Why go? You’re leading the charge to Japan because it’s the coolest place on earth, with the best food anywhere. You’re taking the groom and his best friends to Japanese cities to experience amazing restaurants, bars, hot springs, inns, and places that will change their lives forever. You are the man for pulling this off. You’ve done your research, so no one goes broke or stresses out. All they have to do is show up. You’re welcome.
Best ideas: Stay at a hot springs hotel and crawl through the array of Japanese cuisines in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Good to know: Strip clubs and hostess bars are considered disreputable in Japan, and you’ll have to cover up your tattoos at the baths.
Japan is not as expensive as Las Vegas, nor is it as crazy as Bangkok, or as tame as New York City. That’s right, not as tame as NYC. If you do it right, and you can do it right, Japan has an ideal mix of activities for well-behaved gentlemen and opportunities to, um, mix it up.
In This Article
Travel & Essentials for a Japan Bachelor Party
Fly over with a Japanese carrier. I use Japan Airlines, which has direct and affordable flights from many East Coast cities to Tokyo’s Narita Airport for about $1,000 round-trip during the off season, comfortable seats with lots of legroom, decent food, lots of free liquor, and flight attendants who actually behave as if they care about you, which they do. They really do, no joke. The flight attendants are showing you omotenashi: Japanese hospitality that is anticipatory, unbelievably respectful, and calming. Sort of the complete opposite of what you find on any U.S. carrier, and I won’t name names. I’m not saying Delta. Bonus: JAL planes are typically filled with Japanese passengers — no disrespect to my North American brothers and sisters, but this means it’s quiet! You can sleep, watch a movie, hear yourself think, or just zone out.
If you go in the summer, prepare to sweat profusely in the cities. It’s better to go pretty much any time from September through April. Peak times when it can get crowded are in cherry blossom season and late autumn, when the maple leaves change color. Christmas through the New Year is splendid.
Once you are in Japan, you can depend upon public transportation and taxis. Getting from Narita to downtown Tokyo is easy: For about $30, take the JR Express, which will stop at Tokyo Station in about an hour, and from there, take a subway or taxi to your hotel. The price is the same for the Limousine Bus, which will stop at your hotel in about two hours. Either way, you must buy reserved seats. If you want to rent a car, reserve from the States, get a required international drivers license, and be prepared to drive on the left.
Pack light, because you can actually get away with carry-on only: two black shirts, two black trousers, a dark sports coat, dark hoodie, new socks, etc. You don’t need toothbrushes or razors, as all the hotels have these in the rooms.
Forget about going to the section of Tokyo called Roppongi. It’s jammed with foreign guys who are hassled by local guys in front of strip clubs and sex clubs that will peel off every yen you have in your wallet within minutes of walking in and sitting down. Don’t be that gaijin (foreigner).
Plenty of nights, I’ve been in Tokyo watching the sun rise, yet again, in the Land of the Rising Sun, blissfully unaware of stress, nearly sober, and feeling good — no, great — about the night I had and the day ahead. And because Japan is accepting of old-fashioned ideas about guys hanging out, it’s pretty much boys’ night out all the time. You’ll see groups of men in bars, clubs, and restaurants laughing, drinking, and engaging in enthusiastic banter. Of course, ladies are welcome, and it’s common to see men and women together, so either way, it’s up to you.
Whatever you do, be really polite. Don’t assume that because people are accommodating and smile at you to make you feel relaxed and happy that they are at all interested in what you might be interested in. (If you catch my vibe.)
The drinking in Japan is usually small, one-ounce pours, except at bars in internationally branded hotels, which means that you can bar hop without taking on too much in one joint. Caution: If you are drinking sake — typically served cold, but you knew that, right? — you won’t feel its effects. It tastes like cold, clean water. Stand up after drinking sake and, hey, what just happened?! So, um, drink responsibly.
