The third in our series of curated drinking guides is the Kanda area of Tokyo, which is known for being the most densely popular craft beer area in Tokyo. There are 11 bars within a 5 minute radius of the Kanda station; however, that does include the small area of Awajicho to the west of the station. Behind Kannai (add link to guide here), Kannai is the second most dense area in the Kanto area, so what better place to start out Tokyo guides with Kannai.
With Kanda and the south part of Awajicho being located so close to each other, we’ve taken the liberty of including them on this guide – think of it as some extra exercise for you to work off those beer calories. Kanda is also lucky in that all of the places listed, besides one, have some very tasty food as well, so you won’t be left hungy.
- Short (2 hours)
- Medium (4 hours)
- Long (6+ hours)
Short (2 hours)
1 – CBM Kanda – DC Kanda – Kura Kura -AKA South Side Stroll aka The Foodie
With Kanda station splitting the area nicely into two parts – the north and south side – it seems fitting to then split the short tours into two sides – the north and south side. In all honesty, you could start at either one of these places and have a great time.
Craft Beer Market Kanda is the 10th iteration of the (slowly) expanding chain across the Kanto area, with all of them having a different focus on food. I’d start off here as you can have a couple of cheap pints of beers from the 30 taps on sale, along with some very tasty lamb-based food, such as gyoza or lamb sausages. The prices won’t break the bank either at CBM Kanda; however, you do have to deal with the dreaded table charge when you’re here, so best make the most of it and grab another beer. How many is that now?!
If you haven’t eaten, and I don’t blame you as this whole short tour has great food on it, then Devilcraft Kanda will get you for sure. The main problem is the amount of time it takes to get your pizza as they’re all freshly made to order, so order one as soon as you come in! DC Kanda, like the other branches in the chain, also has a happy hour of 100yen off a beer, so if you get in early enough, then you can have some cheap(er) beers from the 15 or so taps on sale. Get some of the in-house beers too; Devilcraft are an award-winning brewery. Make sure you do book however as it does get busy here.
The final (or first place depending on the way you are going) is Ji-Beer House Kura Kura. First located in Shimo-Kitazawa, Kura Kura, as its more commonly known as, is one of the oldest craft beer bars in the Kanda area, having opened in 2009. As such, it has a strong following with craft beer fans in Tokyo and often fills up quickly due to the happy hour on offer. While not the cheapest place in Kanda to pick up some beers, they do have a wide variety of beers on their 12 taps of craft beer, of which, they post daily to their Twitter feed (add link). Kura Kura is also known for having some of the best food found at a craft beer bar in Japan, so pig out here as well.
2 – Yona Yona – Tap x Tap – Himalaya Table -AKA Walk on the North Side
Perhaps the south side is too upmarket for you – with all the gentrification that has gone in the area, the north side may appear to have been passed over for craft beer bars, but do not fret. There are some places. This is perhaps the cheaper of the two short walking guides as well – not to say there is a compromise in quality though.
Yona Yona Beer Works Kanda – where to start?! A difficult choice here but it does something very well – so well that all the bars are pretty much identical to one another. And you can no doubt find the beers for cheaper in cans as well at your local Lawsons or other shop that has a tie up with Kirin or Yo-Ho Brewing. However, the food is reasonably priced and you can pick up some decent limited editions or special beers that aren’t readily available in the shops. The atmosphere can be a bit staid at times, but we’re only staying for one beer. Try to get some of the outside seats if the weather is good.
Now Tap x Tap – it seems to either not fall on people’s craft beer radar or is so tucked away that people skip past it. BUT DON’T!!!! Take the time to find it and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for it. It’s one of the cheapest places to drink in Tokyo that we’ve come across and also has a tap list specialising in beers from the western parts of Japan, such as the Chugoku and Kansai regions. If you like fried chicken, and which meat-eating person doesn’t?!, then you HAVE to get the fried chicken here. Screw the diet, get a portion or two to keep to yourself and your belly will thank you for it. Your arteries probably won’t mind, but it’s delicious and filling.
You’re probably hungry at this time if you haven’t eaten or maybe you’ve seen Himalaya Table is on the list. Make sure you have saved some space for this place as Himalaya Table has curry and craft beer on the menu! Perfection though the curry flavours may overpower the beer at times, the taplist is pretty varied for the 10 taps they have. Unlike other places on this short list, the prices at Himalaya Table do include tax, putting it at the mid-range of prices in Tokyo and also Kanda. Grab that curry, finish off your tour, and slip into the night with a fully belly (but partially filled wallet)
Medium (4 hours)
Tap x Tap – Maltan / Himalaya Table – CBM Kanda – BeerMa – DC Kanda – AKA Culinary Content
Perhaps you’ve got the time, and money, for something longer? Well think of this as the culinary tour of the area. A wide variety of food is available on this tour, with a great range of beers too. In fact, you may end up doing some extra walking just to burn off the calories from all the delicious food you’re going to consume.
Tap x Tap has to go on this list as it’s one of the cheapest places to start off with. The fried chicken will help line your stomach, though there are some, albeit more expensive, vegetarian options available. Stay for one, or two if you’re that inclined, and then more on. It’s going to be a long day and you don’t want to drink too much, too quickly.
