This year we travelled very far away from Barcelona to Japan for a 10 days holiday and once in a lifetime experience. Looking forward to explore the culture, the food, the people and of course the craft beer bars in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. We weren’t sure what to expect in that regard and I have to say we have been more than pleasantly surprised by the quality and professionalism of the craft beer scene in the Nippon Country.


Day 1.

In the plane we watched the documentary Ramen Heads – which I recommend to all of you Ramen lovers out there – and arrived to Tokyo in the late afternoon craving a Ramen. We headed straight for Tsuta, the world’s first Michelin-star Ramen restaurant… we had our first experience queuing and using the ordering machine to get our tickets for our hot bowl of soup which was delicious.

The Watering Hole

After dropping our luggages to the hotel, we were ready for our first beer. We stopped by The Watering Hole in Shibuya, an American-style craft beer pub near the Shinjuku Station. They offer 21 beers on tap, including a couple of handpumps, from Japan and overseas, mainly American. Check their website for the latest beer menu. Overall, the selection was ok and as our first time trying Japanese craft beer we were satisfied. Prices were average-high with pints starting at ¥1.100. The bar was packed when we arrived, group of friend chatting and eating.  The barman was also very friendly and even showed us a can of Soup IPA from our friends at Garage Beer Co. when we told him we lived in Barcelona.

Day 2.

The next morning we explored the Yanesen area, a low-key neighborhood in a quiet part of East Tokyo.

Yanesen stands for Yanaka, Nezu, and Sendagi neighborhoods after their first syllables.

You will find here narrow alleyways, low-rise wooden houses, artisanal shops and local residents going about their day to day business.

Yanaka Beer Hall

We stopped by Yanaka Beer Hall for a fresh local craft beer. It is part of a complex of old wooden buildings with some seating space outside. Inside, there are several rooms in a traditional style Japanese house. You can find a bakery and also a restaurant-cafe with 8 taps of craft beer. They had 4 taps of their own Yanaka beer and 4 taps of August. Prices varied between ¥600 for a small glass, ¥900 for medium and ¥1.200 for a large glass. We tried the Yanaka Golden which was an excellent choice for an early morning beer.

Campion Ale

After visiting the Ameyoko market and Tokyo’s largest geek district Akihabara, we strolled down Kappabashi kitchenware shopping street. Campion Ale is located very near. It is a British Brewpub where you will find fresh beers made onsite in a relaxed pub atmosphere. They had 4 beers on tap when we visited: Saison, Wheat, Bitter and Porter. We shared a Bitter and a Porter, which were excellently brewed in the British style tradition. Prices were quite good, ¥750 for ⅔ UK pint and ¥1.000 for a full UK pint. The space is quite big, with two floors and plenty of seating area. They had just opened when we arrived, so we were the first customers of the day. We had a nice chat with the staff which were friendly and curious to know where we can came from.

Ant’n Bee

Our last stop of the day was Roppongi, Tokyo’s wildest nightlife district. We started at Ant’n Bee, a small and cozy basement bar with classic pub style decor. They have about 20 or so beers on tap all from Japanese breweries. Prices were on the higher end with the US pint costing ¥1.260 – although what else would you expect in this neighborhood… They have a smoking area like so many other venues across town but it didn’t really bother us. This was one of the places opened until latest, 6am, so if you are still on jet lag and can’t sleep, this can be a good option!

Two Dogs Taproom

We had our last beer at Two Dogs Taproom. This is a two-story American bar offering 25 craft beers on tap from Japan and some imports from around the world, but mainly American. They specialize in wood-fired California-style pizza and also host plenty of special events like UFC fights broadcasts and poker nights. The staff spoke fluid English and there were only foreigners visiting when we were there, it almost felt like we were not in Tokyo anymore. The beer was served in 3 formats (Small, Medium and Large) and cost from ¥600 to ¥1.000 for local beers and from ¥900 to ¥1.200 for international ones.

Day 3.

The next day we started with Tsukiji market and stopped by one the sushi joints around for a breakfast consisting of fatty tuna and other ngiri. After passing by the luxurious Ginza district, relaxing in Shinjuku Gyo-en park and some shopping in Shibuya, we were ready for our first beer.

Mikkeller Bar

A short distance walk away was Mikkeller bar, a must-see on our list. The bar is tucked in the back streets of Shibuya, in the nightlife zone with plenty of restaurants, little bars and music venues. We were there in the afternoon so it was quite quiet, but it must be interesting to visit at night too. They have 20 beers on tap, mainly dominated by Mikkeller beers as well as your usual suspects such as Warpigs and some beers from Japan. The bar has two floors and is decorated in the typical Mikkeller way, with concrete floor and clear wooden furniture. The ground floor has a wide window opened out into the street creating a place where people can sit on both sides. As expected, prices were on the very high-end ranging from ¥550 to ¥1.300 for their 200ml and 400ml glass size.