Getting around town is easy, too. The subway system is safe and spectacular. Warning: It stops running around midnight and starts up again at 5 a.m. That means if you want or need to return to your hotel from 12 a.m. to 5 p.m., you will need a pricey taxi. Taxis are by far the most expensive item to consider on your visit to Japan. Figure on a minimum of $10 to get anywhere, and as much as $50 to go a relatively short distance. Fares go up after midnight and until 5 a.m., when the subways stop, and nights are more expensive.
Have your concierge print out the name of the hotel in Japanese to give to the driver. Chances are he won’t speak English or understand your pronunciation. What’s cool is that, in general, you can trust the taxi driver to get you back, not rip you off, and drive slowly and safely to get you home in one piece.
As you carouse in cities, you will discover that many people do not speak English but because there is a basic level of decency and respect, you will likely be OK. Still, read the body language. Learn to say “sumimasen,” which is a type of apology. Use it often. Preface sentences with it, say goodbye with it, pepper your speech with it. Be as respectful as you’d be if called into your boss’s office — listen to what’s said, don’t offer an opinion unless asked, and whatever you do, do not raise your voice. When you suss out its rules, being in Japan is like visiting an old friend.
Pros and Cons of a Bachelor Party in Japan
- No place in the world has more variety than Japan. There’s lots to see and lots to do.
- Japan is also a place where you can chill. The whole country operates as if it were the quiet car on Amtrak.
- It also embraces a madcap, frenetic way of life typified by its city nightlife. It’s can be crazy fun after dark, topping a bedrock of Zen Buddhist and Shinto traditions with a feverish desire to party all night long.
- Flights from East Coast cities take about 12-13 hours. Prepare yourself. Read up on melatonin’s benefits. Bring music and lots to read. Of course, noise-cancelling headphones are a boon.
- It’s not at all like home. You are for sure going to offend people just by being yourself. Read up on basic polite behavior and phrases expected in Japan.
- Your ATM card will not work in Japanese banks. It will work in most convenience stores and foreign banks. Be sure to tell your bank that you are going to Japan or it won’t work at all. Bear in mind that many places are cash only.
- Drugs of any sort are strictly illegal. If you are caught with drugs, you will be deported if you’re lucky, and jailed, put on trial, and incarcerated, if you’re unlucky. No edibles.
Best Attractions and Activities in Japan
Within Tokyo, you will find that there are not enough hours in the days and nights. For one thing, I’m sorry to say, there are the demons of jet lag and changes in time zones. Most likely it will take you a few days to reestablish your sleep patterns disrupted by the long flight over and the 12-hour time difference (from the East Coast). Pace yourself and let the day begin.
Watch a Sumo Match1-chōme-3-28 Yokoami, Sumida City, Tōkyō-to 130-0015, Japan
(Photo by samurai_5)
Check out sumo matches, depending on time of year. Nothing beats a cold beer, some snacks, and lounging on tatami mats while watching two enormous men in loincloths wrestling. Sumo matches in Tokyo take place at Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium. Tickets run between $40 to $90.
Go to a Baseball Game1-chōme-3-61 Kōraku, Bunkyo City, Tōkyō-to 112-0004, Japan
(Photo by Mathieson_Scott)
Take in baseball. I love going to games in Tokyo and indulging in the cheers and chants. The season runs about the same as here, from late March through October. A ticket to a game runs between $30 to $100, depending on where you sit.
Chill Out in the GardensHibiya, Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan
(Photo by Francisco Anzola)
Enjoy the amazing parks with gardens, like Yoyogi and Hibiya, pictured here. The gardens are manicured, filled with ponds, sculpted trees, and possess a serenity more akin to being deep in nature rather than in a city center. They are a synecdoche of the Japanese celebration of nature, which is rooted in Shinto tradition. Clear your head. Breathe.
Go Shopping in Ginza4 Chome-7 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
(Photo of Mitsokushi by jesjpp)
Head to Ginza, watch the parade of unbelievably well-dressed Tokyoites, and go to the department stores to eye and maybe buy some goods on display. All the department stores, known as deppu, have traditional clothing, and you can buy your girlfriends cotton yukata adorned with flowers, or sake cups, porcelain, and lacquerware for your mom. The deppu also have enormous food halls with the fanciest items on earth, cuisine from around the world, and prepared foods for hotel picnics, like first-rate sushi and sashimi.
