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The dark side of night life in urban Japan

14 Comments

Night life is fun, an escape from day life. It has, unfortunately, its seamier side. Consider Halloween. Once an innocent kids’ festival of costumed trick-or-treating, it’s now what young adults and Shibuya have famously made of it – mobbed chaos.

Halloween is only once a year. Nightlife is 365/7. After dark you cast off your daytime self, leave your daytime venues and head for where the night lights shine brightest. Shibuya, certainly, if you’re in Tokyo; or Shinjuku. Why, one wonders, is Spa! (Dec 17) not content to cover what goes on there on the surface? Not for lack of material, certainly. Maybe it’s too familiar to require coverage. So it digs a little beneath the surface, and finds – not hidden delights, but hidden pitfalls: crime, suicide, fraud, illegal prostitution and so on. It’s too bad! Why spoil a good time with naked truth?

Speaking of lost innocence. As good an example as any, while we’re still in Shibuya, is the evolution Spa! notices of a “free hug” fad – “Feeling lonely? Let me give you an innocent hug; you’ll feel better” – into “feel my breasts.” In retrospect it seems inevitable, if regrettable; simply a matter of time.

Shinjuku is more complicated. It had less innocence to lose. Prostitution has long been endemic to Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s entertainment core. Foreigners walking the streets have historically been from Southeast Asia, the magazine hears from local tour guide Masanori Sendo. Lately, he says, many are from such far-flung countries as Kenya and Spain, and so widespread is it that its outer fringe approaches an elementary school.

Counterfeit money is another problem. Where it comes from is a mystery, but it plagues the love hotel and erotic entertainment industries. There’s not much they can do about it. Many of these establishments are at best in a gray zone between legal and illegal. For them, contact the the police means not protection but potential ruin.

Host clubs abound in Shinjuku, and “host club journalist” Tomoya Kokorono reports a rise lately in suicides – club customers jumping off tall buildings at a rate, he says, of 2-3 a month. No explanation is offered, but here’s something else: last May a host was stabbed by a customer whose dissatisfaction must have reached fever pitch. The host recovered, returned to work, and even tried to use the incident for publicity – which didn’t seem to work, however. Kokorono’s conclusion: “Kabukicho is tough.”

Osaka is home to what’s considered “Japan’s top earning cabaret club” – the Kita Shinchi. Its biggest-spending clients are young people in their 20s, nouveau-riche with investment profits of various kinds. There’s something strange about some of them, staffers have observed. They’re regular customers, coming again and again, until suddenly they vanish, never to be seen again. What can have happened to them? One of two things, it appears. They were either arrested for fraud, or victims of it.

That’s the dark side of night life, Spa! seems to be saying.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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On my most recent visit to Japan, I had booked a hotel in Shinjuku, in fact in Kabukicho. I had not yet learned of the neighborhood history there! Yes it is not so squeaky-clean like much of Tokyo, but I did not find it offensive. Such type of business as this article describes are common in every city around the world, and I found Kabukicho to be quite OK!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Most major cities have a dark side. I've felt far safer walking through Kabukicho than in any comparable European or South East Asian city - you should have tried walking down the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, circa 1976, for example. It's part of the charm of some places.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Reads like my kinda place.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Literally every place everywhere has a dark, sinister, shady side. Tokyo, to a lesser, a bit more sustained extent, is the same.

Unfortunately, you can't have good if you can't have bad and vice versa.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There is plenty of shady stuff going on in Japan, especially these areas, but it's much tamer than pretty much anywhere else. I've never been threatened, hit or robbed like I have elsewhere. Almost all of the perpetrators are Japanese and almost all of their victims are too by the looks of it. I remember walking through kabukicho and the Japanese people in the shadier establishments seemed to want to avoid me, probably because I don't look Japanese. My Japanese friend, on the other hand, says he gets hassled all the time going through. It's the same in nishinari in Osaka, it's easily the roughest area in Japan with homeless drunks everywhere and people selling drugs on the street but I never had a problem because I probably looked more trouble than I was worth! Only on two separate occasions next to ueno Park some guy (same guy both times) in Broad day light tried to get to me to go to his massage parlor but I just said no thanks and walked off

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Wobot: Only on two separate occasions next to ueno Park some guy (same guy both times) in Broad day light tried to get to me to go to his massage parlor but I just said no thanks and walked off .

Oh yeah! Sounds like he fancied you. The only instance of violence I ever heard of from Tokyo night life was a very sloppy drunk white senior manager at a bar in Roppongi. He escalated too much on some JP guy's girlfriend and got a sucker punch.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Walk with purpose in life and the shysters will avoid you.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This is a very strangely written article. What is it trying to imply at the end?

Perhaps these regular customers have found another bar to go to, moved to another city or just stopped going out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Rick HepnerDec. 14  09:11 am JST Such type of business as this article describes are common in every city around the world, and I found Kabukicho to be quite OK!

I can't think of a single U.S. city that has anything like Kabukicho.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

actually these places can be quite dangerous. Run up a tab at a club, then be told you must pay x 10 the charge, taken to a room, beat etc. It can happen

Interestingly, right behind kabukichou was Hello Work for Gaijin. Korean town is across the street from that.

The whole area is a bit depressing to me anyway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has really nice street signs. They lite up at night very well.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan has really nice street signs. They lite up at night very well.

lol. You forgot to add this at the end of your comment "/s".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I recall an international school teacher being arrested when he returned to a bar to pay up when his friend from the states split on him and he went to search for him.

He was being honest and the cops did not care. Did the first three days, they let him out and then they did him immediately for another 13 and then again for another 13. Administrators did not realize he was gone, and his students praised him. Such is Japan I have heard.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No mention of guns

So not as bad as ...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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