Dogenzaka in Shibuya:
Tokyo's Hippest Entertainment District

An area once known for its love hotels has become the playground of Tokyo's trendiest night crawlers.

by Jack Song



Dogenzaka in Shibuya:
Tokyo's Hippest Entertainment District

hen contemplating a night on the town in Tokyo, bear in mind that it is a metropolitan area of 14 million dyed-in-the-wool urbanites who take their nightlife much more seriously than the rest of the world. Living in homes about a third the size of comparably affluent citizens elsewhere, Tokyoites never entertain at home. Instead, they devote a sizeable chunk of their disposable incomes to evenings on the town. Consequently, Tokyo after dark is an endless neon smorgasboard, offering a bewildering variety of entertainment districts to fit every wallet and taste.

     Looking to reprise the days when fatcat executives charged fabulous drinking binges to corporate expense accounts? Head over to the Ginza with a stack of ten-thousand yen notes. Yearning for the quaint sights, sounds and smells of traditional Japan? Spend an evening in Asakusa. Craving the shameless commercialism of giant neons, crush of anonymous strangers and red-light districts swarming with bathhouses, strip joints and pachinko parlors? Head over to Shinjuku's gaudy Kabukicho. Want to watch exhibitionistic young Tokyoites gather into well-choreographed hiphopping, breakdancing or jitterbugging tribes? Check out Harajuku on a weekend afternoon. Want to drink and dance in the company of English-speaking westerners? By all means, head for Roppongi.

Shibuya Crossing at dusk is one of Tokyo's most thrilling sights, thanks to several immense video screens and crowds of young revelers emerging from the subway. The Crossing is just in front of the Shibuya station's Hachiko exit.


     If you're lucky enough to have several nights in Tokyo, do all of the above. But if you're limited by time and energy, experience a night on the town among Tokyo's trendiest young people.

     Vibrant Shibya in the southwestern section of downtown Tokyo is the ward that attracts hip students and young professionals with the time and money to devote to fashion, food and frolic. By day it's a bustling shopping area dotted with stylish coffee shops and restaurants. By night it blossoms into an entertainment mecca for Tokyo's hippest, most adventuresome residents, as well as a visible contingent of foreigners in the know. Forming the backbone of Shibuya's nightlife scene is Dogenzaka, a street sometimes known as “Love Hotel Hill” for the many tiny inns that accommodate amorous couples in search of privacy. The district still has more than its share of love hotels, strip clubs and sex shops, but in the past decade it has evolved toward lively pubs, hip bars, avante-garde live houses and posh dance clubs.

     It makes sense to start your night at one of Shibuya's izakaya, Japanese pubs. They typically serve tasty Japanese, Corean (Korean) and fusion-style convenience foods along with beer, sake and cocktails. A good dinner and a couple of drinks will cost about 3,000 yen ($30).


2-16 Maruyama-cho, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku

     This is one of Tokyo's biggest, slickest clubs, designed to be sizzling hot and kept that way by the team that brought you New York's Twilo. Womb offers top DJs, a varied assortment of live music, hi-tech sound system and a huge dance floor. Considering all that, the 3,500-yen cover charge (which includes two drinks) isn't bad, especially by Tokyo standards.

Club Asia
1-8 Maruyama-cho, Shibuya-ku

     This club/restaurant complex has become a Shibuya mainstay for techno, trance and house. But it sometimes devotes nights to jazz, rock and even oldies. The presentation is warehouse, with well-worn rails where you can rest your drinks and elbows. From Dogenzaka's Central Hotel, go north past a couple of short blocks of love hotels. The club has a lower percentage of westerners than most Shibuya clubs. It doesn't open until 11 p.m. but stays open until 5 a.m. for those who don't want to spend big bucks on a taxi. PAGE 2

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“Forming the backbone of Shibuya's nightlife scene is Dogenzaka, a street sometimes known as ‘Love Hotel Hill’ for the many tiny inns that accommodate amorous couples in search of privacy.”

This back alley off Dogenzaka Street features a mix of pubs, eateries and strip clubs, as well as the anonymous love hotels that were once the district's claim to fame.


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