My favorite deppu in Ginza is Mitsokushi because of the consistent, high-quality goods. But it’s also worth going to Takeshimaya, a short walk away in Nihonbashi, for a look at some of the best in Japan.
Now go back to the hotel and take a nap. Japanese people are often seen dozing on subways, in parks, and in all sorts of public places. You’ll be tired, too. So let it go, and that way when night falls, you ought to be ready to tear up the town. What’s the point of having good digs if you don’t use them during the day?
Treat Yourself at the Spa3-7-1-2, ３丁目-７ 西新宿 新宿区 東京都 163-1055, Japan
(Photo by Club on the Park at Park Hyatt Tokyo)
Many hotels offer in-room or spa massages. Then, too, many hotels have spas and fitness centers. The best spa and fitness in Tokyo, hands down, is at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Located on the 45th floor, it has an enormous swimming pool lined with glassed-in rooms filled with running machines and weights. One of the rooms faces iconic Mount Fuji, and in winter and late fall, you may get lucky enough to see it. Down the hall is a men’s area with a great, sunken, tiled pool that resembles what you find at a hot springs inn. You don’t need to bring running shoes, clothes, or a swimsuit — all of these are provided by the hotel.
Note that if you have tattoos, you’re welcome to use the facilities at Park Hyatt, no problem whatsoever, but other properties may require that you cover the tattoos up with bandages. Why? Historically, the yakuza, Japanese criminal gangs, have tattoos to signify membership. Prior to yakuza, criminals were tattooed by authorities to brand them as outcasts of society. If the tat is small, like the rolling dice on my left bicep, you can indeed cover it up, but if you have sleeves, you might want to choose a hotel that’s cool with that. You have been warned.
Once you’ve well rested, the night can begin. Start at your hotel with drinks, and then what?
Hit the Jazz Clubs6-chōme-3-16 Minamiaoyama, Minato City, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Blue Note Tokyo)
Famous jazz clubs like Cotton Club and Blue Note Tokyo have great international and local performers. The cost of the jazz clubs, as is true in the U.S., depends on the act. Expect to pay between $65 and $95, plus drinks that cost about $15 each, depending on who is performing.
Hit the Raves and NightclubsWOMB, 2-16 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya City, Tokyo, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Womb)
Or hit the rave and nightclubs like Womb, AgeHa and Club Fura. Cover charges vary: $20 to $30, gets you in the door, maybe less, maybe more, depending on night of the week and who the DJ is. The floor is typically filled with people dancing en masse, rather than cheek to cheek, with swaying and hypnotic movements typical. The crowds are mixed, both Japanese and Western, and it may seem very familiar to what you know from back in the U.S.
A word of caution: Marijuana and other drugs are strictly illegal and taboo in Japan. Do not even think about bringing in edibles.
Karaoke!Shibuya City, Tokyo, Japan
(Photo by Kevin Martin)
If listening to music and dancing are only part of your evening, consider karaoke. Shibuya is home to numerous tall, thin buildings housing countless private rooms. Pick a theme (biker roadhouse, spaceship, whatever) and hustle in with your buds. Trays of whisky are brought in upon request, and a songbook is provided along with a mic. The only people who will witness the debacle are the guys in your party. Cost depends on where you go, but figure on about $30 to $50 per person, plus the cost of drinks (about $15 or $20), for a couple of hours.
Late-Night Ramen1-chōme-1-36 Hiroo, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-0012, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Matcha)
At the end of the night, do what the Japanese do and have a bowl of ramen. Most places shut down before midnight, but there are several popular places that stay open late.
Tsukumo is open until 5 a.m. and specializes in cheese tonkatsu (pork) ramen. Look, it’s for when you’ve been up all night drinking, OK? Not a midday snack.
