Let’s be honest – who hasn’t wanted to do a bar crawl around Tokyo at some point? And who hasn’t had the grand idea of doing one bar at each stop around the Yamanote line. At 29 stations, it’s debatable whether you could do it it one day. One weekend sounds more plausible. You could even walk between some of the bars for those people feeling energetic, but even if you did half pints at each, that’s still a lot of walking and boozing.
This guide follows the Yamanote line around anticlockwise for sake of numbering, with Tokyo station being #1. We do have some “rules” for our decision making:
- These bars are within five minutes of walking to each JR station on the Yamanote line.
- If the bar is part of a chain, then only one entry in total to include some variety.
- Some stations may not have any bars, so we’ve included some shops as well so you can drink and walk.
- JY-26 station has not been decided yet so that will come later.
- Please drink responsibly.
Let’s begin at
Why: Starting at Tokyo station, we’re going to Hitachino Brewing Lab. It might be a divisive choice; however, it’s just outside the barriers of the east side of Tokyo station. You can have a quick beer here, then jump onto the next Yamanote line train to Kanda. There are better options further afield but this is the closest.
Full Review: Hitachino Nest Brewing Lab Tokyo Station in Tokyo
Why: Kanda is chockablock with craft beer bars that offer up a wide variety of beers, many of which you can’t go wrong with. But Craft Beer Tap x Tap is perhaps the cheapest in the area and they have some great fried chicken and chips so you can fill yourself up with some food before moving on. The variety of beers also means you might end up staying for more than one.
Full Review: Tap x Tap in Kanda, Tokyo
Why: Akihabara doesn’t have much going for it in the area in terms of craft beer. And the northern part of the Yamanote line is a barren wasteland when it comes to craft beer. However, Nomono is inside the station barriers, so you can pop in and grab some beers for the long wilderness in the “sticks” of Tokyo.
Full Review: Nomono in Akihabara, Tokyo
JY04 – Okachimachi – Beer Bar Maru Maru
Why: We’re starting to get into the wilderness that is northern Tokyo and there isn’t much in the area. As such, it’s a pricey place if you’re going to stay and drink, so pop in for a small beer, then move on before you get too drunk.
Full Review: Beer Bar Maru Maru in Okachimachi
Why: Perhaps you didn’t get any food at Craft Beer Tap x Tap and you’re feeling peckish. Next time, listen to us, we’re worried about you. Anyway, stop off at Towa The World’s End for pint and some soba with tempura that will keep you going around the northern loop. Five beers in and energy may be sapping.
JY06 – Uguisudani – Yanaka Beer Hall
Why: A nice little beer hall that is suspiciously quaint, but offers up August Beer and some freshly baked bread. It’s tempting to stay here and relax for a few beers but keep moving and don’t sit in those comfy chairs for too long.
Full Review: Yanaka Beer Hall in Uguisudani
JY07 – Nippori – August Beer Hall
Why: August Beer managed to find a new place for their beers, and there isn’t much else in the area to pick up some craft beer. Try out their IPA and some of their double fried chips – once cooked in oil, then fried in butter. Oily but deliciously moorish.
Full Review: August Beer Hall
JY08 – Nishi-Nippori – Beer Pub Ishii
Why: The northern part of the Yamanote line really doesn’t have much so you’re going to have to stock up here on beer or hope that the next few places have something on offer. As such , Beer Pub Ishii isn’t cheap but staying for one, and one only!
Full Review: Beer Pub Ishii in Nishi-Nippori
JY09 – Tabata – Seijo Ishii
Why: There is nothing else here. Seriously. Tabata is the last bastion of non-craft beer places in Tokyo. So pick up some bottles here and then get the next train along.
Full Review: Seijo Ishii
JY10 – Komagome – Wine & Beer Harvest
Why: Dragging the bottom of the barrel here but Wine & Beer Harvest does have bottles of craft beer, so expect to pay some inflated prices.
JY11 – Sugamo – Moon Glow
Why: The only craft beer bar in the area means it’s an automatic given on this list. The biggest downside is the opening hours from 19:00 meaning you have to call in here towards the end of your evening.
Full Review: Moon Glow in Sugamo
JY12 – Otsuka – Titans
Why: Otsuka does have a couple of choices but Titans ticks a few that should be included. They have some Japanese domestic beers on tap, mostly from Ise Kadoya, TDM1874 and sometimes from Ushitora. They’ve also had some Be Easy Brewing and Shonan Beer on tap, so make sure you check their Twitter or Facebook pages. Even if they don’t have Japanese beer, they do have some cracking gyoza and imports to take away as well.
Full Review: Titans in Otsuka
Why: There are two or three other bars that could have made it onto this list, but Vivo! has a large number of taps with a decent amount of variety for even the hardened craft beer fan. It’s near the station too so not too much walking is necessary from the mess that is Ikebukuro station, but like many other places on this list, it’s easy to stay for just one more.
Full Review: Vivo! in Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Why: Mejiro has nothing besides Tanakaya – but what a shop. There is a wide range of beer from around the world here, with two fridges for Japanese craft beer as well. Tanakaya also has some limited edition beers that can’t be found elsewhere it seems, so stock up as the next couple of stations seem to be stuck in the wastelands of the domestic craft beer scene.
Full Review: Tanakaya in Mejiro, Tokyo
Why: It so easily could have been Baird Beer but our rules stipulate only one of each place, so Takadanobaba Bakushu Kobo it is. The beer leaves a lot to be desired but it is one of the better Beer Kobo places in Tokyo. The biggest plus for choosing Takadanobaba Beer Kobo is that the food is reasonably cheap and the portion sizes are large for what you pay for, so fill up your boots.