Maltan is a funny little place. It’s located downstairs and is also smoking friendly – usually a no-go for most people. However, it’s when you get inside, down the small stairway and it opens up to an underground British pub. The tap list makes up for it so sit down for a couple and order up some plates of cheese and crackers. All that’s missing is a couple of bread rolls and some Branston pickle for a good, traditional British ploughman’s lunch.
Perhaps the smoking atmosphere puts you off, so alternatively head off to Himalaya Table, located a couple of minutes south of Maltan in Kanda. We’ve talked about their curry and beers before, but this is definitely a good place to get your boots filled with some grub. The Nepalese snacks on offer also help you drink more due to the saltiness of the snacks. If you fancy some of the smaller snacks, then the steamed curry dumplings and pakora are highly rated! Wash them down with a nice cool saison from Kyoto Brewing Company and you may just find yourself staying for a bit longer.
CBM Kanda is the third place on the list (fourth if you went to BOTH Maltan and Himalaya Table), and if you haven’t eaten, then now is also a good time. As mentioned previously, the Kanda branch of the CBM chain is mostly focussed on lamb, with their sausages, chops, and also gyoza being some particular favourites of ours. There is the dreaded table charge to contend with here, so it is worth staying for two beers at least – got to get value for your money!
Now the fifth place – BeerMa Kanda – is a contentious issue here, but we’ve include it as a place to get some souvenirs so your long journey home isn’t so long and sobering. Don’t be tempted to drink those bottles instore – you have to pay a corkage fee, and you know how we feel about them (add link to Soapbox). Instead, either grab a beer at the bar, or pick up some bottles and drink them on the way home. There’s plenty of beers to choose from on the second floor, and they’ve been kept in fridges as well.
DC Kanda. If you’ve been sensible and booked a table here then you should be ok, else you might be slumming it out front with a pizza on your lap. Also, a very good place to get a decent few slices of pizza to soak up all the alcohol you’ve had by now. The in-house beers come highly recommended (they’ve won awards you know!) and are reasonably priced for the Tokyo area. The end is almost in sight, well the station is, and you’ve got those beers from BeerMa to get you home. Just make sure you don’t get lost on the way back.
Long (6 hours+)
DC Kanda – Kura Kura – BeerMa – CBM Kanda – Himalaya Table – Tap x Tap – CBM Awajicho – AKA South to North, East to West
The big one! The one that will get you walking around the area with you getting your toes wet in the Awajicho area, albeit only briefly. You could start at either end of the tour, CBM Awajicho or DC Kanda, but we’d recommend the latter as that way you can book a seat and get a good meal inside of you before trekking off.
DC Kanda has been on all the tours so far and for good reason. The pizzas will fill you up, but the beers on tap will get you going. We’ve never had a bad drink or bad food at any of the DC locations, but with this one being the smallest, it’s also the hardest to get a table if you haven’t booked. So do that, settle in as you wait for the pizza to come along.
Kura Kura is another place you may have to book if you want to get the tour completed in one day but it is possible to stroll over from DC and get a seat. The wide variety of high quality of food, from small appetisers of pickles and chips and hams, to larger meals means the alcohol should well and truly be soaked up, giving you plenty of energy and oomph to soldier on.
BeerMa Kanda – go pick up some beers for the walking but to be honest, in Kanda you’re never far from a craft beer bar. It would be nice to pick up some souvenirs for loved ones, or something for the train journey home – if you’ve got a long one ahead. However, resist the temptation to drink in-store – it’s an extra cost you can avoid. Heck, pick up some bottles and just drink them outside the store if you want to be cheap and look like some drunken salarymen.
CBM Kanda is the first of the two CBM places on this list and for good reason. Cheap beer with a varied taplist. If feel like having two CBM’s on the list is overkill, then skip this one and carry on reading. It’s ok – no offence is taking. The small dishes here on offer will keep your energy levels up as you mooch around Kanda.
Himalaya Table – what more needs to be said about it? No table charge, free Wifi so you can look at this guide and keep up with Google Maps to see where you should be headed to next? And the curry! There are probably better places in Japan to get some – if so then please let us know in the comment section below – but very few places do this craft beer and curry better than here!
Tap x Tap is the penultimate stop on this mammoth crawl through Kanda and you have to be hungry by now. If you haven’t eaten (why not?! Are you mad?!) then pick up some slabs of fried chicken that will either empower you with salaryman spirit, or with grease to soak up that booze that is probably starting to take ahold of you. No table charge means Tap x Tap is one of the cheapest places to grab some beers in the area and give you that final spurt to reach the final bar.
CBM Awajicho is the (optional) final spot on this list for it being cheap and close to both Kanda and Awajicho stations. The outside does look like an old cinema complex, but inside is far more relaxed, with long benches stretching out from wall to wall, as well as some cheap beers. The opening hours are tough, so it might be best to do this one either first or on a weekday if possible. Grab some chips, make sure those bottles from BeerMa Kanda are still in your bag in one piece, and head off into the night.