Late-Night Ramen: Nagi Golden GaiJapan, 160-0021 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Kabukicho, 1 Chome−1−10 2F
(Photo by sydneygal2019)
Nagi Golden Gai is open 24 hours and located in the old red-light district of Shinjuku. This area is said to have inspired sets in the movie, “Blade Runner.” Tiny warrens of small bars abound.
Late-Night Ramen: Kyushu Jangara Ramen Akihabara3-chōme-11-6 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 101-0021, Japan
(Photo by Kyushu Jangara Ramen Akihabara)
Kyushu Jangara Ramen Akihabara is open until midnight and is Kyushu-style, which means stewed pork with your noodles.
Late-Night Ramen: Mouko Tanmen NakamotoJapan, 〒150-0043 Tōkyō-to, Shibuya City, Dōgenzaka, 2-chōme−6−１７ TOHOシネマズ渋谷B2F
(Photo by Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto)
Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto is open until 2:30 a.m. and has spicy tanmen noodles.
Go Beyond Tokyo: KyotoKyoto, Japan
(Photo by Trevor Dobson)
Kyoto, Kobe and Kanazawa are not half as wild as Tokyo. Your best bet in each of these places is to enjoy the relative calm and save your energy for Tokyo. Still, the Gion district in Kyoto has a number of hard-to-find little clubs.
Go Beyond Tokyo: Kobe3-chōme-3-3番20号 Yamamotodōri, Chūō-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0003, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Kobe Kitano Hotel)
The Kobe Kitano Hotel (in Kobe, of course) has a tiny bar that caters to high-end guests, and where you can enjoy a quiet evening over first-rate Japanese whiskies.
Go Beyond Tokyo: Kanazawa41 Tatemachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0997, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Kanazawa Music Bar)
In Kanazawa, check out the Kanazawa Music Bar, which has Japanese staff, a DJ, and many young, foreign guests.
Steep in Hot SpringsKinosaki, Iwata, Shizuoka, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Nishimuraya Hotel Shogetsutei)
Head to the famous hot springs village of Kinosaki. It’s a long train ride of five to six hours or a 90-minute ride to Narita airport followed by a 40-minute flight to Osaka’s Itami airport, then 45 minutes by bus to Kinosaki. There are many hot springs in towns and villages throughout Japan, but what makes this one unique is that when you stay at one of the ryokans (inns) here, you get a pass to go to all seven of the public baths. There you are, in your cotton yukata (like a kimono), on wooden clogs, carrying a basket that holds your towel, going up and down the narrow streets from hot bath to hot bath along with many other foreigners and Japanese folks. One of the best ryokan in town is Nishimuraya, now run by the seventh generation of the family that started it over a century ago.
Don’t forget the rule about tattoos. There are also strict guidelines about behavior in the baths. For example, you must shower before entering, keep your voices down, and cover your genitals with a small towel before immersing yourself in the water. Bathing is a big deal in Japan, a way to escape the tensions of life, and an effort to join nature.
Go to the Mountains: Nagano and Tobira Onsen Myojinkan8967 Iriyamabe, Matsumoto, Nagano 390-0222, Japan
(Photo by Tobira Myojinkan Onsen)
Speaking of joining nature, stay in the mountains of Nagano (90 minutes by train from Tokyo) or Karuizawa (60 minutes by train from Tokyo) and arrange day hikes with the help of your hotel. Nagano has good wines, getting better each year, with the Koshu grape a key ingredient in many. The region also has wonderful fruits and vegetables.
A great ryokan in the Nagano region is Tobira Myojinkan Onsen, deep in a forest, with some of the best baths in the country, newly renovated restaurants, and a sophisticated bar. Prices depend upon time of year and type of room, but start at $485 per person, including breakfast and dinner.
Check out Matsumoto CastleMatsumoto Castle, 4-1 Marunouchi, Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan
(Photo by Visit Matsumoto)
The ryokan is close to Matsumoto Castle, too, worth visiting with your crew. The castle is considered a national treasure, and for good reason. I loved climbing its steep staircases, exposed to open air, and the chill in the air on the day I was there led me to imagine being a samurai. Don’t judge me.