Full Review: Takadanobaba Bakushu Kobo in Takadanobaba, Tokyo
JY16 – Shin-Okubo – Kakeyasu (Shop)
Why: Shin-Okubo is another one of those stations that has nothing. Why? Well it’s located between two major stations for connections with Shinjuku to the south and Takadanobaba to the north. Moreover, Shin-Okubo is locally known as Korean Town due to all the Korean restaurants in the area. While we normally would just ignore this station, it’s part of the crawl so trundle off to Kakeyasu, a chain of discount alcohol stores, pick up a can of craft beer, then either get the train or walk to the next stop on our adventure, Shinjuku.
Why: Shinjuku station makes Ikebukuro’s look like an easy walk from A to B. I despise changing at, getting off at, or getting into Shinjuku station with a passion. So much so that I will do anything to avoid it. Tap Stand makes the area a little bit more worthwhile to go to as it’s right by one of the exits, thought I’m not sure which one. There is a decent selection of beers on tap at some normal prices at the time of writing.
Full Review: Tap Stand Craft Beer in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Why: There is nothing else in the area worthy of mention. Ok, you could say YYG but then you’d be inbetween two stations and Watering Hole is just such a much better choice all round. Decent selection of beers with some variety, staff that are knowledgeable about their beers, and a great beer flight offer too, so you can try more beers in the same amount of time for one pint.
Full Review: Watering Hole in Yoyogi, Tokyo
Why: Perhaps you need a break from the gaggling girls or the screeching seventeen-year-olds or the fashionista fans while in Harajuku. Baird Harajuku Taproom offers you something close to the station with some solid beers on tap all year round. Located near the Takeshita street, it’s easy to get to and they also have small, and of course large, beers on tap. So sit down, get some chicken, and enjoy.
Full Review: Baird Harajuku Taproom in Harajuku, Tokyo
Why: Again, time constraints. Shibuya has two or three decent craft beer bars you could go to (Mikkeller and Good Beer Faucets) but they are a bit further away then expected. So The Aldgate sneaks in – and deservedly so. A decent selection of beers on tap at reasonable prices. There is also some very tasty British food as well, such as pies and sausage rolls, so you can line your stomach.
Full Review: The Aldgate in Shibuya, Tokyo
Why: Ebisu has a couple of craft beer places to stop in at now, but Yona Yona Beer Works is the closest and also the cheapest for a single beer. While you could stop into Seijo Ishii to pick up one from their regular range, go along to Yona Yona Beer Works and try something from the limited edition range, or if you’re feeling brave, go for some of their barleywine they have on tap.
Full Review: Yona Yona Beer Works Ebisu in Ebisu, Tokyo
Why: It’s non-smoking and near the station, along with 8 taps of decent craft beer. The atmosphere does leave a lot to be desired as it was a tad cold and hipsterish at the time but it’s only one beer right? I would have preferred to have put Craft Beer House Dodo on here but at 10mins, it’s a bit out of the way for a quick beer.
Full Review: Another8 in Meguro, Tokyo
Why: Devilcraft was always going to make the list – it’s one of our favourite places to drink and eat in Tokyo. However, we could only pick one and the Gotanda branch makes the list. It has the best happy hour option out of the three locations and also the best choices of beer on tap. Just make sure you book as it gets busy at the weekend.
Full Review: DevilCraft Gotanda in Gotanda, Tokyo
JY24 – Osaki – Lawson’s
Why: Osaki has nothing worthy of mention to stop in at. It’s a weird station full of offices and train connections, but at the time of writing, was lacking any craft beer bars. Here’s where Lawson’s comes to the rescue. They have started selling the Yo-Ho Brewing range so pick up one of their regular beers here rather than the Yona Yona Beer Works and move onto Shinagawa.
JY25 – Shinagawa – Tameals
Why: Shinagawa does have some craft beer places but it’s a long walk to get through the station to get to any of them. So Tameals, located inside the barriers of JR Shinagawa station is perfect for a quick stop and go beer. The range isn’t great but it’s the most convenient place in the area.
Full Review: Tameals in Shinagawa
Why: Swan Lake Tamachi looks like a run down shop from the Edo era – well it’s supposed to right? However, the happy hour deal means stopping off here is a good option. Just make sure you go before 6pm, else you get stuck with a table charge. Craft Meat is just outside the 5 minute walk limit but if you fancy going there for a quick bite to it, then it’s worth it too.
Full Review: Swan Lake Tamachi in Tamachi, Tokyo
Why: Hamamatsucho has some good places near the station but The Lower Right wins out for its stupendously long happy hour that doesn’t seem to make sense. The major issue with The Lower Right is that food stops during the afternoon so get some grub from a convini. And also The Lower Right is supposedly smoking outside of food serving hours.
Full Review: The Lower Right in Daimon, Tokyo
Why: Shinshu Osake Mura is worth a quick stop in – ignore Craft Beer iBrew Shimbashi (even though it is a great place to go). Shinshu Osake Mura has a great selection of beer and snacks from Nagano at some of Tokyo’s cheapest prices. Even if you don’t feel like stopping in for one, at least get one or two to takeaway as souvenirs of this never before done trip.
Full Review: Shinshu Osake Mura in Shimbashi, Tokyo
Why: Craft Beer iBrew could be argued for starting off the dive bar craft beer phase in Japan. Go along and you could be mistaken for thinking that the building or shop are going to be closed soon. However, get over that and you’re in for a fun time. Cheap beers in a fun atmosphere with a decent selection of beers. And it’s located between Yurackucho and Tokyo station so you could walk to…
Full Review: Craft Beer Bar iBrew in Yurakucho/Ginza, Tokyo