Vibrant Nightlife in Japan
By Andrew Smith on 1 May 2017
Singing all night long
Karaoke is one of Japan’s favorite evening pastimes and a great place to enjoy Japanese nightlife. Here friends, family and coworkers gather together to spend time together drinking and singing their favorite tunes. Some say music is a universal experience shared by people around the world, and thanks to the language options and expansive music library at many Japanese karaoke chains, it’s easy for foreigners to party and join in the fun. Popular songs in English, Korean and Chinese are even available. Although you may not be able to find your favorite indie band, it’s usually best to stick to the hits anyway so everyone can clap and sing along.
Though there is no need to be shy, try not to hog the mic. After selecting a song on the screen, pass it along to the person next to you. While you wait for it to come back around, you can enjoy some food and drinks from the menu. Most karaoke chains serve pizza, French fries, onion rings, and many other kinds of junk food to keep you energized and singing all night long. For some extra fun, some karaoke chains offer costumes. The wacky outfits really do make singing YMCA a lot more entertaining.
Prices may change depending on the area, but generally Utahiroba is one of the cheapest chains in Japan. Depending on the time and day, you can enjoy free time for as little as 1000 yen. Other popular chains include Big Echo, Karaoke Kan, and Shidax. Though they are little more pricey, you are paying for a higher quality. Personally I use Karaoke Kan with the DAM system which has all the songs I need to enjoy a night out singing. Karaoke is great for parties, and it is a great way to experience Japanese culture.
The adult arcade
Pachinko is comparable to slot machines in some ways. While there is a gambling factor that draws customers in, some people treat it almost like an arcade. Pachinko machines use small steel balls which are launched out with a spring-loaded handle. Players can slightly adjust the power to manipulate where the balls might land, but really it’s mostly just luck. Many machines feature popular anime characters to keep the crowds flooding in. Some unique REACH modes can be very entertaining as you watch beloved and iconic characters battle each other on screen for you. Choose whichever machine interests you most and stick with it so it is easier to get in rhythm and increase your chances of winning.
It’s so much fun, you’ll forget how much money you’re wasting, but if you do happen to get lucky you can trade your steel pinballs in for some yen. Usually each is worth about 15 yen, so be careful not to spill any. After exchanging your winnings at the front counter, you will receive a token or receipt which you can then exchange off-site for cash. Then you can use your winnings to keep party going all night long. Pachinko can be found just about anywhere in Japan, especially in hotspots for Japanese nightlife like Kabukicho. If the giant flashing lights aren’t a big enough sign for you, just follow the cascading sound of millions of tiny steel balls bouncing around or the overpowering smell of tobacco. There is likely a pachinko parlor nearby.
A fantastic escape
My first experience at a net cafe was after I had taken a night bus from Tokyo to Osaka for a music festival. I arrived early in the morning and needed a place to charge my phone, take a shower, and research some places to go for the day. Luckily there was a 24 hour manga cafe right around the corner that provided just that.
Surprisingly, despite the growing number of smartphones, Manga and net are still relevant. That's because they offer more than just place to surf the web. Manga cafes are also often used as a cheap accommodation after the last train. Reclining chairs or flat futons are available for the private booths for patrons to relax and enjoy some good reading. As the name suggests, a vast library of entertaining manga and other entertainment is available to use all night, and there is a free drink bar along with snacks from vending machines.
For manga lovers, it is a like a fantasy world where they can escape and enjoy their favorite stories in peace and spend the night with their favorite characters. For others, it is a great place to kill time before the first train and catch a glimpse into an interesting subgenre of Japanese culture. Most manga cafes start at just 100 yen for 30 minutes, but you can stay overnight at a very reasonable price too.
A real party mansion
Love hotels are perhaps one of the most infamous features of Japanese nightlife. With flashy signs and unique building designs, their presence is hard to ignore. Despite what you may hear, these getaways are not just for secret affairs. Actually love hotels can serve as a reasonable accommodation for adults seeking a more luxurious place to stay or as a private place to party the night away. A wide variety of amenities and entertainment products are available for people to enjoy including large Jacuzzi baths, sharp flat screen televisions, karaoke machines, and much more. Even friends can have a great time together partying in style at a Japanese love hotel.
Love hotels are easy to find around any entertainment hub in the city, and recently they have become more accessible to foreigners thanks to multiple language options on the menu screen. The prices vary depending on which room you get, but they are typically much more reasonable than a standard hotel. They are also a lot more fun. After hitting up some clubs, grab some cheap drinks at the Conbini (Convenience) and party the rest of the night away like royalty at a luxurious love hotel.
Andrew is an American writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He often finds himself wandering home from a livehouse after missing the last train. As an outdoors enthusiast, musician, traveler and editor, he stays pretty busy, but he is still always looking for new things to try. The only thing more unorganised than his schedule is his room.