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What to Do If You Miss the Last Train

Missing the last train is part of life in Tokyo. Central lines, like the JR Yamanote Line, run as late as 1:20 am but many lines shut down earlier—but they get started again, for the most part, before 5 am. There’s a reason that Tokyo clubs and bars stay open to dawn: there’s nowhere else to go once you’ve missed your last train. Here are some basic tips to avoid being one of those left stranded outside the station with your night ruined.

  • Keep the party going

    Keep the party going

    Keep the party going

    If you know you’re going to miss the last train, you have the perfect excuse just to keep going! Tokyo clubs get going late, usually filling up around midnight and staying packed to the early morning, and there is no shortage of 24-hour bars, restaurants, cafes, game arcades, and izakaya. Before the first train runs (around 4:30 am on the Yamanote Line, for example), grab a bowl of ramen or a convenience store corndog. Staggering onto the first train with its mix of the vampire crew and go-getter office workers is an essential Tokyo experience.

  • Hike it home

    Hike it home

    Hike it home

    A walk through the predawn city can be magical. Apart from a handful of rowdy nightlife districts, Tokyo is incredibly peaceful in the wee hours of the morning. Make sure you know the way or at least have a map handy, but getting lost can make for its own adventure. You never know what you might stumble across while wandering the city in the dead of night. In the middle of summer, when the daytime heat has evaporated, dusk to dawn is the perfect time to stroll.

  • Take a taxi

    Take a taxi

    Take a taxi

    Imagine yourself in a scene from Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love, gliding through midnight Tokyo in a courteously driven Toyota Crown. There are always taxis waiting outside the major hubs, and usually outside some of the more out-of-the-way stations, as well. Take note that taxi fares increase late at night when the trains have stopped running.

  • Crash in a manga café

    Crash in a manga café

    Crash in a manga café

    Keep your eyes peeled for the ubiquitous manga kissa with 24-hour services that include a private compartment and a library of manga, but sometimes also showers, all-you-can-eat soft serve, and massage chairs. Kick back and spend the night reading old issues of Golgo 13, or buy an eye mask and ear plugs and get a good night’s sleep. A quick note, though, that most of the major chains require membership, which usually involves a sheet of paperwork for your first visit.

  • Find a cheap spot to crash

    Find a cheap spot to crash

    Find a cheap spot to crash

    When traveling solo, a capsule hotel is a great option, and there’s no better excuse for spending a night in one than missing the last train. If you’re traveling as a couple, a love hotel is the better option, as staying as a mixed couple in a capsule hotel can be inconvenient. Love hotels are located around all major stations and despite their association with the sex trade and one-night-stands, they are perfect places to crash for the night.

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