Ginza is Tokyo’s swankiest locale. Walk around its crowded streets and you’ll be visually flooded with endless upmarket brand signs, spanning from Chanel boutiques and Cartier jewellery stores to the iconic Dover Street Market. There is a lot to take in, and plenty more to buy, but the beauty of Ginza isn’t just in the lustre of the brands it carries, or its steely towering office buildings. It is also home to some of the city’s finest cocktail bars, each home to a very distinct Japanese atmosphere and style of mixology you can rarely find anywhere else in the world.
A majority of the cocktail bars in Ginza are pristine institutions that seem preserved from the 1920s. Immaculately dressed bartenders with extreme attention to detail are a common sight, and the craft they display is very removed from the flashy stunts or cocktail wizardry that many other establishments pride themselves in. It is a very precise operation, with as little frills and the purest ingredients possible. Visiting one can be intimidating for the first time, especially if you’re not familiar with the language. Don’t let the austerity get in the way of your experience, though. When in doubt, just order a classic cocktail and be awed.
If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, make sure to include some of these bars in Ginza on your list.
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This stately bar has been around since 1928, and was a magnet for many of Japan’s most esteemed authors during the Showa period, such as Osamu Dazai and Ango Sakaguchi. Sit amidst portraits of said writers and soak up the history over a Moscow Mule, served in a traditional copper mug.
Bar Lupin, B1-1F, 5-5-11 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, +81 3 3571 0750
Musashi is one of Ginza’s newest bars, having opened only in 2000. The chic, spacious cocktail bar doubles up as a yakiniku restaurant that serves up A5 kuroge wagyu beef seared over charcoal, perfect to enjoy with a bottle from its massive cocktail and sake selection.
Bar Musashi, 4F, Pacific Ginza Building, 7-2-20 Ginza, Chu0-ku, +81 3 5568 7020
Hidetsugu Ueno’s High Five is a bar that has constantly put Ginza’s cocktail scene on the global map. Located on the basement floor of a plain office building, High Five draws visitors from all over the world each night because it offers one of the best bespoke experiences you can ask for. Don’t expect a menu when you enter, as Ueno will craft you an ideal drink based on your answers to his questions. He is rarely wrong.
High Five, Efflore Ginza 5 Building, Basement, 5-4-15 Ginza Chuo-ku, +81 3 3571 5815
Bar Orchard has an approach to mixology that makes it one of the more contemporary cocktail joints in Ginza. It adopts a handful of modern approaches, like liquid nitrogen, to create its signature frozen cocktails. True to its name, Bar Orchard also uses fresh, seasonal fruits in all its cocktails.
Bar Orchard, 6-5-16 Ginza, Chuo-ku 104-0061, +81 3 3575 0333
Tender is run by Mr Hard Shake, also known as Kazuo Ueda, an award-winning bartender. The serene establishment, removed from the chaos of Ginza, overlooks the hectic Sotobori-dori. Enjoy the view as you drink a gimlet or two, and don’t forget to follow its strict, smart casual dresscode, lest you be denied entry.
Tender, 5F, Ginza Noh Theatre Building, 6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 3571 8343
Gaslight Eve is one of the few bars in Japan run by a woman. Naomi Takahashi established it in 2015, not long after winning the grand prize in the 2013 IBA World Cocktail Championships for her Wisteria cocktail. Everything on the menu of this cosy bar is a triumph, from the simplest martini to its elegant house signatures.
Gaslight Eve, 3F Ginza Fujii Building, 8-4-24 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 6274 6393
Bar Mimitsuka is an introduction-only cocktail joint located in the basement of the Wakamatsu Building. Your first entry has to be with someone who knows the bartender, so be sure to make some connections, because Mimitsuka is worth it. Order the Bloody Mary, made entirely from scratch with fresh tomatoes and homemade chilli oil as garnish. It looks nondescript, but will probably be the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever tasted.
Bar Mimitsuka, Wakamatsu Building B2F, 6-6-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 6274 6629
Kenta Nohara, owner of Ginza Grace, was the apprentice of master bartender, Kenji Nakamura. He has picked up the elegance of Nakamura’s bartending style, and adopted it in his signature cocktails that he serves up at Ginza Grace. Its a nine-seater bar, extremely intimate and ideal for dates or even a drink alone.
Ginza Grace, B1F, Ginza Marushima Building, 5-10-10 Ginza, Chuo-ku, +81 3 6274 6573