Best Hotels, Resorts & Airbnbs in Japan
In the cities, if you can swing it, you cannot do better than the upscale joints. If money is tight, ask if the property can provide you with two beds in a room.
Park Hyatt TokyoBest if You Have Hyatt Points to Spare 3-7-1-2, ３丁目-７ 西新宿 新宿区 東京都 163-1055, Japan
(Photo by the Park Hyatt Tokyo)
Vibe: Park Hyatt Tokyo, as noted, has the best spa and gym in town.
Price: Rates depend upon time of year and type of room, but starts at $565 per night, which includes breakfast.
Palace HotelWorth the Splurge 1-chōme-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-0005, Japan
(Photo by Palace Hotel)
Vibe: Palace Hotel, located in Marunouchi, is a terrific mix of Japanese and Western aesthetics and ambience.
Price: Pricing depends upon time of year and type of room, but starts at $700 per night, including breakfast.
Shangri-La Hotel, TokyoMost Ultramodern Decor Japan, 〒100-8283 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 1-chōme−8−３ 丸の内トラストタワ 本館
(Photo by Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo)
Vibe: The Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo, is well-located in Marunouchi and is ultramodern, sleek, with a staff that is extremely accommodating.
Price: Rates depend upon time of year and type of room, but start at $545 per night, including breakfast.
The Tokyo Station HotelBest Location 1-chōme-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-0005, Japan
(Photo by The Tokyo Station Hotel)
Vibe: The Tokyo Station Hotel is both homey and sophisticated. Its location on the north side of the Tokyo Train Station in Maunouchi is really convenient.
Price: Pricing depends upon time of year and type of room, but starts at $600 per night, including breakfast.
Remarkably, each of these hotels has everything. Meaning that you and the boys can choose to stay in for the day or night, not miss out on a thing, and enjoy your time eating, drinking, having massages, napping, and working out. Now and then, it’s good to close up shop.
The countryside is best enjoyed with your neck up to hot water. The best ryokans are pricey, between $350 to $600 per person, which includes breakfast and dinner but not drinks. They are unforgettable because they offer complete immersion into the most Japanese cultural experience imaginable. The aesthetics, the food, and the tempo are a way to discover the heart of the country.
From Kayotei (Yamanaka) to Bettei Senjuan (Gunma) to Takinoya (Noboribetsu), gather up your belongings and spend a night or two at a hot springs inn. Hot baths, long talks, good sake and beer, and amazing kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) dining.
Of course, Airbnbs are always a good idea to help you save money on a bachelor party weekend. Here are some of our favorites.
Airbnb: Zen Lodge in TokyoBest Retreat Tokyo, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Vibe: This Tokyo gem is a great escape for those wanting to relax and embrace their inner Zen on a honeymoon trip. You’ll have access to the whole three-story building, including five bedrooms among three separate apartments complete with traditional Japanese earthen walls, three fully equipped kitchens (one in each apartment) and free unlimited Wi-Fi.
Price: Rates from $370 a night.
Airbnb: Modern Meets Traditional In Shinagawa-ku, TokyoBest for Large Groups Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Vibe: This swanky abode in Shinagawa sleeps up to 16 people, giving you access to three floors of six bedrooms featuring a mix of six western-style double beds and four Japanese-style single futons.
Price: Rates from $340 a night.
Airbnb: Traditional Japanese Villa in KyotoBest Traditional Stay Kyoto, Japan
(Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Vibe: For a unique Japanese honeymoon stay, consider this beautiful 100-year-old traditional garden villa in Kyoto.
Price: From $188 a night, you’ll have a super-chill place to relax and zen out among nature, and have a chance to sleep as the Japanese do in three of the bedrooms — or opt for the more familiar western-style queen bed in bedroom number four.
