(歌舞伎町) is a legendary district in the ward of
, in Tokyo
. The name means "Kabuki Town
but the theater it was named for is long gone -- instead,
Kabukicho has become Japan's largest
, which also happens to have some of
Tokyo's best techno club
a hell of a lot of great places to get drunk
(and these aren't
necessarily even mutually exclusive). Formally, Kabuki-cho
the bit of Shinjuku
north of Yasukuni-doori, and you can get there
just by walking straight ahead, parallel to the tracks, if you take
the East (Higashi
) exit of Shinjuku Station
Tokyo's most famous techno club, the Liquid Room, is on the
western side of Kabukicho in the Humax Pavilion, near
Tokyu Bunka Kaikan. (It's overpriced and generally pretty sucky,
but that's a story for another node.) The big izakaya chains
are also all out in force, just crane your neck on Yasukuni-doori
and look for the "sake" kanji, or wait to be handed fliers from
places opening up or closing. You'll need local assistance to
find the best places though. Kaasan is pretty dependable
and has an excellent range of sake, but a bit on the expensive
side. At lunch or dinner time you could also do worse than prowl the
streets of Kabukicho, as there are thousands of restaurants serving
all types of food and the stiff competition keeps prices low.
Should you go there by day, Kabukicho may look just like any
other place in Tokyo, especially if you can't read Japanese.
Only after night falls does the place start to change its character.
See those guys in sharkskin suits? They're Yakuza, guarding their
turf. See those girlies in miniskirts handing out fliers?
They're hostesses, and they want to laugh at your jokes,
pour your beer, rub their naked breasts in your face and fellate your penis.
Or at least some of those: exactly what activities are on offer and
how much you will pay (and oh boy, will you pay) will involve some
negotiations. Three whacks of the clue stick before you get
too excited though, boy:
You see, prostitution is illegal in Japan, the police (who are, of course, very well aware of what goes on)
just define sex the Bill Clinton way.
Sure, there are out-and-out
whores lurking in dim corners too, but not in respectable gentlemen's
clubs, no sirree. You want to get laid, go to Roppongi.
With that little cold shower out of the way,
the full surreality of the scene will only become evident in
the wee hours of the morning, when you are returning from a party
or some such. The crowds are gone: instead, passed-out (often
thrown-out) salarymen litter the alleyways,
speakers screech with high-pitched female offers of
Hot, sticky, sweat-pouring-down-your-back SEX!, all those
vending machines boarded up during the day are now open and selling
porno mags and even those world-famous used panties...
take the right alley shortcut and you may even spot bored-looking
women sitting in little glass booths, just like Amsterdam.
And serenely in the middle of it all are a number of 24-hour
McDonaldses, Ronald McDonald smiling benevolently among the
perversion. Unlike most red-light districts in the world, however,
Kabukicho at night is safe: assuming you don't do anything
blatantly stupid like go out of your way to piss off a Yak,
about the worst that can happen is that your wallet gets stolen.
In addition to proletarian clip joints,
Kabukicho has a wide range of exclusive
sex clubs catering to any possible taste. Alas, yet again these
are too difficult to find, too exclusive and probably too expensive
for foreign mortals, but Amy Yamada has written a fascinating account
of working in Kabukicho S&M club as a dominatrix (see her bio
for details). Also, the gay scene is mostly not in Kabukicho but
in Shinjuku nichome, a few blocks down south.
Did you sin too much the night before? Salvation is at hand,
since smack dab in the middle of Kabukicho off Yasukuni-doori
is the small Hanazono Shrine, which dates back to 1648.
Nothing much to look at, really, but an unexpected, nice little oasis
of tranquility amidst the chaos.
back to Shinjuku