LOCAL TOKYO BAR-HOPPING TOUR (Asagaya) (New! 3/26)

Create Your Own Pub Crawl in this Friendly Local Bar Neighborhood
[published March 2024]

After enjoying last year’s bar-hopping “Nomiya Festival” in Asagaya, Tokyo, we decided to visit the area again and explore more of the local bar scene. There is a local bar there with a connection to the drinking festival, Asagaya Annaijo, and the owner actually coordinates the festival and encourages the exploration of other bars around the area. The word annaijo loosely translates to “guidance spot,” and the friendly staff at Asagaya Annaijo is happy to provide tips on where to enjoy a drink or two in the area. With their recommendations, we compiled a list of six local bars around Asagaya Station (including Asgaya Annaijo to start off). Our list serves as a representation of the area’s offerings, but a visit to Asagaya Annaijo is perfect for creating your own tour of Asagaya as well, as they’ll be more than happy to give you guidance to other spots in the area.

ASAGAYA ANNAIJO

(Lemon Sours and Area Guidance)
Beyond being a great place to put together a tour of Asagaya's best drinking spots, Annaijo is a great place to start off the night. This friendly, local watering hole is known for its special lemon sours made with lemon-infused shochu (Japanese traditional hard liquor) they make on-site. They have a variety of different sours including; original dry, extra sour, salty lemon, apple cider vinegar (a personal favorite), and unsweetened black tea. They also have food menu items and, besides lemon sours, they also have drinks such as beer and other shochu cocktails. Annaijo is a standing bar and the fun community atmosphere makes it easy to get to know the locals. There is a large map on the wall you can look over while enjoying the first drinks of the night and plan out the rest of the evening.

Price:

Drinks from ¥490, Food from ¥200 (per dish)
Address:
3 Chome-37-6 Asagaya-minami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes on foot from JR Asagaya Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-6338-1965 (Japanese only)
Open:
5:00pm - 12:00am, Closed Mondays and the 3rd Tuesday of every month
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/asagaya.annaijo (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese and some speak basic English
  • no-smoking
  • no-credit-card

ONDORIYA

(Yakitori and Drinks)
Next, we headed up the street for yakitori, grilled chicken-skewers. Ondoriya is a Suginami staple with locations in both Asagaya and Koenji. This brightly lit place was the liveliest of all the spots we visited so it was a good place to get everyone ready for the evening. They have all the regular yakitori fare and the drinks to go along with it. This is a great place to stop in for a snack and a draft beer, or nama as it is often ordered in Japanese. They also have whisky highballs and a variety of other drinks and Japanese izakaya fare so you can definitely find what you want. While there is an "otoshi" table charge of 490 yen per person, you are treated to a hearty beef and daikon stew as an appetizer. English menus are also available so ordering should not be an issue if you are not familiar with Japanese. There are a variety of different kinds of yakitori to choose from with a choice between shio (salt), or tare (a special blend of sugar and shoyu, soy sauce). After reviving our spirits over yakitori and beer we headed over to a quieter and subtly stylish locale.

Price:

Drinks average ¥500-600, Chicken Skewers around ¥130-200 (each), Table charge ¥490
Address:
3 Chome-37-3 Asagaya-minami, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
2 minutes on foot from JR Asagaya Station, South Exit
Phone:
03-6915-1188 (Japanese only)
Open:
6:00pm - 4:00am
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/ondoriyaaaa_asagaya/ (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese, English Menu Available
  • take-out

MARUSUKE

(Wine Bar)
Though new to the area, it was obvious Marusuke has quickly become a local favorite. It was easy to recognize the lure of this quaint shop on the second floor off the Star Road area. The polished wooden stairs are adorned with wine bottles on each step and the style of the bar sets itself apart from the vibe at street level. The subdued atmosphere had a very sleek and tasteful design, natural tones and handsome wood accents. A table for larger parties is available next to two standing wine cooling units, but the best seating is at the bar, which fills the rest of the space. Kawabata-san, the owner and proprietor of Marusuke, has worked in the wine industry for several years before opening up this location. He has an impressive knowledge and a wide variety of wines from all over the world, though a majority are from Italy. To pair with the wine they only have a few appetizers, mostly Japanese-style otsumami, snack food while drinking. Most is a type of tsukemono or Japanese pickles. The atmosphere was very light and friendly and Kawabata-san, though he did not speak English, was very welcoming. He told us it was no issue for customers to pop in for a single glass of wine only. Single glasses range from 780 to 1200 yen depending on the bottle. Several kinds of whisky were also available as well as 12-13 beers from around the world. One final offering was Grappa (pomace brandy), which is a rarity outside of Italy. So even if you are not a wine lover, Marusuke has a lot to offer. After bidding farewell to Kawabata-san, we headed across the street to our next stop.