Best Restaurants in Japan
By and large, restaurants in Japan fall into these types: those that serve one ingredient, like unagi (eel), tonkatsu, yakitori (chicken, or yakinuku (beef); restaurants that are chef-driven and seasonal where the chef decides what you are served, no menus; restaurants that are called izakaya, which offer a range of dishes — some of these places are expensive, others are like pubs, and what you order is simply what you prefer — and, finally, there are Western and other Asian restaurants, just like in the rest of Asia, the States or Europe, with menus that are probably familiar to you. Compared to major U.S. cities, great restaurants in Japan are very moderate in price, due to competition and their cultural value, and two people can dine well for $100 or much less.
Hotels in Japan, fancy or not, typically include a big buffet breakfast with the price of the room, while some hotels offer the option of a room service breakfast at the same price. The best spreads are ridiculously good, and include Japanese breakfast items along with Western choices.
Imperial Hotel TokyoTie: Best Breakfast Buffet 1 Chome-1-1 Uchisaiwaichō, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-8558, Japan
(Photo by Imperial Hotel Tokyo)
The best breakfast buffet in town is at the Imperial Hotel Tokyo. Located on the 17th floor, the vast room where the buffet is served overlooks the city and has an understated, old-school elegance. We’re talking onion soup with a poached egg, ham and crispy bacon, pancakes, great fruit salads, fresh vegetables, and cooks preparing eggs to order.
The Tokyo Station HotelTie: Best Breakfast Buffet 1-chōme-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-0005, Japan
(Photo by The Tokyo Station Hotel)
Another great breakfast buffet is at The Atrium in The Tokyo Station Hotel, where a lot of the food is organic or locally sourced. Everything is on display in a big, enclosed room, and you may feel, as I did, that you are in a train or boat on a journey.
Pizzeria e trattoria da ISABest Pizzeria 1-chōme-28-9 Aobadai, Meguro City, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan
(Photo by Pizzeria e trattoria da ISA)
All over Tokyo, you can find terrific food at every price point. I love the pizza at Pizzeria e trattoria da ISA. Figure on about $20 per person plus drinks.
Mus MusBest Steamed Dishes Japan, 〒100-6590 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 1-chōme−5−１ 新丸の内ビルディング７階
(Photo by Mus Mus)
The steamed dishes, chiefly vegetables, at Mus Mus — mus means steam in Japanese — are delicious.
Shoto HelloBest For Those Who Like to Live on the Edge 2-chōme-14-12-101 Shōtō, Shibuya City, Tōkyō-to 150-0046, Japan
(Photo by Shoto Hello)
Shoto Hello in Tokyo is a terrific and intimate kaiseki-style place run by a young husband and wife. Prices at each of these restaurants are about the same. Figure on about $65 per person, tops. There is no menu at Shoto Hello, which is typical of any restaurant in Japan that models itself on kaiseki (multicourse, highly seasonal) cuisine served omakase (decided by the chef). So it might be a light broth with a matsutake mushroom and fried burdock root or a sliver of yellowtail and sansho peppers. There is no way to predict or know in advance.
New York GrillBest Steakhouse Japan, 〒163-1052 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, 3-chōme−7−１−２ パークハイアット 東京 52階
(Photo by New York Grill)
If you’re looking for steak or famous Japanese beef, be prepared to shell out very serious sums of money. We’re talking hundreds per person, exclusive of drinks. But if it must be beef, New York Grill has great steaks in view of the city.
ShimaBest Secret Restaurant 3-chōme-5-12 Nihonbashi, Chuo City, Tōkyō-to 103-0027, Japan
(Photo by elisabethonfood)
Shima in Tokyo is an insider’s secret, in a cellar, hidden away, and about $300-plus per person. Voila! You’re in on the secret.
Sumibi Yakiniku NakaharaBest For Meat Lovers Japan, 〒102-0085 Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda City, Rokubanchō, ４−３ ＧＥＭＳ市ヶ谷 ９F
(Photo by Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara)
Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara is the next big thing in town and features unusual cuts of beef like tongue, tendon, or neck while you watch the chef hard at work in front of you from your seat at the counter.
