After spending almost every Saturday and Sunday morning watching the Tokyo sunrise for the past few years, I thought it was time to finally rank all of the venues that provided me those sleepless nights.
Without further ado: Tokyo's Top Ten Clubs
The hidden gem of Tokyo’s club scene. Despite being around for over 12 years, very few tourists (or locals) actually make the journey here. And considering it's a short ride away from Shinjuku, it’s well worth the short trip to get there. The main room sound system here is superb (1 story underground and guarded by soundproof-studio doors). The bar room sits even deeper—one more floor down with a lounge and secondary DJ booth. Here you’ll find artists painting, people conversing, and the lines for well priced drinks. Heavysick really hits capacity at about 120 people though, and while this is a bit of a downside, it's also part of its intimate appeal.
Highs: Sound system. Atmosphere.
Lows: Location (It is in Nakano). If you are going out here, you will need to stay until first train. Size- Over 100 people in the venue begins to feel very crowded.
Deer heads. Chandeliers. Hipsters. University students. Grandparents. This club has it all. What it lacks in sound quality (the sound systems are certifiably weak), it makes up for with the sheer character of its 3 floors and the patrons that frequent it. Despite the purposely over the top decor, there is no VIP or pretentiousness here, which makes it a great night out for drinks, good music, and some new friends.
Highs: Character. Crowd. Location.
Lows: Sound system.
In a graffitied up building about a 10-minute walk from Shibuya Station, this grimy underground club is reminiscent of a house party gone rave. One floor is dedicated solely to dancing, while the others allow you to listen and enjoy a drink. My personal favorite is the top floor; its red velvet couches allow you to lay back and relax after a good dancing session.
Highs: Underground vibes and variety of floors
Lows: A bit difficult to find as it is a walk from Shibuya, but it's also part of the fun.
If you find yourself mysteriously stuck in a place called “Roppongi” and you aren’t surrounded by strippers or being chased down an alley by girls yelling “massagi” then hopefully you find your way here. I say this in jest, because this place as good for girls as much as it is for the guys. Often it's free for females; and the crowd here, on both ends of the gender spectrum, are upscale. Expect posh decor, VIP responsibilities, mainstream music, and high-end pricing (including a nice restaurant). By far, the best part of this club is the rooftop terrace. Take a respite from the crowds and enjoy the view.
Highs: Girls/Guys ratio. Rooftop terrace patio.
Lows: VIP and general pricing. Mainstream music.
One of the newest clubs to hit the list, opened in September 2013. The club's decor, sound system, style, even the logo—all emanate a degree of class that few clubs in the city can parallel. Most weekends host an international DJ (typically house or techno) and the layout of the club is on point: couches lie directly behind the main floor and are shielded enough from the sound to allow a conversation; upstairs has a balcony that encircles the main dance floor. VIP is also quite prevalent here, but reasonable and well placed. There is a second floor sound room as well, but its quite congested and lacks the sound quality and the style of the main room.
Highs: Decor. Main room sound.
Lows: Location: Omotsesando. Second room lounge.
This club is the stylish definition of underground—a classy restaurant seems to disguise what is a full on rave underneath. One of my favorite interiors of any club that I’ve been to; it has the balcony overlooking a main stage and a great “2nd” room lounge with a DJ booth. The main floor isn't too massive, but it's complemented with two bars and classy rows of couches (as in the picture). In total, there are three bars: you'll never have to wait too long for a drink.
Highs: The design and atmosphere.
Lows: Location. Headliners tend to be exclusively house or techno most of the time.
One of, if not the most, well known club in Tokyo. It's consistently ranked #1 on a multitude of sites (including CNN). And although I definitely respect it because of its history, size, and headliners, I can't rank it as highly as other reviewers. The main room sound system—while certainly still good—lacks the quality that would place it in the top three. However, with four floors and a warehouse vibe in the middle of Shibuya it's still a fantastic night out. I recommend attending on the first Saturday of every month for some great drum and bass acts and a packed out club.
Highs: International headliners. 4 floors. Main Room Design with its infamous disco ball.
Lows: Sound system is a bit weak in the main room. Finding the club is a bit of an adventure for the first time.
Hidden in the depths of a Tokyo's fashion district, Unit lies deep underground within the confines of Daikanyama. If you like bass music, this is one of the best sound systems in Tokyo to feel it. While not just restricted to DJ acts, many live acts also utilize the venue. The main room is reminiscent of a concrete bunker, while the second room, "The Saloon"—with its chandelier and sofas—is a sharp and classier contrast.
Highs: That sound system
Lows: Location is a bit off the beaten path (same area as Air).
Owned by the same company as Air, this club has a much shorter history, but surpasses most on this list with its fresh design, sound, and international acts. Surprisingly it is one of the most publicly visible clubs within the city, smack-dab on one of Shibuya’s main streets (right near Fashion 109). It classifies itself as a "Sound Museum". And with four rooms, all well equipped, it's a fair label. I do suggest bringing ear plugs though; the main room sound tends to get a bit over the top.
Highs: Location: Easy to find. 4 rooms. International DJs.
Lows: Main room sound is too loud. Layout is not very intuitive (there are 4 rooms, although you wouldn't know upon entering)
The first time I went to Ageha, I had to wait outside for 30 minutes. When I finally got in, perturbed that I had to wait for such a long time, my jaw dropped. The main room here with all of its effects—the lasers, the sound, the dancers on the poles—is, in and of itself, an experience. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are 3 more area of music to explore outside of the sound circus which is the main stage. The infamous "pool" is probably where you will end your night (or begin your morning).
While it may lack the location of all the clubs in the list (it takes a 30 minute shuttle bus to get there), the distance allows it to be a centerpiece of the biggest names in dance music. The main downside of the club is simply this: you are stuck out there until the first train arrives (around 5 am). I'd also suggest bringing ear plugs: like Vision, the sound levels get a bit much. All downsides aside, on a night of great weather and a great headliner, this is undoubtedly Tokyo's top club.
Highs: Sound, Quality DJs, Dancers and Effects
Lows: Location: very far away from the typical nightlife areas