Japan’s ancient capital may be the most serene of cities. But sometimes it feels that its calm, easy-going atmosphere isn’t reflected in its overly formal bar scene. The majority of Kyoto nightlife haunts have cover charges. And this contributes to their sometimes stuffy atmosphere. The Northern Lights Corner, conveniently located in an alley midway between Shijo Karasuma and Shijo Gion, feels very different. There’s no cover charge here. Also, there’s also plenty of standing room, something key to the egalitarian drinking dens of southern Europe, and why this place has such a relaxed, jovial vibe. Entry may be free but there’s no skimping on the quality of the drinks here – there’s a huge range of spirits behind the bar and these guys know how to mix a mean cocktail.