When spending some time in Tokyo, there is always a question that arises: should we visit Kabukicho in Shinjuku? Kabukicho is always at the heart of debates as it is very divisive amongst travelers and locals. Some call it the most dangerous place in the country while other say that it is the most fun place in the city. Let me share my thoughts on the subject.
The name Kabukicho comes from the term Kabuki which is the traditional Japanese theater. Such theater was supposed to be built in this area but it never happened. The area kept the same name nonetheless. Stepping into Kabukicho is an experience right out of Akira, a famous Japanese anime movie. The entire area is covered with neon lights that scream for your attention. Time of the day is irrelevant as you can see just as clearly day and night. It does become relevant when you think about the type of activities that you can undertake. During the day, Kabukicho is quiet, almost lethargic, as it recovers from the previous night. When the sun goes down, however, the streets fill up with people and music rises from every street corner.
Walking around is the first step to enjoy Kabukicho. You can look at people and street shops. You can look at all the different signs full of color until you reach the gigantic Godzilla whose head tops the Toho Cinema. If you’re lucky, you might event see fume escape from its open mouth.
The area is also famous for its love hotels. Each of these hotels is designed for complete anonymity and you will rarely meet any staff member when staying there. All room bookings are done on a computer screen in the lobby and all extra services are ordered via the smart TV in the room.
Another popular tourist attraction is the robot restaurant. Consider it a crazy light show with robot fights and a relatively lousy but easy to follow story delivered in a cabaret type environment. You won’t want to go more than once but it is worth checking out if you haven’t yet.
I mentioned the love hotels earlier and alongside those, you can also find hostess and host bars. Yes, there are yakuzas operating businesses in this district and yes, there are some shady things on display. It is well known as a red light district of Tokyo so no surprise there. Also, as you walk, you will probably be approached by people who want to introduce you to their bar. Those people are called hawkers and it is best to ignore them.
The places where they want to bring you are overpriced and there are stories of people leaving these bars without their wallets. Japan being Japan however, if you ignore them and keep walking, they will give up and let you be. As always, don’t let urban legends stir you away from discovering something new and exciting. Use your common sense and go to bars and restaurants filled with locals rather than tourists and I can guarantee that you’ll have a great time in Kabukicho.
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Address: 1-2-2 Kabukicho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo
Access: 3 minute walk from Shinjuku Station East Exit