Tokyo Kabuki-cho

Exploring Tokyo’s red light district at night

Kabukicho in the day tokyo red light district
Kabukicho in the day
Gintama Kabukicho tokyo red light district
Gintama Kabukicho

I’ve wanted to visit Kabuki-cho in Tokyo ever since reading my favorite manga, Gintama. The characters live right on the streets of Kabuki-cho in a fictional old-Tokyo period.

I managed to walk around in the morning on Sunday. The place was crowded with fashionable people and amazing storefronts.

But I didn’t dare go alone at night because of the area’s reputation. From “Japan’s largest red light district features countless restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pachinko parlors, love hotels and a wide variety of red light establishments for both sexes and sexual orientations. Explore with caution and beware of exorbitant cover fees.”

While I wasn’t prepared to head to Kabuki-cho at night, I wanted to visit Shinjuku’s 24-hour Don Quijote. When S, one of the journalists on the media tour, asked if she could join me to the crazy store. I said “Yes”.

I told her about Kabuki-cho and found someone to go to Tokyo’s infamous red light district with.

Neon lights everywhere

Street of Kabuki-cho tokyo red light district at night
Street of Kabuki-cho

Kabuki-cho at night was different from day. In fact, the streets felt even brighter when the moon and stars are out than in the day time.

Building with amazing signboards tokyo red light district
Building with amazing signboards

There were many backlit signboards, advertising the shop’s wares.

While some shops sold innocent things (food at konbini) and services (manga cafe), a lot of the others sold more mature items.

Innocent 24-hour manga cafe
Innocent 24-hour manga cafe
tokyo red light district
Not sure what it is but highly suspicious

There were a lot of “Free Guide” stores in the area. I peeped into one and saw a wall with photos of heavily made up girls which makes me suspect it’s another form of touting.

One of the many 'Free Guide' shops.
One of the many ‘Free Guide’ shops.

Speaking of touts, on the streets of Kabuki-cho, there were many well dressed young men in suit with fancy hairstyles. I assume these over-the-top fashionable men were touts who bring visitors to the nightclubs.

Since I’m a woman and looked like a poor tourist, none of them approached me for me to check my theory.

Touts at Kabukicho tokyo red light district
Touts at Kabukicho

We walked around only two or three streets of Kabuki-cho, coming across interesting shop names such as “Ninja in New York”:

Ninja in New York sign
Ninja in New York sign

As well as sex toy shops. If you look close enough, there is a piece of paper with Nobita and Shizuka from Doraemon lying down half naked. I had a hard time comprehending why anyone would want to watch Doraemon cartoon porn.

Sex toy shop in Tokyo
Sex toy shop
 Sexy shop
Sexy shop

After our quick turn, we headed to Don Quijote for late night window shopping.

I end this post with a rare photo of me in front of landmarks. (The biggest downside of travelling solo is the lack of photos with me.)

Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho
Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho
Here’s a cool video comparing the day and night of Kabuki-cho:

Travel tips for Tokyo:

Exploring Tokyo's red light district at night

This blog post was originally published in September 2012.

More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.


    1. cool! i’m flying to tokyo in march, saw a one way flight from KL and couldn’t resist.. anyway, your blog looks interesting i’ll be sure to check out other highlights on it :))

      1. Hello, good info I’m going as we’ll in march for the tokyo anime fair show. Will go visit kabuki-cho as well.

        1. I’m so jealous! The Anime fair must be really fun.

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