Below is a brief summary of the more popular free entry clubs in the Roppongi area. It is more or less a summation of previous longer entries, links to which are attached.
Around Tokyo Midtown
Broadly speaking, this is Tokyo Midtown’s me-too version of Roppongi Hill’s Heartland Bar. And the same stage props are here – the fairly well-off expat males, the Japanese ladies in their late 20s and 30s looking to hook up with one, or maybe more, of them and other riff-raff looking to hook up with one, and almost certainly more, of either one of the aforementioned groups.That said there are a few less suits rolling around, so it does give off a slightly less pheromonal atmosphere.
Who should drink here? It is stylish enough to make it a decent choice if you were just needing a few quiet drinks. Doubly so in the warmer months of May to October as there is an outdoor area for which offers an escape from the crowds or the music, or if you were wanting to work on the chick your mate was chatting up when it’s his turn to suffer the service bottlenecks which seem to afflict this place more than most in the area. For a longer review click here
Bit of a rarity in that it is a speakeasy style establishment aimed at gaijin. Additionally, there is very little interest in taking advantage, fair or unfair, of the not uncommon wish here to add an extra notch on the bed. Which makes talking to say, an off-duty hostess, much more relaxing here than certain other bars which I wont name lest you think she be setting you up for a drinkback or trying to drag you over to her club. It tends to have smallish and older, though nonetheless quite diverse crowd. Who should drink here? If you are at a bookend of your Roppongi nights this would be a decent first port of call, particularly before 9 when it’s happy hour. The bar staff are very friendly guys and can help explain the lay of the land and point you in the right direction.
And as a rendezvous on your last night in town, it gets even better. Finish 15 shots of your choice inside 60 minutes and you’re place in the city’s history is assured thanks to a (very small) plaque on the wall replete with the date of the deed, your moniker, and message for posterity, along with a T-shirt. Even if you survive. For a longer review of Geronimo, click here
It’s been said that the one thing this bar does well is sex. I would beg to differ though. It doesn’t do cheap drinks too badly either, especially so given the swish surrounds, with beer and standard spirits at 500 yen a pop.
Not that the initial observation was too far wide of the mark. Indeed, if someone were to take one look at the somewhat cursory menu and decide that sticking a fork in the wall was a better option, they would surely release enough built up pheromone goo to drown everyone in the bar and half of Shibuya down the road, in the manner of Ghostbusters2 or The Stuff. The surprise is that it would be only 8 years of goo, such is it’s reputation as Tokyo’s premier “dry cleaners”.
So if you are single and heading here, look sharp and bring your best job with you, derivatives trader, fund manager, pilot or IT pro tends to strike a pleasing note to single and female ears in these parts. If you do actually earn a crust in one of these fields, make sure to give the cheap drinks a wide berth to help establish your bona fides. Who should have a drink here? Aside from the obvious, it is a fairly well laid out place, and though it probably does belong in the basement of this building, it is not completely out of place with it, and is a sound post-movie, shopping or dining option. For a review of Heartland with even more lame puns, click here
Has roughly the same crowd and prices as the more (in)famous Heartland in the basement below the tower. However, it’s surely against the laws of nature to have two legendary pick up joints in the same building, and thus Rigoletto has to make do with a reputation as a rather decent place where you could take just about anybody to eat or dine, given it has a decent tapas restaurant attached to it. Who should drink here? Rigoletto gets very crowded after work on Friday, much earlier than Heartland does and is a good place to kick off the night for the late 20 something and above, and not only on Friday, though it’s other nights seem fairly tame relative to what is on offer elsewhere, so best to come here, get a shine on the reasonably cheap drinks before moving on into the night. For a longer review of Rigoletto, please click here
Gaien Higashi Street
Vibration is smaller and less established than some of the clubs along this road, but the one good reason to make it your first port of call is that it’s home to Francis, the guy we’ve found as the friendliest tout on the main drag. Ask for him when approached by another tout, as you no doubt will, and he can usually be talked into a shot of something (usually tequila or sambuca) thrown in with the 500yen drink ticket that’s commonly handed out by the touts here to get you in the doors of regular bars, which is a pretty good way to kick things off or along.
