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Most people go to Japan for the incredible culture, stunning scenery and high tech, futuristic city life. However, there is another apect of Japan that most visitors don't consider, the awesome "Japanese Nightlife". Going to Japanese clubs and bars is not something most people immediately think of when they think of travelling to Japan. There's a good reason for this as "going out" to a club or bar in a foreign country seems a bit... scary. Not "scary" as in dangerous (not at all in Japan!), but rather... un-familiar and "strange". You may think about being in a place with wild and partying people all loud and in a great mood but speaking in a language you don't understand. For Japan, this perception is completely wrong. There is absolutely nothing to be intimidated by, and when you get right down to it, Japanese clubs and bars are exactly the same as in any other country... in some ways they are a lot better. Not only that but Japanese are very friendly and may come up and offer to by you a drink and have some lively conservation!
The best part about nightlife in Japan is that it is a lot safer. If you've spent any time in the night club scene anywhere, you know that there could be danger lurking anywhere, but in Japan, it is extremely safe. Laws for drugs, violence, etc. are extremely strict so please be respectful and considerate even when partying or having some drinks. Also, if you are a "tourist", you don't want to come off as a "drunken idiot".
The larger cities like Tokyo and Osaka have huge nightclubs and dance clubs that are absolutely packed on the weekends. Expect to see some really pretty women and handsome men at these places. They usually have a cover charge (2 - 10 thousand yen) and drinks run about a 500 - 1000 yen. Take note however that if you plan on trying to "meet" somebody, it's not easy in these places as the music is loud, the crowds wild and most people (especially the women) go to the club to dance! Not... be picked up. Depending on the venue, famous DJ's may be on the schedule and or "Special Events".
"Foreigner Bars" (in the local lingo; "Gaijin Bar") are tagged this name because the main customers are X-Pats who live in Japan and visit these bars. In some of these places you may see very few Japanese. Most everyone in these places is speaking english (although most everyobody can speak Japanese) and chit chatting about the days work, sports or other topical subjects. The bars usually offer pretty good bar food, Western sports on the TV and a pool table. Usually there is no cover and drinks are cheap, around 500 yen.
Usually you don't see many foreigners in "normal" Japanese bars. This doesn't mean you are not welcome! To the contrary, Japanese love having foreigners come in to spice things up. Typically the bartender(s) can speak enough English to fullfill your order (but please be patient) and I'm sure a Japanese salary man with a couple drinks in him would love to talk to you! You may become the "star" of the bar. These bars also usually don't charge a cover but the drinks tend to cost more... between 800 - 2000 yen per drink. They also are usually a lot quieter and layed back than the Western versions.
Most tourist have never heard of or cannot even fathom this type of drinking establishment but this type of place goes back to the roots of the Japanese people. Think of old Japan... Samurai sitting around on Tatami with a couple girls sitting next to them pouring drinks, this is "traditional" drinking. That "old day" version has moved to the future with "Hostess Clubs" absolutely everywhere. No, the girls do not wear Kimono's (although in some places they do) but rather dress very nice and beautiful in trendy clothing. Something very important to note here... the girls are NOT "ladies of the night" and NO sexual activity or intentions at all. Quite the contrary these ladies are "Extreme" ladies, proper and well versed. What you "pay" for is companionship, conversation, a woman who will "listen" to your troubles, a woman who will treat you very nice and... beauty. So, ok... expect to pay a lot... make sure to have your credit card. A "typical" Hostess Club night may run you... 20,000 - 30,000 yen but if you visit a Ginza Club, better sell your car or have a BIG expense account. If you would like to visit a "Hostess Club", best to try an find a Japanese person to "Guide" you to the correct spot.
Pronounced "Ka - ra - o - ke", NOT "Ke - ri -o - ki" as the Americans say it. EVERYBODY does it, heck, it's fun! Especially after a few drinks to relax you. Take some friends, take some Japanese you just met! They'll show you a great time. Karaoke is cheap and great fun. Look left, look right and you'll see a Karaoke building. Typically you pay "per song" or "for an hour" which may run each person 1,000 - 2,000 yen and then you can order food (around 1,000 a plate) and drinks (800 - 1,500 a drink). Best to go with a group and belt your heart out... nobody will be listening anyways LOL. Not true, your friends and companions will always give you a nice round of applause to make you feel great! (even though you really don't know what they are thinking...).
"Izakaya" (pronounced "Iza - ka - ya") is an "Eating and Drinking" establishment in the old Japanse style. Typically you order lots of little dishes and try lots of things all the while drinking and talking away. Izakaya's are a SnapJapan.com recommendation and the Sites Owner's personal favorite. Want to experience the "Real" Japan? Find an old, traditional, wood Izakaya (or Yakitori shop too) to plop yourself down in. Order some drinks and some great food... the BEST place to relax, take it easy and talk away with new or old friends. If your lucky the group next to you will call you over and all the seats get re-arranged, meet even more new people, don't be shy! The food is excellent (sometimes you won't know what the heck your eating but give it a shot! It's usually great!), the beer is great and the atmosphere is awsome.
If your a "Tourist" and your wandering around the big city at night, very politely stop a couple Japanese people who look like they are enjoying themselves. Once again... very politely, and slowly ask, "I want to drink some beer"... maybe pull out a map and look confused. Don't be shocked if they smile, laugh and say, "come, come" and take you to a place to drink. Maybe buy them a drink, have a conversation and experience somthing new... that's what it's all about.
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