Ueno is an area that is particularly famous among Japanese people who love drinking alcohol. It is filled with tachinomi-ya (a type of bar where people drink while standing) that are open from the early morning, specialty izakaya (Japanese-style taverns), and unique bars. If you’re looking to experience Japan’s unique atmosphere and food culture, it is the perfect spot for bar hopping. To write this article, a couple of alcohol-loving writers set out on an actual pub crawl around Ueno! Find out which famous or unique bars and taverns they set their sights on.
1. Enjoy Motsuyaki at Motsuyaki Daitoryo Shiten
The first bar that they visited is one that is extremely popular with tourists in Japan - Motsuyaki Daitoryo Shiten! This bar specializes in motsuyaki (roasted offal) that are priced from as low as 180 JPY (incl. tax) for two sticks. It often gets packed with customers as soon as it opens at 10:00 am. To experience this for themselves, the writing team visited this place in the morning.
You’ll find a long counter inside this spacious tavern that gives off a casual, liberating vibe.
After making themselves comfy at the counter, they ordered beer and the Motsuyaki Moriawase Omakase (5-kushi) (450 JPY (incl. tax)), which was an assortment of five sticks of motsuyaki that were selected by the chef. They noticed that the Homemade Potato Salad (320 JPY (incl. tax)) ordered by the customer beside them looked delicious, so they ordered that, too.
From the right, the assortment of motsuyaki comprised of pork cheek, large intestine, liver, uterus, and heart. Everything was freshly grilled and looked so good!
To add flavor, you can choose between a sauce or salt. The writers picked the sauce. The soy sauce-based sauce was moderately sweet and tasty. Taking bites of the potato salad in-between, they quickly ate up all the motsuyaki.
Once they finished everything, they ordered another round of beer and paired that with the Hyuga Jidori no Shioyaki (400 JPY (incl. tax) for two sticks), which consisted of Hyuga chicken grilled with salt. It was incredibly delicious, with just the right amount of salt! Apparently, this dish is really popular with tourists, too.
They also ordered the Daitoryo Tokusei Nikomi (420 JPY (incl. tax)) - a special dish consisting of stewed innards! After asking the shop’s manager, they got permission to take a photo of the huge pot as it boiled. Usually, this dish makes use of beef offal. However, this restaurant substitutes it with horse offal, which are stewed with konnyaku (yam cake) and tofu. Non-Japanese customers rarely order this dish, but it’s incredibly delicious, so tourists should definitely try it!
This restaurant is recommended to those who want to take in a vibrant pub atmosphere.
※English menus are available
2. Head to Bunraku For Yakitori in Ueno
The second bar that they checked out was the famous yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) bar, Bunraku, which can be found under the railway tracks in Ameyoko. It is extremely atmospheric, with staff grilling the yakitori in the center of the counter.
First, they ordered the unusual Shio Sour (460 JPY (incl. tax)), which makes use of premium Camargue salt. They also asked for the Omakase Gohon-mori (850 JPY (incl. tax)) - a platter of five yakitori sticks that were chosen by the chef.
The Shio Sour was a drink that they could easily drink over and over again, thanks to its refreshing taste from the lemon and salt.
The yakitori platter contained large and hearty servings of yakitori and tsukune (chicken meatball skewers), which were made with carefully prepared Daisen chicken from Tottori. They were full of umami (Japanese savory taste) and exceptionally filling!
The Shio Cabbage (320 JPY (incl. tax)) - a dish of fresh cabbage that’s eaten with dressing made from sesame oil, salt, and soy sauce - was the perfect palate cleanser!
They didn’t forget to order the shop’s famous Gyu-motsu Nikomi (450 JPY (incl. tax)). The stewed beef innards and tofu in the dish were truly delicious!
With their second glass of Shio Sour, their final order consisted of yakitori dishes recommended by the manager: the Miso Ninniku (340 JPY (incl. tax) for two sticks) and the Ninniku Dare (340 JPY (incl. tax) for two sticks). Featured left in the photo, the Miso Ninniku came with a thick sauce made from miso, garlic, and leeks that anyone would get addicted to. On the right, the Ninniku Dare included a garlic sauce that had a salty sweet taste, with a hint of garlic. Both versions were so delicious that the writing team wanted to get at least two more plates!
This bar is recommended to those who have not yet tried Japanese yakitori, as well as to those who love yakitori.
※English and Chinese (simplified) menus are available
3. Experience an Izakaya! Drop by Juraku
For their third bar, they visited Juraku - one of Ueno’s long-established izakaya. Enjoy leisurely dining and drinking in its Japanese-style interior.
The very first thing they did was toast with a super cold glass of Asahi Extra Cold Beer!
From the extensive menu, the writing team ordered dishes recommended by the manager. Namely, the Saigo-don (1,200 JPY (excl. tax)), Saba Haiboshi (500 JPY (excl. tax)), and Namauni-iri Dashi Makitamago (800 JPY (excl. tax)).
Look at the mountain of toppings on the Saigo-don! This famous donburi (rice bowl topped with various ingredients) was created based on the statue of one of the most influential samurai in Japanese history, Saigo Takamori, that stands inside Ueno Park. It is a great-value dish, as you can enjoy various flavors all at once, including braised pork belly, mentaiko (spicy pollack roe), sweet potato, satsuma-age (deep-fried fish paste), spinach, soft-boiled egg, and teriyaki chicken (grilled chicken with a soy sauce and sugar glaze)!
This is the Namauni-iri Dashi Makitamago. It consists of an omelet wrapped around fresh and raw sea urchin.
Full of flavor, the grilled saba (mackerel) was also exquisite. This dish was suggested to the writing team, who wanted to drink sake (Japanese rice wine), by the manager.
