The sweltering days of summer are upon us, and they will continue well into September. For many, keeping cool means staying indoors until the inferno of summer months in Tokyo has passed. But before you get a bout of cabin fever, why not make most of the cooler evening hours and venture out at night? Here are our five favorite self-guided tokyo night walking tours, featuring a bit of everything, from glittering skylines to beaches and quiet leafy promenades.
Waterfront and skyline panorama: Odaiba Beach, Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay
This feel-good, fresh-air walk will take you over the famous Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba for great views of Tokyo Bay and the illuminated Tokyo skyline.
Start at Shibaura-futo Station and find the pedestrian entrance to Rainbow Bridge, following our detailed guide. The walk across the bridge is free, but can be a bit noisy (thanks to traffic) and windy, but the breeze should be rather welcome on a hot summer day.
Once you’ve reached the other side—and have taken plenty of pictures—follow the signs for nearby Odaiba Kaihin Koen, which will lead you straight to a sandy beach.
It is a beautiful, small bay with a promenade. Walk up to the Decks Mall for a better view and a glimpse of the miniature Statue of Liberty on the upper promenade.
True cheapos will enjoy dinner and drinks from the konbini on the beach. Those who want splurge can enjoy the views from the terrace of one of the restaurants inside Decks.
Shinto and dinner: Hie Shrine to Akasaka
For those who prefer just a short stroll before dinner, check out Hie Jinja at night. It is a large shrine in the center of Minato Ward, atop a hill.
While famous for its escalator that makes climbing the steep main approach a breeze, we have to tell you that it will, unfortunately, be switched off after dark. But climbing up to the main hall is well worth it and will only take a few minutes.
Once you reach the top, walk around the main hall to get the opposite side, where you can take a peek through the gates onto the lantern-lit inner hall. While it’s smackdab in the middle of Tokyo, things get very quiet up here at night. You might meet one or two other wanderers, so don’t get spooked when you suddenly come across their shadowy silhouettes illuminated by the dim light of the lanterns.
Escape Tokyo for the day, see mountains, hot springs, the modern, the traditional, the old and the ancient!
Continue on around the building complex until you see the path down the hill lined by bright-red torii (Shinto-style gates). This will lead you back down the hill, and, needless to say, makes for another great photo op.
Once you’ve descended from Hie Shrine, walk along Sotobori Avenue toward Akasaka-Mitsuke Station. The bustling area west of the station is a grid of small alleys filled with bars, restaurants, and live music clubs. One place we highly recommend is the rather odd-sounding but very delicious Champagne and Gyoza Bar. The house champagne is priced at around ¥1,000. There’s no website, but the restaurant is located on 1/F of the Centurion Hotel building.
From peace and quiet to hustle and bustle: Aoyama Cemetery to Roppongi
Get to know Tokyo’s many sides by taking a walk across Aoyama Cemetry to the heart of Roppongi. Start at exit A4 of Omotesando Station and follow the road away from Omotesando crossing to Aoyama Cemetery. The first bit of the walk will take you along high-end designer stores and ultra-modern architecture in Aoyama.
Once you hit the cemetery, expect things to get very still. Japanese people usually don’t wander here at night. Yet, it is one of the best spots in Tokyo to see cherry blossoms or autumn leaves. You can transverse the grid of the cemetery in different directions, with the goal of arriving at Roppongi Hills, which is located south of the cemetery. Once here, head for Maman, the spider statue, probably one of Tokyo’s most photographed sculptures, with Mori Tower in the background.
Roppongi Hills is a pretty cool development to walk around. If you want to stay in the area, head towards the West Passage that hosts a number of bars and restaurants. A word of warning though, these are typical expat hangouts and on the higher end of the price spectrum. While generally considered a bit seedy, Roppongi does have an endless range of food choices and watering holes, so take a look at this list of free things to do for inspiration.
Between scruffy and glamorous: A Shinjuku nightlife walk
My personal favorite, this night walk is bound to leave you wide-eyed. Bring your camera, as you will capture some very “Tokyo” moments. Pro-tip: Always look up. In Japan, some of the most interesting stuff happens above street level.
From Shinjuku Station, walk to the entrance of Central Road, clearly marked by a red neon gate.
Stroll down the street toward the rather new Toho Cinema complex, which is topped by a Godzilla statue. From there, veer to the right. Walk to the back of the movie theater complex and make a right onto Hanamichi Street. Within a minute or so, you should come across huge billboards, advertising the handsome top-earning stars of Shinjuku’s host clubs, which is quite a sight.
If you want to give this experience a safe try with some local guidance, try this host club tour. Sorry, ladies only!
From here, walk back to the main street of Shinjuku, Yasukuni Street, by taking the next small alley to your right. This will take you past the Robot Restaurant. You can either find cheap tickets here if you want to witness the spectacle or just take in the already somewhat overwhelming front of the building.
Next up, walk to the start of the narrow pedestrian promenade on the corner of Kuyakusho Street and Yasukuni Avenue. Walk down the path until you reach Golden Gai on your right, which is an absolutely mad, confusing, and fantastic labyrinth of tiny bars. Stay for a drink or wander through the alleys. Note that some don’t allow foreigners (these are members-only places) while others explicitly invite foreigners. Many bars charge a table fee which can add quite a bit to your bill, so look for a sign on the door that says “no table charge” or confirm before entering.
If you are still feeling genki (energetic) after all of those sights, how about decelerating your evening walk the Shinto way? Head for Hanazono Jinja, a local shrine in Kabukicho. Only a few minutes from Golden Gai, the shrine will be closed at night, but the grounds are open for you to wander. This shrine holds a big festival, called Tori no Ichi, three times a year and is also the home shrine of the local yakuza, but you probably won’t encounter any on your evening stroll.
The urban tour: Shibuya to Daikanyama
If you would like to take a short walk from one trendy area to another, how about a brief stroll from Shibuya to Daikanyama?
Start at the famous Hachiko Square facing Shibuya Crossing. Once you had enough of the madness and the masses, head east under the bridge on the right side of Hachiko Square. At the intersection, take a right onto Meiji Street and don’t forget to look up to marvel at the Hikarie Building on your right.
From here, head farther down the street on the left side toward Shibuya’s newest glass and steel tower addition, Shibuya Stream, completed in 2018. As its name suggests, the building is flanked by a small stream, which is in fact Shibuya River.
After a couple of minutes, you will hit Namikibashi Bridge. Turn right here and follow the road to Sarugaku Bridge. The bridge takes you from Shibuya to equally trendy but slightly more high-brow Daikanyama.
On top of the bridge, look right. This view from here captures Tokyo’s urban vibe the best: endless train lines running toward Shibuya’s skyline.
Once you are done with marveling at the aesthetics of the modern world, descend from the bridge on the other side and talk a walk through Daikanyama for dinner. A cheap and tasty option is Pizza Slice, located right next to the aforementioned bridge. Or if you are after something a bit fancier, head to Daikanyama’s main street for Hacienda del Cielo’s rooftop to enjoy some Mexican fusion or just a cocktail.
Enjoyed these self-guided Tokyo night walking tours? Try these guided ones too to keep exploring.
The dystopian amusement arcade Anata no Warehouse near Tokyo will close its doors forever on November 17, 2019.
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