ZeniyaWorth the Splurge 2-chōme-29-7 Katamachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0981, Japan
(Photo by Zeniya)
In Kanazawa, the very famous Zeniya, an eight-seater, chef Shinichiro Takagi conjures up extraordinary food, drawing upon each season and responding to what he observes of each get. He fashions each meal in very specific ways. Again, this is highly seasonal food, and depending on the time of year could include sansei (wild mountain vegetables) abalone snow crab, or fugu. There are, of course, no menus. Prices are based on number of courses served and start at $250 per person without drinks.
Kyoto has an array of terrific (and pricey) three-star Michelin joints, but I prefer the city’s more informal places. These are the restaurants frequented by locals who leave the stars mostly to foreigners. Try places like Sumibiyakitorisumugi, Omen, or Chiran.
OmenBest DIY Dinner Japan, 〒606-8406 Kyoto, Sakyō-ku, Jōdoji Ishibashichō, 銀閣寺バスプール南隣
(Photo by Inside Kyoto)
Omen, in Kyoto, is a place where you grill beef at your table and dip it into various fresh sauces. Omen is all about udon noodles with various toppings you choose, such as tofu, duck, or shrimp tempura.
ChiranBest Place to Eat Alongside the Locals 54-3 Murasakino Shimotsukiyamachō, Kita-ku, Kyoto, 603-8222, Japan
(Photo by chain4peace_favorite_foods)
Chiran is a yakitori joint. Translation: Great grilled chicken. All cater to locals rather than the droves of tourists throughout the city. Figure on paying between $30 to $50, depending on what you order and drink.
KinoeBest Grilled Beef in Town Japan, 〒605-0812 Kyoto, Higashiyama-ku, Bishamonchō, 44−８
(Photo by Kinoe)
And if you want killer grilled beef known as yakiniku, go to Kinoe. I love this place, and for about $50 each, you can enjoy good cuts of steak.
Best Bars and Clubs in Japan
LupinBest Old-School Bar Vibes Japan, 〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chuo City, Ginza, 5-chōme−5−１１ 塚本不動産ビル 地下
(Photo by luneycartoon)
Lupin: another hard-to-find gem. Once an oasis for Tokyo’s literary elite, this tiny spot is in a cellar in an alley in Ginza. Chances are you guys will be the only Westerners in there, so just deal with the initial stares as you enter and take a seat. You may feel as if you were in a film noir. Bring cash.
The Old ImperialBest for Classy Gents 1 Chome-1-1 Uchisaiwaichō, Chiyoda City, Tōkyō-to 100-8558, Japan
(Photo by Old Imperial Bar)
On the Mezzanine of the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, this classic establishment has an exclusive feel to it, and a taste of history. It’s like visiting a private club in London. Bonus: You can smoke here.
ZoetropeBest for Whiskey Lovers Japan, 〒160-0023 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, 7-chōme−10−１４ ガイアビル４ 3F
Literally hundreds of bottles of whisky from small producers all over Japan.
Outside Tokyo, it’s pretty sedate. Gion in Kyoto has a few little music clubs, and Osaka and Kanazawa have their share of decent bars. But don’t count on a big night out once you leave Tokyo.
A Word on Strip Clubs: Japan is a conservative society — if you go to a strip club, you’re pegged as disreputable. But if you insist, bear in mind that there are two types of establishments: one for Japanese people and one for foreigners. The Japanese places are typically members only. You won’t get in unless you are with a local. Then, too, note that here are many types of hostess clubs. Some are conversation only where a woman, typically in her teens, will talk to you and tell you how handsome and wonderful you are. The second type will hint of physical contact, but not provide anything other than, on rare occasion, bare breasts. All types of clubs will cost you literally hundreds and hundreds of dollars, little of which will go to the teenager.
One of the coolest things about this bachelor party you are going to have in Japan is that it will bring all of you together in new ways because the country and culture are very intense, to say the least. You will operate as a road show, looking out for one another, and each discovery will likely be a shared one. You will get to know one another as never before and that process of renewal will create memories that last a lifetime. It’s the kind of trip that cements friendships and is totally unique.