I’m often asked by friends if Kabukicho, a red-light district in Shinjuku is safe.
The area which was once known as Tsunohazu and was a swamp became a duck sanctuary during the Meiji period, but in 1893, as part of the Yodobashi Purification Plant, the ponds were filled in. By World War II, after the bombings and the area destroyed, when it was rebuilt and a planned kabuki theater was supposed to be there, the town changed its name to Kabukicho.
The kabuki theater never happened, but the city kept its name.
But it’s the place where you can find thousands of bars, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlors, hostess clubs, restaurants and next to Roppongi, where you will find many non-Japanese hanging out at.
I think that because people have read stories of yakuza, host and hostess clubs, love hotels, bars and people trying to harass you to go into their restaurant, their shop, and the fact that the location is lively throughout the night and morning has peaked people’s curiosity.
In truth, yes…you will find a lot of this at Kabukicho, but it’s not as bad as a club in a US metropolitan area and then you read stories of people get beaten, shot or attacked.
The things…if you are not interested in going to those locations, ignore the people and keep moving.
Go into let’s say a hostess club and you start drinking alcohol and you buy alcohol for the hostess, the drinks can be expensive and it accumulates.
Guys have been known to throw serious money down for their favorite hostess and some have gone into debt because they indulged more than they can afford.
But one shouldn’t worry about kabukicho as you can find exciting entertainment (such as Robot Restaurant) and a lot of delicious hotels. Granted, if you want to get drunk, there is the red light district and Roppongi but it’s part of the nightlife.
But if you are afraid, go there with friends and you’ll see for yourself that it’s not exactly a frightening place to be. It’s just an area that doesn’t sleep, people get drunk, there are people who want to entice you to go into their establishment, but by no means, it’s not scary at all.
As for the yakuza, the police clamped down on illegal clubs and brothels, closing a lot of seedy business and in 2004, there was a movement to rid of the place of gang activity.
And for those who do play the video game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (Yakuza), no…you are not going to see that type of activity at night (unless, like in the US or anywhere, where someone has a bit too much to drink and causes problems).
I haven’t had any problems at Kabukicho and you may find locations that are worth your time and money. Give the place a try!