Tokyo's best no-smoking bars
Tokyo is known for its thriving bar scene -- its eclectic, stimulating, incredibly smoky bar scene.
After all, a country where the government owns a 50 percent stake in the largest cigarette supplier (Japan Tobacco) will always be thus.
But, there’s a small and growing number of establishments that let you get your drink on without taking a chaser of carcinogen-loaded smoke. Better yet, many specialize in quality brews that wouldn’t disgrace a German bierkeller.
To cater for all tastes, we’ve included standard pub-style boozers, Western wine bars and smoke-free Japanese izakaya. Time to focus those alcohol-digesting enzymes on this list of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars, in no particular order.
1. The Aldgate
Tokyo’s craft beer scene has kicked into high gear over the last few years, which is good news for brew lovers. Apparently taking a cue from American brewpubs, the majority of them ban smoking, which is good news for non-smokers.
This lovably grungy pub has a staff and a beer list that’s hard to beat. Of course, there are downsides -- the bar's packed way beyond capacity most nights and there's definitely an element that could use another squirt or two of deodorant.
Oh, and the gang of cupped-hand smokers right in the doorway are actually still pretty annoying. Can't have it all, eh? Still, The Aldgate is one of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars.
Nearest station: Shibuya
Monday - Friday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Weekends and holidays, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
2. Baird Taprooms
Some of the best craft beer in Japan comes from Baird Brewing, and its taprooms are the best places to sample it. Best part: they have three different outlets in different parts of town.
If there's any downside to one of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars, it's that the shops have a slightly bright and chain-y feel compared to other, solo-run operations.
That and a desperate need for a DJ; the endless loop of American radio alt-rock tunes the day we visited left us with a serious Nineties hangover.
Nearest station: Nakameguro, Harajuku, or Kannai.
Open every day, 5 p.m.-midnight
This trendy, airy basement hangout offers a legendary number of hard-to-find American beers on tap and in bottles, not to mention the best selection of bourbon in the city.
Selection, style and smoke-free ... there's got to be a catch, right? Smaller than Imperial-sized pints and import prices mean the bill here can hurt worse than any hangover. Regardless, it's one of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars.
Nearest station: Shibuya
Closed Mondays. Tuesday - Saturday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Sunday and holidays, 3 p.m.-10 p.m.
A cozy little shack of a bar with an amazing selection of American and Japanese taps and bottles.
The only downsides to one of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars are that it has about as much floor room as a kid's treehouse, and being located directly beneath the tracks, the outdoor patio necessitates screaming to be heard as the trains hurtle overhead every few minutes. HUH? CAN YOU REPEAT THAT?
Nearest station: Shimbashi
Closed Sunday and third Saturday of every month. Monday - Friday, 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m.- 10 p.m.
5. Les Vinum
Cozy -- just 16 seats, not including the counter. Located in the heart of Expat Central -- uh, we mean, Hiroo -- the English website and English-speaking staff make this a great spot for monolingual wine-lovers and one of Tokyo's best no-smoking bars.
Nearest station: Hiroo
Closed Monday. Tuesday - Sunday, 6 p.m.-midnight
Don't let its location in the suburbs fool you. Opened just last June, this "secret spot" is enjoying a growing reputation among younger wine lovers... And a packed reservation book to match. Don't even dream about showing up without calling ahead to reserve seats first.
Nearest station: Nishi-Ogikubo
Closed Tuesday and fourth Monday of every month. Wednesday - Monday, 5 p.m.-midnight
7. Aka Mame
Yakitori joints without thick clouds of smoke and tobacco-stained walls are a rare breed. The only smoke you’ll smell in here is the delectable scent wafting from the grill.
The warm, wooden interior and classic menu are a great way to experience the izakaya aesthetic without taking in the usual lungful of tobacco smoke. A word of caution: the handwritten Japanese menus may necessitate some guessing and pointing if you can't read the language.
Nearest station: Gotanda
Open daily, 5 p.m.-midnight
8. Hi no Oto, Mizu no Oto
Located atop the famed Ebisu Garden Place building, it offers great views of the city. It also offers prices to match; truth be told this is almost too upscale to really call an "izakaya," but hey -- think of it as the sort of place to impress a non-smoking date.
Make sure to call ahead if you want to guarantee a spot by the windows, as they fill up quickly.
Nearest station: Ebisu
Open Daily, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
9. Hop Duvel
A yakitori joint with a twist: a wide selection of Belgian beers. Yes, you'll pay for the privilege -- you always do, when it comes to import brews here -- but there are few other izakaya in the city that serve up classics like Vedett or Sapporo Edelpils alongside the usual yakitori.
If there's any downside, it's that it closes early -- 11 p.m. on Fridays and just 10 p.m. on Saturdays, as do most bars in this hard-weekday-drinkin' area of Tokyo.
Nearest station: Shimbashi
Closed Sunday. Monday - Friday, 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Tamanegi-ya is a neighborhood izakaya with an emphasis on sake, located somewhat off the beaten path in what seems to be a residential area of Kagurazaka.
Did we mention "emphasis on sake?" It's so strong, you'd be better off choosing elsewhere if rice wine isn't your tipple of choice.
A defiantly funky choice in one of the city's most upscale gourmet areas, the bar's tagline is "Kagurazaka's Least Stylish Bar," which you just have to respect.
Nearest station: Kagurazaka
Closed Monday. Tuesday - Saturday, 6:30 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m.