Adventures in the Kabukicho RED Light District of Tokyo
The “Sleepless Town” (眠らない街)
“I can resist everything except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde
When I arrived first time at the Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, I was lost. 3.64 million passengers pass through the world’s busiest transport hub each day, more than the population of Toronto! Once you find your way out (from over 200 exits), you may head to the famous red light district of Tokyo, Kabukichō – the “Sleepless Town”.
Your first clue that you are in the area is when you will see well dressed young Japanese men with very long hair. You find them at the main entrances to the Kabukichō district, every day and night.
mizu shōbai – “water trade”
“A host’s job is to support a lady’s heart” – Sho Takami, host club owner
They are called “hosts” and when they are not working in a host club, their job is to entice beautiful girls that passes by with offers of work in the night-time entertainment business (‘mizu shōbai’) or to find customers for their host club. The host clubs are for women and the hostess clubs are for men – meaning the women that need a drink and attention will get a host and the men will get a hostess. In one sentence, the hosts are trying to make the clients feel loved without having sex with them.
As a general rule, foreigners are not allowed in many of the adult entertainment establishments in Japan. But once you are with a Japanese friend or speak some Japanese, the “Only Japanese” access rule may not be enforced.
My Japanese girl friend at the time, Kyoko, reluctantly and shyly agreed to accompany me for a stroll under the neon lights of Kabukichō. Not too long in our escapade and suddenly we were surrounded by a group of eight hostesses speaking very fast in Japanese, seemingly all at the same time. “What they want?They want me?!” – I was joking. “Yes, they want us to drink with them” – Kyoko answered. “No, I am quite good keeping my US $500 in my pocket” – a price tag that you may be very well paying for the overcharged drinks and the cuteness of the hostesses.
The host’s life may seem glamorous for outsiders and they do make very good money. But their life is not easy. Let’s take for example, Hiroto. He is the No. 1 host in one of the Kabukichō’s clubs.
The girls come at the host club – some of them night workers as well – to hear nice things, to be taken care of, to have somebody say “I love you” and to forget about the real life. It may be a fleeting moment or a dream, and the hosts make sure they do the best they can to make their customers happy. The price? Over US $100,000 pay in a single night or a Porsche gift for the beloved host is not unheard of!
Maiko likes Hiroto. He is funny, cool looking and a little flirtatious. She will buy a pricey US $200 bottle of champagne for Hiroto. Now, with the audience chanting “drink, drink, drink”, Hiroto will have to finish the champagne on stage.
Keiko likes Hiroto, too. She may be a little bit jealous. Than, she orders two bottles of champagne, in order for Hiroto to spend more time with her. “Drink, drink, drink” – the audience is shouting. Hiroto must finish drinking both bottles. And the night was just starting…
In one night, a host can drink 10 bottles of champagne and make lot of money. But this comes at a heavy price: spitting of blood and other alcohol related illnesses. A host doesn’t stay in this job for more than two-three years.
Sex Parlors, Strip Theaters, Health Delivery Centers, Porno Shops
Prostitution in Japan is illegal. But the night-time entertainment establishments became very creative. Everything caters towards the men’s pleasures, fantasies and perversions: air stewardess, nurses and school-girls themed clubs, and even subway “groping” venue. And if you are shy, you can have a real-sized doll with your choice of clothing.
Just Kabukichō alone has approximately 3,500 sex parlors, strip theaters, peep shows, “soaplands”, ‘lovers’ banks, porno shops, sex telephone clubs, karaoke bars and clubs, etc. (Wikipedia). Most of the adult entertainment industry in Japan is controlled by Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.
Overworked salarymen (corporate white-collar workers wearing black suites, white shirts and black ties) are regular customers of the red light districts.
Stress releasing rooms offer high tech armchairs and big TV screens for adult entertainment pleasure.
And surprise! Written in English, you will find from place to place the so-called “Health Information Center”. Let’s go inside! This one is called “Billy’s Navigation”. Invariably, the mantra “Only Japanese” is repeated again. These are information centers that provide information on the adult entertainment establishments of the area. From here, through the use of computers and ads placed on the walls, the customers can opt for a “health delivery” (call-girl).
One Of A Kind Striptease Show
Compared with the striptease shows from the Western world, the Japanese ones are done with gusto – a combination between theatrical performance, ballet and poll dancing. And some very quirky happenings in between.
Pay the ticket, grab a beer and take a sit. The shows seems to go forever. The Japanese men are watching in silence. I noticed one old man, it may be 80 years old, having the front seat. The girls were treating him with reverence. Who might be him?!
“I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.” – Jimmy Carter
The silence was broken by the strident shout in English of the lady presenter: “You – you don’t like vagina?”. What happened was very weird. On the stage a female performer was sitting waiting for the male customers to go and take a much closer look, there, by using a magnifier tube. On the walkway of the stage, the salarymen in their black suites and without shoes will wait for their turn and crawl on their knees and elbows to fulfill their ultimate fantasy…
No privacy at home? Having a secret relation? No problem. There is a solution: the love hotels! There are many. Depending of your style and mood, you may choose a castle, a dungeon, a prison or a SF themed hotel with matching rooms.
Entrances are discreet, and interaction with staff is minimized. Rooms are often selected from a panel of buttons, and the bill may be settled by pneumatic tube, automatic cash machine, or paying an unseen staff member behind a pane of frosted glass. Parking lots will often be concealed and windows will be few, so as to maximize privacy. (Wikipedia)
The rooms are truly amazing:
And so the story ends in a love hotel room. Or perhaps in a small business hotel in Shinjuku.
“We can neither confirm nor deny”
- Tokyo Metro Shinjuku-sanchome Station (M09, F13)