Tokyo is seen as one of those super expensive cities for accommodation, food and drink. For me, and many others, Japan isn’t as pricey as it’s made out to be. Compared to the rest of Asia, yes you could definitely say you pay a fair bit; but compared with other major cities across the globe such as London and New York, Tokyo isn’t as expensive as you might think.
So you’ve done your holiday research, found your reasonable accommodation and got a list of affordable restaurants. And now here is your list of cheap places to drink in Tokyo without paying tourist prices and steep cover charges.
(Psst. Izakaya is the key word for you budget travelers in Tokyo. They are a sort of gastropub that serves a range of small dishes at relatively low costs. Remember to fill up on food as well as your drink, my budget traveler friends.)
1. Izakaya Medaka – Shinjuku
This is as cheap as it gets for drinks. Beers go as cheap as 110 yen—yes, you read that right—110 yen! Located in Shinjuku’s crazy and energetic Kabukicho and right around the corner from the famous Robot Restaurant, you really get a feel of a typical Friday night in Tokyo here. Squished in with heaps of other people, this bar is quite good for a social mingling. Don’t expect too much from the food though, it’s the inexpensive drinks that people go here for.
Be sure to read this guide to Japanese drinks, so you know what to order.
2. ToriKizoku – Shibuya
ToriKizoku is a keen favorite in Tokyo boasting good-quality as well as cheap food and drink. Everything costs just 280 yen. Their chicken dishes are well loved along with a very special yakitori. There is no need to worry if you don’t speak Japanese here, you order your food and drinks by using a touchscreen. Very Japanese indeed.
ToriKizoku Shibuya Inokashira-dori
3. Fujiya Honten – Shibuya
This little watering hole is one of those unique finds in Tokyo. Boasting cheap—and I mean very cheap—bottles of wine for just a few hundred yen, you can’t go wrong with this spot. It’s a cheap and classy bar, just the way we like it. It’s essentially a hip tapas bar, and that for Tokyo is pretty sweet. Expect queues, but there is a quick turnover of customers so you’ll be boozing before long.
4. JBS – Shibuya
This trendy joint is in the midst of all the liveliness of Shibuya. Packed with over 10,000 vinyls, the owner has made his passion for music into his workplace. He plays his favorite jazz music, while serving reasonably priced drinks. With wooden décor, vintage radios and vinyl players on display, this place oozes total coolness.
JBS boasts the perfect amount of hip without being cliché and is a memorable spot. It’s so cool it doesn’t even have a website. One of those hard to find local places.
Essential reading before a night out in Tokyo.
5. Kinno Kura – Ikebukuro
This izakaya is a franchise which means one thing—easy-to-locate cheap drinks. The clue is to look for the large red ‘¥270’ sign. Everything unfortunately isn’t that cheap, but order correctly and you’ll definitely be saving a few bob. There is a more expensive all you can drink/eat (nomihodai/tabehodai) in two hours for 3,280 yen. And coupons are available on their website.
Kinno Kura - Ikebukuro
These little drinking places will be at the top of your to-do list in the Japanese capital. Tokyo is known to host late night workers who enjoy a good drink come the weekend. Expect to see business workers packed into these joints—but that’s all part of the fun, mixing with the locals and seeing how they do their thing. And go to the areas that are recommended, with Shinjuku and Shibuya being the places to be on a Friday and Saturday night in Tokyo. Enjoy my friend, you deserve it after all of that sightseeing.
For more ideas on where to drink in Tokyo, check out our video on yokocho—back alleys crammed with bars and eateries, laid-back vibes and fun crowds.