics like the Daiquiri, Mojito, Manhattan, and Jack Rose. It's a nice value in one of Tokyo's most iconic hotels.
If you're feeling a bit more tropical, head down to The New Otani's Trader Vic's instead. The happy hour there includes tiki classics like the Mai Tai and Pina Colada for 1000 yen each from 5-7:30PM.
Royal Park Hotel Royal Scots
Shiodome's Royal Park Hotel "Royal Scots" bar offers a Royal Happy Hour from 5PM to 7:30PM, with cocktails like Pimm's Cup, Balalaika, Salty Dog, and of course a couple scotches for 831 yen each. It's another great way to get into one of Tokyo's famous hotel bars on the cheap!
On the 1st floor of Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown you'll find a "Champagne Bistro" named Orange. The daily happy hour here runs from 4 to 7PM and certainly leans towards bubbles, but there is also a slew of options including glasses of wine starting at a laughably cheap 370 yen.
It's hard to beat the location and prices, and since there's no seating charge, you have my permission to get started as early as 4PM.
Shinjuku Hyatt Regency Eau de Vie
Full disclosure, I was a bit hesitant to put Shinjuku's Hyatt Regency "Eau de Vie" bar on this list. The atmosphere is not what you may expect from a Tokyo hotel bar. Built in 1980, it's located on the 3F of the hotel, the ceiling is quite low, and it has no windows. And it's a bit of a hike from JR Shinjuku station.
But ultimately I am willing to forgive all that.
That's because you can print out (yes print) a "Happy Ticket" that gives you a 50% discount off all drinks at the bar from 4PM to 8PM. Cocktails, whiskies, champagne... everything except bottles is half-off. That's basically unheard of for hotel bars, especially in Shinjuku.