One Day in Roppongi: Tokyo Guide to Shopping, Museums & Nightlife

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Roppongi is a name recognized the world over. Like London’s Soho or New York’s Meatpacking district, Roppongi has, since the ‘50s, been synonymous with entertainment and the party scene. In the ‘70s and ‘80s it was known as the central expat hangout in Tokyo with bar-lined streets, mouthy touts, nasty neon and red lights. In recent years, however, it has challenged its party reputation by transforming, during daylight hours at least, into one of the capital’s cultural, business and consumer hubs. It’s also the diplomatic center of Tokyo due to the high concentration of embassies in the area.

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Shopping in Roppongi

In terms of shopping Roppongi isn’t as vibrant or eclectic as Shibuya or Omotesando. It does, however, have some must-visit retail locations such as Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, which should both easily satiate all your consumerist needs in one go. You’ll find top-end boutiques such as Ron Herman in Midtown, Beams, YSL and Comme des Garcons in Roppongi Hills and even a Ritz Carlton and Grand Hyatt to rest your weary head. And for books head to the collaboration between Tsutaya and Starbucks on Keyakizaka Dori or the concept magazine and book store Bunkitsu located at the crossing.

Roppongi is the Jekyll and Hyde of Tokyo. Nice by day and very naughty by night. After 6pm the streets become alive with denizens of the night and customers looking for good times in the numerous pubs, clubs, hostess bars and adult entertainment spots. It’s best not to be taken for a ride, however, by ignoring the guys on the street and asking colleagues and friends for recommendations.

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Dining in Roppongi

It can be a pricy area too and it’s common to hear of expats being ripped off so always be alert while drinking and carousing in Roppongi. There are some great bars and restaurants, however, so head to small places like Abbot’s Choice near the crossing for a Guinness and a whisky or take a stroll to nearby Azabu to Pizzakaya for craft beer and great pizza or further down into Azabu Juban to Gonpachi for some sushi in the location which inspired Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

If you’re missing home comforts there are plenty of global chains such as Shake Shack and Outback, as well as more domestic spots such as the Pizza Slice, Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s acclaimed steakhouse Oak Door and even a fantastic and authentic British Fish and Chips shop – Malins, which is located directly across from Tokyo Midtown. One of the best things about Roppongi is that it caters for everyone on a range of budgets from cheap one coin shot bars to eye-watering Michelin-starred hotspots so be ready to eat into your expense account if you’re lucky to have one.

Museums in Roppongi

There’s a lot going on in Roppongi and nearby Azabu. Bars and nightlife aside, it’s got a plethora of excellent museums – The National Art Center, Mori Art Museum, Suntory Museum of Art and Issey Miyake’s beautiful 21_21 Design Sight. The streets of Roppongi are full of every nationality imaginable and it adds to the area’s vibrancy and electric atmosphere. It’s the most cosmopolitan district of the capital and if you add in tourists, non-Japanese residents, diplomats and business people from companies like Apple and Goldman Sachs (who both hold much-coveted Roppongi Hills’ addresses) then you have a very eclectic and interesting mix.

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Roppongi Nightlife

If you’re looking for a quiet evening stroll then avoid Roppongi. As people spill onto the sidewalk in the wee small hours Roppongi can resemble bedlam. Utter chaos with drunks and entertainment workers mingling, frantically gesticulating, tempting, flirting and often falling over. After clubs close, groups congregate around kebab vans and you’ll see the odd punter who just doesn’t want to go home. Gasping and looking for others to join them for another drink, another bar, another club. Roppongi is open all day, every day so you can satisfy your every desire but usually at dawn the area quietens down for an hour or two until the workers push themselves out of the subway exits and onto the streets heading to work in order to pay for the boozy nights that Roppongi does best.

If you’re a party goer and night owl then you’ll fall in love immediately with Roppongi’s charms such as the upscale Nishiazabu A-Life and 1 Oak Tokyo. The neon, noise and nightlife will seep into your veins and it’s easy to become addicted to the area’s hedonism and outright debauchery. Alternatively, it’s the perfect place to visit occasionally, with friends, clients or visitors, in order to feel as if you might be, for a moment at least, at home.

Feature image: voyata / Shutterstock.com

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