Outlandish costumes, free-flowing liquor, bodies spilling out onto the streets of Roppongi, great dancing, terrible dancing, some healthy competition, a high probability of a hangover, and a 100% fun time guarantee. That’s the inventory for a night with Tokyo Pub Crawl (TPC), the ‘largest nightlife tour’ in Japan, and one of Tokyo’s highest-ranked experiences on TripAdvisor.
“It originally started with two friends trying to find a night out where we could connect with other people,” explains Andrew Nguyen, co-founder of Tokyo Pub Crawl. “We felt that was lacking in Tokyo, so we decided to create an event focused on easily making friends.” With the group sizes sitting between 90-150 every Friday and Saturday night, it’s impossible to leave without collecting a few extra buddies along the way.
The first incarnation of TPC came to be in 2009 before the majority of the tour’s current customers could even legally drink. By May 2013, with bruised livers, countless hangovers, and an army of happy customers, TPC became a fully legitimate business.
Nguyen attributes the tour’s inclusivity as one of the leading proponents of its success: “Tokyo can be considered the biggest, loneliest city in the world. It’s sometimes difficult to connect and have fun with other people. Our goal was to solve that problem.”
TPC is more about making friends than it is about exploring the city’s hidden izakaya and whiskey bars. It’s a traveling group party that takes place down the main streets of Roppongi every weekend. It’s an energetic, affordable way to meet new people, get boozed up, and make a bit of a fool of yourself, all of which are highly encouraged.
How does Tokyo Pub Crawl work?
Running between 7pm and 11:30pm, the crawl takes place over three bars and finishes at a nightclub. It’s set up in a way that those who want to nab the last train can do so, without feeling like you’ve missed out, but if you want to hang out in the club all night, the option is there.
The tour always starts at Propaganda Bar, a mid-size, second-floor bar in central Roppongi. Welcome shots are served, guests are given wristbands for cheap drinks, and with the first ice-breaker game kicks off the night. If you win, it’s more free drinks. After about an hour, with a few new mates in tow, it’s time to spill out onto the street for group photos before heading to the next place.
One of the main selling points of the pub crawl is the free drinks in between each venue, and they’re not stingy. Standing in position at the entrance and subsequent exit of every stop-off along the way is a bottle-wielding TPC staff member, ready to pour shots down the throats of all willing participants. If you need something to sooth that hot alcohol burn, most of the drinks in the venues cost around ¥500, below regular bar price. At the next bar, it’s the same again: shots, games, drinking, chatting. The formula works, so why mess with it?
The charm of Tokyo Pub Crawl is that there’s no one type of participant. Sure, you’re bound to hear a the old ‘USA, USA’ chant at least once throughout the night, but that probably says a lot more about Americans than it does about TPC.
By the time I left the first bar, I’d already met a finance worker from Uzbekistan who’s lived in Japan for the past six years, a couple on holiday from Miami, an Osaka-raised, now-Tokyo-based pharmacist, and a born and bred Tokyoite who’s just spent a long-term stint living in China with an Australian roommate.
The number of residents to visitors sits around the 40:60 ratio, with locals returning time and time again. In terms of the age demographic it’s fair to say most people are between 20-30, but if you’re older, you won’t feel out of place. Despite the hefty discounts for female patrons, guys outnumber girls at almost every event, but the staff are always on the lookout, making sure it’s a safe, inclusive, comfortable space for everyone.
When you should go
To keep it fresh for returning guests the venues beyond Propaganda change every night. But the overall theme of the night is advertised. Variety is an integral part of the tour’s ethos. “No individual group or party is alike, so we always have to stay on our toes to keep the experience fun and authentic.”
Around holiday seasons you can expect themed nights: New Year’s, Christmas, Halloween and it goes on. Those holidays are usually the biggest events, blowing out to around 200 participants.
Between those holiday events the team makes up their own themes, like karaoke nights, mustache-themed nights, traffic-light parties, dance-focused parties, and everything in between. To see what events are on when you’re in town, you can check the Facebook page.
How much are tickets? Is it worth the money?
Ticket fees for the event vary, but if you’re smart, you can save yourself some decent cash. Door price is ¥2,900 for guys and ¥2,000 for gals, but if you book directly online it’s ¥2,500 for guys, and ¥1,500 for gals. For gents, tickets are also ¥2,500 on Viator.
A ticket gets you entry to all the bars, access to the free-flowing spirits served outside the bar and the opportunity to win extra free drinks. At each bar visited along the way, the drink price typically sits at the ¥500 point, for all the standards like vodka, gin, and beer.
If you wanted to be strategic, and you’re good at making a bit of a fool of yourself (re: the games) then you could get your money back in booze by the end of the night.
If you’re signing up to make a few new friends, have a laugh and get loose, it’s worth it. At its most expensive, a ticket costs the same as an entry charge to a Roppongi club and with TPC you’ve got staff working overtime to make sure fun is guaranteed.
Other ways to save money
Here are a few more tricks to keep up your sleeve to make one of your wildest nights out one of your cheapest too!
- Get ¥500 off if you come back on Saturday with your Friday wristband
- FREE ENTRY for birthday person if he/she brings 5 or more friends (+ special present for birthday honoree)
- Group discounts are available, just shoot TPC a message here
With almost a decade of tours under their belts, the team at TPC are far from hanging up the beer bong, they continue to make sure every party is better than the last. “Even though we’ve done over 500 events, we always try to continually improve our methods and every week is a new challenge for us,” says Nguyen. “Our focus is on the customers, and we want them to be the highlight of the event. Our goal is by the end of the night make you feel like your partying with 50 new friends.”
The most adorable place in Japan.