Roppongi: Warehouse, Eleven

2013/1/17
By Mark Ellis


Every other week I take the time to tell you about some of the awesome things Tokyo has to offer.  So far I have introduced restaurants, a hang out spot, foreigner friendly sports gyms, English-speaking churches, and an awesome place for the kids to play.  All of that is well and good but I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t tell you about the best places for adults to go play.

Tokyo has one of the most energetic nightlife scenes in the world.  You can find anything imaginable from a tame evening sipping cocktails over a quiet conversation to leather clad dominatrices cracking a whip at a patron who is bound and gaged and hanging from the ceiling.  For now, I will leave you to your own devices to find either of those extremes.  I wish you the best of luck, especially if you decide to go for the later.

Most people who come to Tokyo from distant lands only know Roppongi, which is an area of town dedicated to business in the daytime, and play at night.  It is also chock full of foreigners.  The problem with Roppongi is that unless you know where you are going you could find yourself in some of the most underbelly dives and cut throat meat markets in the city, which is ok if you are looking for that sort of thing.  If, however, you are more into a wicked sound system, spacious dance floor, top notch DJs and a world class clubbing experience then you might need a little help getting pointed in the right direction.In the Roppongi area there are two clubs that come to mind.  The first is Warehouse and the second is Eleven.

Warehouse is a 10-minute walk from Roppongi station.  Getting there, like getting anywhere in Roppongi after hours, is like going on a small quest.  Once you emerge from the station you must first make it through the barrage of sidewalk salesmen who will aggressively try to tempt you into their establishments with coupons, special offers, or promises of finding you the right hook-up.  The best way to get past them is to keep your eyes forward and just ignore their advances.  Once you make it through the crowded streets to the door of the club you can breath a sign of relief.  Your adventure will have just begun.

Inside Warehouse is a duel level musical playground.  The first level is for VIPs only and the second level is for regular folks.  In Warehouse you don’t need to actually be a visiting pop star or gorgeous super model to get a seat in the VIP section.  All you have to do is pay 1000 yen and they will let you in for 2 hours.  Experience tells me that after dancing like a madman for a few hours, having a place to catch my second wind can be a godsend.    On the main floor there are coin lockers but you have to go really early to get one.  There are also a few seats and a wide-open dance floor complete with a DJ pedestal and great sound system.  The music is an eclectic mix.  Depending on the night you go you may find hip-hop, trance, techno, house, or some unknown newly born genre.  You may even get a chance to see pole dancing, which is a lot harder than it looks.

The other recommended spot is Eleven.  I included this in the Roppongi area write up but technically it is in Nishi Azabu.  Still it only takes 15 ? 20 minutes or less to get there on foot from Roppongi station.  Eleven is an old stalwart in the Tokyo club scene.  It used to go by the name of Yellow until it was change a few years ago.  I still don’t know why, the management remained the same so did the standard and quality of music.  Eleven is globally know by all of the greatest house music DJs, producers and connoisseurs on the planet.  The list of people who have played there reads like a who’s who directory of international dance music.  For many years Eleven was my home away from home.

There are two levels.  The top level is a lounge where shuffle weary denizens can go to chill before going back to the main floor.  Depending on the night it may be impossible to actually get a seat.  It is still worth it to spend time in the lounge for a change of scenery and to get washed over by beautiful less thumping, and more melodic sounds.  To be perfectly honest I have gone and spent many nights just hanging out in the lounge area, where I staked my claim to a couple of seats and happily got drunk while people-watching to some of the best tunes I have ever heard in my life.   Of course I don’t do that every night.

The main dance floor has one of the best sound systems in the world.  It is well balanced in order to deliver just the right amount of punch to the bass without overwhelming you.  At the same time you can hear all of the highs and mids that make the melodic stew so delicious.  The dance floor is a bit dark.  So is the one in Warehouse.  I guess they keep it that way so that shy folks can dance too.  One of my best memories was experiencing Kenny Dope Ortega and DJ Spinna together in one night.  The place was mad with uplifting energy. I was home and it felt wonderful.

Photo by Marcellus Nealy