Exploring Tokyo’s red light district at night

Kabukicho in the day
Kabukicho in the day

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.

Gintama Kabukicho
Gintama Kabukicho

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-guide.com: “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
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
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.

24-hour manga cafe
Innocent 24-hour manga cafe
Not sure what it is but highly suspicious
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 looked tourist (and poor), none of them approached me for me to check my theory.

Touts at Kabukicho
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
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 inside.)

Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho
Me in front of the famous Kabuki-cho

More posts on my trip to Tokyo to come.