From the left, the sake in the photo are the rare Juyondai, the world-famous Dassai, and Jurakudai - a Kyoto sake.
Fill your glass to the brim and compare these sake! Although they’re all sake, they each taste different. For example, one may have a refreshing taste, while the other tastes sweeter when sipped. The Dassai was especially easy to drink.
One of the staff members, Usami, can speak seven languages. This means that izakaya novices need not worry!
Usami (left) and the manager (right).
Inside the bar, there is a cutout board for Instagram users. The manager kindly taught the writing team how to use it. Drop by this izakaya and upload a photo of your experience on Instagram!
※English and Chinese (traditional) menus are available
4. Stand While Savoring Seafood Dishes and Drinks at Fubuki!
Afterwards, the team still wanted to drink, so they went to Fubuki, a tachinomi-ya that prides itself on its seafood dishes. Here, you can savor delicious seafood prepared in various ways - sashimi, grilled, stewed, and more!
They ended up ordering beer and the Sashimi Santen-mori, which was supposed to be a platter consisting of three types of sashimi. What came, however, was a plate with five kinds of extremely fresh sashimi (390 JPY (incl. tax))! The tuna was especially fatty.
After the team of writers raved about how cheap and delicious everything in the bar was, the friendly manager recommended various dishes to them. Though they found it difficult to decide from the extensive menu, which included baked oysters, tuna tekka-don (rice bowl with tuna sashimi on top), and grilled fish, they ultimately decided on the Tako no Chanja (390 JPY (incl. tax)) - a dish of octopus entrails in a spicy sauce - and Cheese Omelet (390 JPY (incl. tax)).
Sipping beer while nibbling on the slightly spicy octopus entrails was a magical experience.
Look at how hefty the Cheese Omelet was!
The customer beside the writing team even let them try the Hokki-gai no Marine (390 JPY (incl. tax)), which was a dish of marinated surf clams! Encounters like these are what make tachinomi-ya great.
Fubuki hasn’t been frequented by many tourists yet, but it is still a popular store in Japan that people normally have to line up to enter. You may find it difficult to enter at first, but once you do, you’ll surely have a great time! It cannot fit large groups, so come with a small group and stay for a short while!
It doesn’t offer menus in other languages, so if you decide to visit, remember these Japanese words: “Biiru” for beer, “Nihon-shu” for sake, “Sashimi Santen-mori” for the sashimi platter, and “Omuretsu” for the omelet.
5. Try Visiting a Japanese Bar at mr.kanso Ueno Okachimachi Branch
Now, how about a bar where they serve unique snacks? There’s a bar called “mr.kanso Ueno Okachimachi Branch” that is known for its canned food and alcohol. It’s located on the 3rd floor of the building in front of Fubuki.
You will be overwhelmed by the racks of canned goods that will greet you as soon as you enter. They have standard canned goods like canned yakitori and boiled mackerel, as well as several rare ones.
The bar is set up with both counter and table seating, making it easy for solo customers to enter. It offers around 100 types of alcoholic drinks, including beer, Japanese whisky, and cocktails.
First, the group of writers sat at the counter and made a toast!
For snacks, they ordered the canned bear - a dish that’s popular among tourists - and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). They also decided to get a few rare canned dishes, namely inago (grasshoppers) and salmon heart!
Kumaniku Yamato-ni (1,500 JPY (incl. tax))
The canned bear was seasoned with a miso-based sauce that included bamboo shoots and ginger. Despite it being their first time to try bear meat, the writing team found it unexpectedly delicious.
The inago looked grotesque, so the writers were hesitant to eat it. However, trying it made them discover that it was a perfect accompaniment for alcohol! It had a shrimp-like texture and a strong flavor that came from the soy sauce-based seasoning.
Inago (650 JPY (incl. tax))
Reheated Takoyaki (550 JPY (incl. tax))
The Salmon Heart (800 JPY (incl. tax)) was chewy and had a soy sauce taste that would make anyone want to drink more. Note that you can purchase the canned goods here as souvenirs!
The owner, pictured here, used to be a professional boxer.
※English menus are available
This bar is located on the 3rd floor. Look out for the signboard when visiting!
6. Have Your Fill of Delicious Whisky at STANDING BAR PARE
The final bar that they visited was STANDING BAR PARE. The 1st floor of this establishment is a tachinomi-ya; the second floor is a space with table seating; and the 3rd floor is comprised of a full-fledged bar. They have more than 100 types of alcohol (prices start at 350 JPY (incl. tax) per glass), including a long list of whiskies - Japanese whisky being one example. They also serve up creative dishes that go well with whisky.
The writing team’s first order was beer. The carefully poured beer had a creamy and fine foam. Beer lovers won’t be able to get enough of it!
For snacks, they chose to order Edamame (300 JPY (incl. tax)), which refers to green soybeans; Tako no Karaage (550 JPY (incl. tax)) - a dish of deep-fried octopus; and Spain Salami (400 JPY (incl. tax)). They also asked for the Nara-zuke Cheese (500 JPY (incl. tax)), which makes use of special Nara-zuke (cucumber, watermelon, ginger, and other vegetables pickled in salt and sake lees) from the bar owner’s hometown. Though it was a Japanese dish, it went perfectly with the cheese! The secret to this bar’s popularity lies in its dishes, which are all strange combinations of various dishes.
Check out the lineup of sake, which changes on a regular basis!
Lastly, here is a shot of the customers’ backs. A familiar face looked their way!
※English menus are available (drink menu only)
If you plan to bar hop when in Japan, please use this article to help you plan which places you'll visit!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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