I can’t exactly generalize about bars in Japan because I’m not sure I went to to totally representative ones.
I can say:
No one cards (me) in Tokyo.
You can smoke in 90% of bars.
Whiskey highballs are so popular you can get them in cans at 7-Eleven.
Women drink alone, which was surprising.
Spoiler: I did not feel too old to be anyplace I went.
Age appropriate? Yes. I technically went to two Kirin Cities. On my last night, in Shinjuku, just before closing, and a middle-aged couple were eating and drinking. I spent probably 2 hours in another Kirin City, in the basement of Tokyo Station drinking beers and shots, which the Japanese don’t seem to do. The after-work crowd consisted of mostly men, and I even got to experience a salaryman on the left side, passed out, slumped against the wall, though there were women interspersed, like one for every five men. I was surprised that it didn’t seem weird at all for solo ladies to be at the bar. A mousy woman in her 20s was on my other side, eating a basket of tortilla chips with chopsticks and working her way through three beers. Impressive. I do not doubt that she was the human Aggretsuko (the new secretly rage-filled, beer-drinking, heavy metal-singing Sanrio character).
Age appropriate? Oh yes, gloriously so. This bar was like a movie set, wood-paneled and smokey, bartenders in vests, the menus looking straight-up 1980, whiskey starting at $3 a glass (and well on up). Patrons under 40 were the exception not the norm. A++
Age appropriate? Yes. Just off the Harajuku fray, this izakaya showcases Baird Beer, a Japanese craft brew. The bar seating on a Saturday afternoon was commandeered by a group of middle-aged tourists that I wanted to say were English but that’s just because the English have a drinking reputation. Once again, a young Japanese woman sat alone on my row of stools facing the window. She had two large beers (not the smaller size) and left. And I was impressed again.
Age appropriate? Yes. I expected an Irish bar in Tokyo to be an expat hang, but the only Irishman present was the ruggedly handsome, Japanese-speaking owner and bartender. A tough 40-something Japanese woman rounded out the staff. There was a group of dressy men, clearly regulars, clustered at the bar. The tables were occupied by large mixed gender groups, not all young. I went back twice and the second time the bartender remembered our order: Kirin and shots of Jameson.
Old Imperial Bar
Age appropriate? Yep. I can’t really imagine this place is a draw for youth. On a weekday afternoon this mezzanine bar was almost empty while the lobby lounge was hopping. When I was seated, I was given architecture books with pages marked to show the bar’s original Frank Lloyd Wright details. I guess they assume that tourists wouldn’t accidentally stumble into this bar unless they knew what they were doing and/or were history buffs. A man wandered in and drank coffee, a lone woman, roughly my age was seated at the very long bar, drinking a cocktail.
Age appropriate? Sure. The only other woman present among the 5 who reserved at the 8-seat bar at 6pm on a Sunday was 30-ish with a hint of a Nuyorican accent yet she was from L.A. She and her boyfriend had been traveling around the world for a year and could never get their body clocks straight. So, I originally thought that if you had $60 to spend on a flight of tiny cocktails, you might be older with more disposable income, but then I remembered that there are people who don’t even work at all.