Kabukichō at Night

Tokyo's red-light district

Par Michelle Madden   11 juin 2013
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Recently I decided that it was time to take a look at the infamous area of Kabukichō in Shinjuku, known as the red-light district of Tokyo. I decided to go there at around five o’clock to wait for the sun to go down. I watched as the natural light disappeared and the flickering city lights came into effect. Kabukichō is an area fraught with hostess clubs, themed restaurants (like this one), love hotels and pachinko parlours (Japanese gambling arcades).

Having done a bit of research on the internet about Kabukichō, I admittedly was a bit nervous about going there by myself. However those feelings quickly disappeared. The area was filled with people of all ages; both locals and foreigners alike roaming the streets and taking in sights and sounds. It was a real sensory overload with colourful lights and flashing LED screens coupled with loud music and road traffic.

When I think about Tokyo it really is this kind of experience that I envision. To me it is all about the blinking lights and vibrant nightlife so I found it to be a fulfilling experience. As for it being a red-light district it seemed quite tame; having been to the one in Amsterdam I can say that it is definitely not as obvious. However being there for only three hours I feel like I barely scratched the surface and there’s a lot more to discover, perhaps in the early hours of the morning.

Many of the host and hostess clubs hire people to stand on the street persuading potential customers to go inside. Apart from that I also saw a group of transvestites handing out pamphlets to people walking past. That, though, was the extent of my red-light district experience. Kabukichō​ makes for a good walk with many streets and alleys to discover. With the reputation the area has earned, its best to be cautious. However don’t let that stop you from having a good time. Finding Kabukichō​ is easy; from Shinjuku Station find the Kabukichō​ exit and turn left once you are outside. Cross the street and walk straight and you’ll find yourself in the midst of Kabukichō​.

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Michelle Madden

Michelle Madden @Michelle Madden

I'm a young South African who has traveled many hours to visit the land of the rising sun. I'm a film studies postgraduate, with an interest in cinematography and photography. My mission is to document as much of Japan as possible for the duration of my stay.

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