Who ought to have at least one drink here? The place itself is not dissimilar to other bars around here, notably Gas Panic, with it’s bread and butter crowd of younger Japanese guys and girls with an unhealthy passion for hip hop. Which would naturally sound attractive to younger westerners, notably boys in the service. If your in your late 20’s or over, the place does tend to attract a fair share of off duty hostesses in the mood for something other than a local girl, you could do worse than duck in here and see who’s about. For a slightly longer look at Vibration, click here
Home to an older, though certainly no wiser crowd. This bar does a great service to A971 and even more so Heartland, which would be roughly equally revered and reviled as a Gas Panic for an older and wealthier crowd if it didn’t have Motown playing the role of blackest sheep catering to the over 30s. Though hat tip to the bar for making little attempt to hide it: Walk in and you’re soon engulfed in blackness punctured by (yes that’s what you often see first) signs abdicating any responsibility for theft, ladyboy and other hookers, post shift hostesses and dancers, middle aged divorcees and a playlist stolen from an out-of-town strippers dj booth.
However, like that most famous black-clad villain, Darth Vader, there remains traces of goodness within. There are plenty of regular guys and girls, mostly over 30 mind you, who head in here after work, and unlike Heartland, is seen less by the ladies as a latter throw of the dice chance of landing a rich foreigner than a chance to latter throw of the dice to laying any foreigner, particularly on a Friday, when the crowd becomes like a jellatenous substance. who should drink here? I recommend it for a guy over 30, especially one too drunk or coked up for Heartland or A971, or just looking to kick on. More so again after the last train has carted away the less serious punters. It also seems to attract a relatively decent sized crowd during the week. For a longer review of Motown, click here
Just because I tend to give this place a wide berth doesn’t mean it isn’t my favorite bar. The Gas Panic not only wrote the book on the kind of meat markets that pervade this area, it’s still bigger than the game. Mention the name to anyone who’s lived in Tokyo for more than six months roll their eyes and chuckle. If you find yourself fielding a ‘What do you do?’ in here, you’ve waited too long to make your move. Who ought to drink here? Single early-to-mid 20 something lads could do a lot worse than make a beeline for this place. If you are older, wait until later in the night so you can cite your level of drunkeness as an excuse for ‘pushing the Panic button’. Alternatively, you might take advantage of the very reasonable happy hour they’ve going (300 yen for just about everything, til 10pm) and just get too smashed on that to bother leaving. For a longer summary, please click here
Located right next to Gas Panic, this bar is probably the main bar strip’s banker in terms of being guaranteed to pull in a crowd, which might make it painful on Friday and Saturday nights. However, if being packed in like a tin of sardines doesn’t bother you, you’ll find that a lot of the other sardines are attractive young female ones. If you can’t be persuaded though, consider this place as a reliable spot for a crowd for off-peak times. Drinks are usually 100-200 yen more expensive here than most regular bars. Who ought to drink here? If you are bar hopping, and not keen on paying a cover charge you should call in here at some time of the evening if you aren’t otherwise occupied. For a longer summary, please click here
TGI Fridays sidestreet
Club 55 (Jimanji)
It tends to be on the smaller side, and has been a relatively popular place for a while now, therefore you should expect to queue up if you decide to come here say on a Friday or Saturday night, which is not necessarily a bad thing given that a lot of clubs in the area seem to be untroubled by trivialities like capacity and fire hazards.
As for the make up of those inside, I’ve thought the bulk of punters have been fairly young locals, with a smattering of gaijin. However, a friend of mine, who does frequent the place much more than I do tells me this is no longer true, and gaijin are in the majority these days. Either way, for those of you on the pull, there always seems to be a few unattached local ladies floating about the place. Who ought to have at least one drink here? It seems a very decent option for the under 30 year old on a night out. For a slightly longer review of 55, click here
A place where anything goes, and contrary to the name, anything comes. As free from having a typical in crowd as any bar I’ve seen anywhere, which makes it a good choice for people watching and if you are looking to add a new “flag”. Who ought to drink here? It’s an option after last train on Friday and Saturday nights and perhaps in the week nights if nowhere else is working for you. For a considerably longer review of Wall Street, click here