Though Roppongi is party central for most foreigners, Shibuya has, in the course of the last 10 years or so, emerged as a brave new challenger for the title. Even foreigners have come around to the upstart, which was originally put on the party map by a new breed of then young and restless Japanese revelers, the Shibu Kaji -- or Shibuya Casuals -- as they were dubbed by the local press.

But what most people do not know is that Nishi Azabu has all the while been home to Tokyo's alternative party crowd -- people who prefer to have a drink and hear themselves speak. Some bars never even advertise, mostly to protect their privacy and to nurture the loyal patronage of the sometimes glamorous and famous patrons who frequent them. You have to be taken there, which makes it feel special. Others, like 328 (which just celebrated its 28th anniversary) have, since the beginning, simply been headquarters for hardcore inner-city drinkers. Nishi Azabu is hip -- Roppongi, for tourists.

Muse, a large, rambling bar complex located right near the Nishi Azabu Crossing, is a fusion of both. Unlike any other bar in Tokyo, it is huge, the size of a barn -- or several barns, if you count the second basement. This, in and of itself, is why many foreigners make the short trek down the hill from Roppongi Station on the main road to Shibuya, as do many locals. Space is such a luxury in Japan, especially in bars. Being able to order a drink on a Saturday night without having to sidle through a wall of sweaty, heaving bodies can be refreshing.