Nightlife in Takayama
Dekonaru Yokocho is situated in central Takayama and its many tiny gyoza dens and standing bars are perfect for bar hopping. If you are feeling peckish, Hida Takayama Gyoza Sohonzan has some of the best gyoza in Takayama and stays open until 2am. While this small bar has limited seating, the friendly owner will do his best to accommodate you and furnish you with a wide range of drinks to choose from, as well as an English menu.
Even though Dekonaru Yokocho is no match for the sprawling yokocho areas of Tokyo, the smaller crowds make it possible to enjoy a few tiny bars and eateries; each with their own unique attributes. Lamp is a great standing bar with no table charge that offers local craft beer from the tap. Yokocho bar owners are reputable and hospitable, and the master at Flame is half of the reason to visit this tiny eight seat bar. This corner bar offers local sake tastings and an endless list of cocktails, and is open long past midnight on weekends.
If you are in the mood for a more authentic Japanese drinking establishment, check out some of the tiny izakaya (Japanese pub) that are hidden down the darker alleys of Takayama. In Souwamachi, Nichome is a very narrow side street, made up of only izakayas. These dimly-lit bars have only six to ten seats, and are popular with locals who gather to have animated conversations amid the smoke of the cooking yakitori. Ajihei is one of the more popular izakayas and, unlike those in Sowamachi, can seat up to forty customers. The retro interior has a Showa era feel, crammed with crinkled posters and antique collectables. The menu, available in English, is as extensive as it is good, with over one hundred dishes on offer and an impressive selection of sake.
Just a ten minute walk from the Dekonaru Yokocho lies one of the prefecture’s favourite nightspots, Desolation Row. Ken, the owner, named the bar after his favourite song and the bar feels more like a music lounge than a bar, with Ken pouring classic cocktails whilst sharing his knowledge of music. Enjoy some quiet conversation or sit back and enjoy the soundtrack of Ken's 2000 records lining the shelves of this carefully decorated bar. Ken is a wonderful character who shares interesting stories and is happy to give recommendations or introduce visitors to local artists by occasionally hosting live events. Desolation Row has been open for ten years and in that short time has gained a lot of history. Look for the big blue door, which was in fact was the original door from Ken’s first bar in Takayama.
Ken recommended that we check out Red Hill around the corner from Desolation Row and we were glad we listened. Owner Hisayo is extremely friendly and welcomes everyone into her cosy intricately decorated basement bar which, while often quiet, can get quite crowded with locals and tourists alike.
Bols is the local sports bar in Takayama and a great place to try Japanese local beer. They stock a variety of European beers like Guinness or Budweiser, but you might want to try something more local like Heartland. It also offers a nice selection of pub grub. Finally head to Rum Dance Hall, just across the street from Desolation Row where you can find a great selection of rum and shochu.