Baird Beer Taproom Harajuku

The next stop was Baird Beer Taproom Harajuku. Opened since 2009, it offers an oasis for all those craft beer lovers looking to escape the hustle and bustle from the city. The bar is designed as a typical Japanese Ikazaya with low ceilings and lots of wood, creating a warm and imitate atmosphere. You can also enjoy traditional Izakaya food, with a special attention to their yakitori skewers. There are 15 Baird beers on tap along with a few hand pumps, including Baird’s regular beers and seasonal releases. We really enjoyed our beers here and this place was among our preferred craft beer bars in Tokyo. 

Day 4.

We started our day exploring the Shimokitazawa neighborhood. We arrived quite early and had to wait a bit until all the shops opened around 10h – 11h. You’ll find an impressive amount of second-hand clothes shops here and can easily lose a full day just to try and visit all of them.

Hitachino Brewing Lab

After a quick lunch we headed to Hitachino Brewing Lab at Tokyo station. A very small place with a long wall bar table and a couple of other small tables for one or two persons. They had 8 beers on tap and 2 hand pumps. We were there in the early afternoon so the bar was quite calm. There was a soft loungy music playing in the background, perfect for relaxing before heading to Tokyo’s Grand Sumo Tournament.

We enjoyed a couple hours at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium. We had day tickets that actually allow you to attend for a full day – usually from 8h until 18h – with re-entry allowed only once. The top league wrestlers only start in the afternoon and this is also when the stadium fills up. It was our first experience watching professional Sumo. Each match is very short, lasting only a few seconds, which surprised us. The atmosphere was electric, with people cheering for their favorite wrestler. It was also very interesting to see the rituals before each match and gave us a glimpse of traditional Japanese culture.

Goodbeer Faucets

Our last stop of the day was at Goodbeer Faucets downtown. They offer more than 40 beers on draft, focusing mainly on Japanese and American beers. The venue is very spacious for Japanese standards, a square bar occupying the center with plenty of seating available. The mood was quite festive when we were there, a younger crowd making a lot of noise and mostly foreigner. Prices were standard for the area but they do offer ¥200 off during happy hour. The menu was well organized, categorizing beers per style and including a short description for each. Of course, available in English. 

Day 5.

Yona Yona Beer Works

Our last day in Tokyo was a rainy day. After some morning shopping Shinjuku, we took refuge in Yona Yona Beer Works across the road, the only bar serving craft beer open so early in the day. Yona Yona Beer Works is Yo-Ho Brewing’s official beer bar in Tokyo, with multiple locations around the city. The latest addition is their venue in Shinjuku. Although now more of a chain than real independent craft beer bars, we enjoyed our time spent there.

The bar is located on basement level and is very modern – all amber-colored, combining wood, metal and pipes. The space is divided into two areas, one where the counter is with high tables and a second more relaxed zone, featuring a fireplace with lower tables perfect to get cozy in this grey day. They served 10 Yo-Ho beers on tap, 7 regulars and 3 seasonal beers. Prices ranged from ¥450 for a Small to ¥950 for a Large glass.

Even though it was cloudy, we went up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building tower nearby. The observation decks give you a 360º view of the city at 202m high. We were lucky as the sky started clearing a bit after we got to the top.

In the afternoon we visited Koenji, another low-key neighborhood with an artistic vibe we totally recommend you to visit. You will find art, music, fashion and entertainment on every corner. Just start walking and get lost in the small streets. During the evening, the neighborhood lits up with an array of Izakaya and bars to choose from to eat, have a drink and dance well into the night.

Craft Beer Market

I stumbled upon the Craft Beer Market by chance, while Michele was out doing some record digging in a shop close by. Craft Beer Market is actually a chain of bars across Tokyo. The Koenji location has 20+ taps serving a great selection of Japanese craft beer. Prices ranged from ¥480 for a glass to ¥770 for a pint. It was already crowded when I arrived in the late evening, and I sat at the bar in a chilled out atmosphere. The only downside is that they have a table charge, but at least it includes a small appetizer.

Tap Stand

Back to Shinjuku for our last dinner, tempura, before heading to our hotel. While walking back to the train station we stopped by Tap Stand. It was crowded but we managed to get a small table in a corner. They had about 22 beers on tap, from both local and american breweries. The prices were quite high, plus there is a ¥300 table charge, so it is not for the low-budget travelers.

We had a good first impression of the different craft beer bars in Tokyo and the Japanese craft beer scene in our 5 days there… and it is huge!

There are so many bars we didn’t have a chance to visit and even more which we don’t even know their existence yet.

We are very pleased by what we discovered and it only adds on our desire to return one day.