Price:

Drinks ¥780-1200, Food ¥350-490 (per dish), No table charge
Address:
2 Chome-12-5 Asagaya-kita, Suginami, Tokyo ( 2nd Floor)
Distance from Station:
3 minutes on foot from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-6822-7968 (Japanese only)
Open:
6:00pm - 12:00am midnight, Closed Sundays
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/marusuke0526/ (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only but all are welcome
  • no-smoking

TOM'S BAR

(Cat Bar)
If you are a cat lover and able to visit the Asagaya area of Suginami in Tokyo, Tom’s Bar is a great place to drop in for a drink on Star Road. They boast the rare position of being the only "cat bar" in Tokyo. You may have heard of the well-known cat cafés in Tokyo, but they don't have beer or almost any other alcoholic beverage you might desire. Tom’s has a seemingly endless drinks list (likely the most of any other bar in Asagaya!), but the real draw is, of course, the cats themselves. The entrance to this basement bar is covered by a small white gate to thwart any cats escaping, but it seemed unnecessary as all of the 28 or so felines seemed content. If you find the small white gate locked there is a doorbell just above the entrance. A small word of caution, this is a basement bar full of cats so there is an odor that goes along with that, but it is by no means overwhelming. It was surprisingly mild and I quickly grew accustomed to it. Also be weary if you have allergies. Get some snacks and you will soon have the cats eating out of your hand, literally. Most of the animals are quite docile and content to lounge and be endlessly loved, but many of the younger cats were eager to play and jump at the many toys available. The cats were too fun and we had a hard time leaving, so when I saw the nomi-hodai (all-you-can-drink) menu, it made sense. If you stay for an hour, the special all-you-can-drink deal is 2500 yen, which includes the table fee and tax. Well worth it if you were planning to have more than one drink. Just be aware that since the cats roam freely there is no food offered here, though you are allowed to bring in if you're careful with no extra charge. Also smoking is allowed here so if you smoke just be careful around the cats.

Price:

All-You-Can-Drink ¥2500 for one hour
Address:
2 Chome-2-7 Asagaya-kita, Suginami, Tokyo (Basement)
Distance from Station:
2 minutes on foot from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-3338-7707 (Japanese only)
Open:
7:00pm - 5:00am, Closes irregularly
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/toms.bar/ (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only but all are welcome

TABI SALON UMIKKO HACHINOHE

(Aomori Nihonshu and Cuisine)
The next stop was Umikko, an Aomori themed bar specializing in the sake or nihonshu of Aomori, especially the Hachinohe area (Aomori prefecture is the northernmost area on the main island of Japan). This second-floor location is right by Asagaya station, very inviting and surprisingly spacious enough to often host live music events. The night we visited there was a piano performance, but they also have guitar and shamisen (Japanese 3-string banjo-like instrument) performances. There is plenty of seating. Rows of tables reach toward the back of the room while comfortable bar seating toward the front would suit individual patrons. The owner of Umikko also manages a travel agency in Hachinohe, Aomori, where he is from, so he is very knowledgeable and friendly. A large display behind the bar plays a loop of beautiful scenes from Aomori and the whole atmosphere is quite compelling. You may find yourself wanting to visit the region afterward and for good reason. The nihonshu from Aomori we tried was a light, dry variety with very subtle and distinct characteristics that paired well with the smoked saba or mackerel (880 yen), another specialty of the area. The flavorful smoked fish excellently complimented the smooth taste of the sake.

Price:

Nihonshu (glass) around ¥840, Smoked Mackerel around ¥880
Address:
2 Chome-13-4 Asagaya-kita, Suginami, Tokyo (2nd Floor)
Distance from Station:
1 minute on foot from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
03-5364-9395 (Japanese only)
Open:
Open Daily 5:00pm - 11:00pm (Closes at 9:00pm on Sundays)
Website:
https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1319/A131905/13254522/ (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese only but all are welcome
  • no-smoking
  • wifi

OLLA

(Mexican Drinks and Food)
The weather was nice so, to finish off the tour, we decided to take a short stroll to the next spot. Olla (pronounced "Oja") is a Mexican-influenced bar with an upbeat vibe, great food, and even greater craft drinks. They opened in May of 2023 so they are relatively new to the area. The bar itself is inviting and friendly. There are eight seats at the bar and two tables up front so it is no problem to drop in, either with friends or on your own. They have four craft beers on tap from And Beer Brew Pub in Koenji, craft gin from Yamanashi, and craft Mescal from several different regions in Mexico. It was hard to resist the urge to sample all of the offerings and none disappointed. Most of the food options ranged from 300 - 500 hundred yen and it was fun pairing them with the various drinks. The best deal was a flight of Mescal (1200 yen) to compare each of the different regions, one from Durango, Michoacan, and Oaxaca. Each had a distinct flavor created from different agave native to that region, that we enjoyed with the variety of delicious tacos we tried. It was a flavorful experience and highly recommended. Also, if you come early, happy hour is from 5:00 - 6:30pm.

Price:

Tacos ¥350-500, Tostadas ¥450-500, Mescal 3-drink Tasting ¥1200
Address:
2 Chome-36-1 Asagaya-kita, Suginami, Tokyo
Distance from Station:
4 minutes on foot from JR Asagaya Station, North Exit
Phone:
090-3829-4967 (Japanese only)
Open:
Wed.-Thu. 5:00pm - 10:30pm, Fri. 5:00pm - 11:00pm, Sat. 12:00pm - 11:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 9:00pm, Closed Mon. & Tue.
Website:
https://www.instagram.com/olla_andbeer_asagaya/ (external link)
Communication:
Staff speak Japanese and some speak basic English
  • no-smoking
  • disable-access
  • wifi

In Conclusion

The Asagaya area has a lot to offer anyone looking to have a night out, and as the place that hosts the Asagaya Nomiya Matsuri, most places are very welcoming to all kinds of people, so don't be shy. Just be open-minded and the shops will be open to having you! These are only a few of the places that are around Asagaya station. Asagaya Annaijo has a lot more suggestions and their intention to garner a sense of community among the local bars by encouraging customers to visit several places and interact with one another is an admirable endeavor. Exploring the area is much easier with their help and you would have no problem visiting several different bars every night. You may just find your next favorite drinking spot in Tokyo huddled in some out-of-the-way location you may never have found otherwise.


writer: Joel
photographer: I. Fukuyama
planner, illustrator: Greg