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Rooftop Bar
Rooftop Bar

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Drinking Above the 40th Floor

Tokyo's high-rise bars are the best way to literally see the city

New York Bar (Tokyo Park Hyatt)
The New York Bar, on the 52nd floor of the Tokyo Park Hyatt, has become a magnet for tourists seeking the dreamy, sleepless Tokyo portrayed in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. But roleplaying an adrift Scarlett Johansson (or Bill Murray) is hardly the only reason to visit this New York-themed bar: It occupies the top levels of one of architect Kenzō Tange’s great Tokyo skyscrapers, and its interior is a sophisticated alignment of dark wood, subtly reflective surfaces, and an enormous pair of exuberant paintings by Italian artist Valerio Adami.

The bar may offer the largest selection of U.S. wines in Japan and an impressive list of spirits, but the cocktails are what you want (even if they sometimes skew a little too sweet). These include unexpected standouts such as the Carnegie Hall, with coffee-infused Grey Goose, white chocolate, and beet juice, or the refreshing L.I.T., with sake, sakura liqueur, Peachtree, and cranberry juice.

The view — unobstructed and sweeping — is one of the best in Tokyo. Leave before 8 p.m. (7 p.m. on Sundays) to avoid the ¥2,400 cover charge for the nightly jazz performance, or head to the more relaxed Peak Lounge on the 42nd floor, with its central bamboo garden. Cocktail explorers should ask for the ¥5,400 Peak of Joy set, which lets you sample an unlimited supply of the lounge’s mixed drinks for two hours.

3−7−1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
TEL: +81 (0)3 5323 3458

The New York Bar at the Park Hyatt

The Lobby Lounge & Bar (The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo)
The Ritz-Carlton has one of Tokyo’s priciest hotel rooms and its most ridiculous cocktail: a ¥2,000,000 martini with a one-carat diamond resting at the bottom. But don’t let the opulence of the Ritz distract you from the bar. Once the elevator doors open on the 45th floor, ignore the gold-accented artworks, the waterfall running down one wall, and the crystal-dripping chandeliers. Head straight for the far side of the lobby and sink into a soft chair beside the double-height windows with a view of central Tokyo.

The bar's whisky, wine, and cocktail menus are filled with a few surprises, such as Nikka’s rare Taketsuru 25-year-old whisky; a glass at the Ritz goes for ¥6,000. Cocktails, such as the Purple No. 3, with butter-infused dark rum, purple potato paste, fresh cream, sesame paste, and cinnamon, average around ¥2,500 and feature seasonal fruits, vegetables, or herbs.

9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku
TEL: +81 03 6434 8711

Garcon Pub
Just when you’re getting a sense of what a skyscraper bar in Tokyo looks like, the Garcon Pub steps in, puts a feather boa around your neck, and dedicates a ballad to you. Almost every night at this 49th-floor bar, drag queens in kimono, spacesuits, and police uniforms perform an ecstatic cabaret that calls to mind Tokyo’s flamboyant, cash-fueled glory days of the late 1980s. For ¥2,000 you can secure a seat beside the stage, where you can order a drink — wine, beer, or a classic cocktail — or basic fare (steak, sausages, salads, and pizza are all on the menu) before the show starts.

Afterward, try the Wine Bar, a simple bistro on the 50th floor of the same building with reasonably priced New World wines and a boisterous atmosphere at weekend dinners. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch another kind of performance here: the nightly raising of the venetian blinds. The lights are dimmed and the music turned up as the view reveals your place at the centre of Shinjuku’s skyscraper district.

2-6 Sumitomo Building, Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
TEL: +81 03 3344 6591

The Peak Lounge at the Park Hyatt | Photo by Irwin Wong

Rooftop Bar (Andaz)
One of Tokyo’s youngest skyscrapers is also currently one of its tallest. Opened in 2014, Toranomon Hills rises to 255.5 meters, with boutique luxury hotel Andaz occupying the uppermost levels. The hotel echoes the interior design of the legendary, recently demolished lobby from the Hotel Okura Tokyo through a mix of ’60s minimalism and traditional Japanese craftsmanship, with polished natural wood fixtures that beg to touched. Further testing your senses is the hotel’s indoor-outdoor Rooftop Bar on the 52nd floor, which offers unobstructed views of Odaiba, Rainbow Bridge, and Tokyo Bay. Electric blankets are provided in winter, and sea breezes flow through in summer.

The exhaustive drinks menu features cocktails by Andaz’s award-winning bartender Ryuichi Saito, including Smokey Live, a redoubtable blend of earl grey-infused sweet vermouth, Caol Ila 12-year-old whisky, cherry liqueur, and cherry bitters for ¥1,850. Outdoor couches, arranged like puzzle pieces close to the windows, give couples a modicum of privacy — just a modicum, since you’re sitting on one of the city’s most conspicuous rooftops, after all.

Andaz, 1-23-4, Toranomon, Minato-ku
TEL: +81 03 6830 7739

Irwin Wong

Cocktail at the Rooftop Bar at Andaz Tokyo

Skytree Cafe
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa may be taller, but nothing compares to the view from the world’s second-tallest structure: Tokyo Skytree. From 350 meters up, the city looks like an undulating carpet by day; by night, a bioluminescent sea.

There’s no fancy cocktail bar at this altitude, but there is a friendly cafe with a neon-lit counter on the 340-meter level. Here you can sip on a glass of ice-cold Asahi Super Dry or sparkling wine and watch lantern-covered boats float in slow motion along the Sumida River while cars rush along the city’s more modern veins. In a city of incredible views, this one will ruin you for the rest.

Tokyo Skytree, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku
TEL: +81 03 5809 7686

Cameron Allan McKean is an editor, writer, contributor to The Japan Times and co-founder of Too Much: Magazine of Romantic Geography. He is based in Tokyo.

Irwin Wong is a professional photographer based in Tokyo but originally from Melbourne. He specializes in portrait and documentary photography.

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View all stories in The Eater Guide to Tokyo