Hostesses, bars, mobsters, and love hotels

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    Last Friday night found me walking through Shinjuku’s Kabukicho listening to an audio tour by Tokyo Realtime. I was a little skeptical at first, but right away it answered a question I’ve always been too lazy to look up: How a place with no Kabuki Theaters came to be called Kabukicho.

    Like any good guide, the narrator balances history and current commentary well, letting you see not only what Kabukicho is today, but how it became that way. The audio also includes interesting interviews of shop owners and commentary from people who work in Kabukicho. The narrator even interviews an S&M ‘artist’ who works at one of the clubs.

    The route takes you through the most interesting parts of the district and is pretty interactive, walking you through the lobby of a love hotel and some dark alleys. It also goes into the Golden-Gai, a fantastically cool cluster of one-room shanty like bars.

    I really enjoyed the tour and managed to finish it without getting lost once. The only real annoyance was being constantly interrupted by people selling sex and beer. Some became especially persistent after seeing me walking through the same area twice because of the tour. All part of the charm of Kabukicho though, and can even be enjoyable if you are mellow about it. I actually had a conversation with a Nigerian pusher who seemed genuinely confused that i was not interested in prostitution, stripping, alcohol, weed, or cocaine. Turns out he was saving up money to get his music career off the ground, and hoped to return to Nigeria next year.

    The publisher has provided a samples of the tour and some photo’s on their website. The tour was fantastic, and if you are interested in seeing an interesting part of Shinjuku, you should check it out.


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