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How a bar in Kabukicho scammed one diner out of their money, and how it can happen to you too

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Japan is famous for being one of the safest countries in the world, but one place locals and guidebooks will warn you about is Tokyo’s Kabukicho. While the area itself isn’t particularly dangerous, especially when compared to other nightlife areas around the world, it’s known for being home to a number of unscrupulous bar and restaurant owners, who will do anything to drain your wallet as soon as you step inside their premises.

The practice is so rife that some hotspots even have loudspeakers that play warnings in various languages, asking people to be wary of spruikers — staff who cajole passersby into entering their premises with seemingly good deals.

Despite the warnings, these spruikers are often so good at what they do that it can be easy to fall into their trap. That’s what happened to one Japanese passerby in Kabukicho, and they’d like to share their story as a cautionary tale so that others don’t fall prey to similar scams in the area.

According to this passerby, who has asked to remain anonymous, they were with a companion and looking for a place to eat when they were approached by someone who said “Are you looking for Torikizoku?” Torikizoku is a popular yakitori chain in Japan, and so our passerby, whom we’ll call A-san, thought this was a genuinely helpful person who would take them to a branch of the chain.

Yakitori was exactly what A-san and their dining companion felt like eating, so when the person who stopped them told them that Torikazu was always full but they knew a similar yakitori joint, they figured it might be worthwhile to take this person up on their suggestion.

A-san is from the Japanese countryside, so they were grateful for the assistance, and after the individual guided them down the street with some lighthearted banter, they arrived at their destination. Their friendly guide managed to distract A-san and their companion until they were inside and seated, so it was only once they were looking at the hidden charges on the menu that they got a sense that they may have walked into a scam.

The two diners became worried as they tried to work out what to do next. They’d heard stories about customers getting into physical altercations when attempting to leave unscrupulous joints in Kabukicho, so they figured the best option would be to just order the bare minimum — two alcoholic drinks and a tray of yakitori — and then get up and leave.

So that’s what they did. However, when they went to pay, the bill came to a whopping 8,554 yen. How did two drinks and some yakitori manage to cost so much? Well, let’s take a look at the breakdown of the bill below.


The first item on the bill is the charge for two otoshi, priced at 990 yen. Otoshi is a side dish that’s served with a drink order and added as an extra charge on the bill — a standard practice for bars and izakayas in Japan. It’s commonly viewed as something similar to a seating charge, so there was nothing wrong with seeing the otoshi on the bill here, but the following items are where the costs begin to stack up.

The second item is a 1,000-yen seating charge, and the third item is a 1,000 yen “year-end charge“. Some places that deal with big year-end bonenkai parties might tack this on as an additional fee when a lot of setup is required, but there was definitely no party going on here. The fourth item on the list is a 1,000-yen “weekend charge“, and then there’s a charge of 1,440 yen for eight chicken breast yakitori.

At the bottom of the bill is a beer, an apple sour, and two oolong teas, the latter of which A-san thought was free, like it is in many restaurants, but here they were charged 760 yen for them, which is pricey for oolong tea.

To top it all off, there’s a service charge of 526 yen and tax of 768 yen, which brings the order for two drinks and some chicken sticks to a total of 8,554 yen.

The entire experience left a bad taste in A-san’s mouth, but rather than add more drama to the evening by complaining, they just wanted to get out of there and forget the whole thing had ever happened, so they simply paid the bill and left, feeling utterly depressed.

It was an expensive lesson to learn, but now that they’ve learnt it, they won’t ever fall for a trap like this again. The one silver lining for them is that if they can save one other person from falling into a similar trap in future, their experience will have been worth it. So next time you’re in Kabukicho and a friendly individual offers to help you out with a dining recommendation, kindly refuse and be on your way.

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- The time we (almost certainly) got scammed by a dating app in Tokyo’s bar district

-- We visit a new Tokyo bar where nobody speaks and writing is the only way to communicate

-- Is it a crime to ditch a bad date and leave them with the bill? Japanese man finds out

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Wanted to forget the entire experience so go to the media over a 80 dollar US bill. And said they thought of leaving, after saw the menu when first entering the joint. Then leave! Just wasted 5 mins of my commute reading and responding to this drivel.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

If they can’t stand it they should eat udon at a cheap chain store in their countryside. Complaining and showing around such receipts is more a bit shameful, isn’t it? In fact they went to Kabukicho intentionally and should have known beforehand that especially there is no cheap eating or other following ‘entertainment’. They still managed to get out of that place quite reasonable and peaceful I would estimate. Very lucky village guys… lol

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

So they were overcharged 1500 yen each. Hardly a fleecing. Should have spread the extra charges over a few more drinks

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Perhaps the cops could do a couple of sting operations and shut down those joints instead of harassing foreigners about their IDs.. Let the J cops do real police work for a change.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Why don't the police do anything about this?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I wonder why it isn't mandatory for the restaurants to show all the hidden costs before taking a seat. Is this technically legal? Can someone explain?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

As a rule of thumb if you go drinking in Tokyo take as much cash as you intend to spend and leave your cards at home.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is isn't just Kabuki-cho: There is more to Japan than Tokyo.

This is also standard practice in Kyoto, and rife all over Japan, especially in the cities, I'm sure. I used to be a tour guide there, and spent a lot of time an energy warning my charges against certain establishments- many, many establishments: It was more than a full-time job for one guide.

Aly RustomToday  08:12 am JST

Perhaps the cops could do a couple of sting operations and shut down those joints instead of harassing foreigners about their IDs.. Let the J cops do real police work for a change.

Thanks for the chuckles. Japan's rules on fleecing are pretty much non-existent, the cops have no interest in pursuing claims- Protecting their own 'interests', no doubt.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Old scam, new chump.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What a shame. The headman of the this(these) kind(s) of ward(s) is(are) and has(have) been terribly inept.

This is THE SHAME, an yet none seems questioning about the cost, whether it is fair or not, of drinking at Ginza club. Black hole still exits.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Just like Soho of London. These scams are everywhere in this world.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wanted to forget the entire experience so go to the media over a 80 dollar US bill. And said they thought of leaving, after saw the menu when first entering the joint. Then leave! Just wasted 5 mins of my commute reading and responding to this drivel.

Why you whine bro? You're the victim? Next time don't read it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Is this illegal?

Not if they do it "right". If the charges are reported to the diner, say on the menu or somewhere diners could supposedly see it, they can charge it. It's a bit grey though, as they may have the prices put somewhere not all that apparent and still claim that it was there for the customer to see.

The other side of it is that a lot of these places are Yakuza affiliated. It's not a good idea to try to walk out without paying.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Just don't let some rando pick where you eat.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't people know by now that in Kabukicho, you are never far from a scam. Kabukicho has been like this for many many years. The people that operate these scams know that nothing will ever get done about it. Best advice, if approached in Kabukicho, walk on and go to Shin-Okubo not far away. That is a much nicer area.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Exellent example of how the Japanese economy is shrinking. I remember stories back in 90s about rip-offs at Kabukicho bars with sums of hundreds of thousands yen. And now a story about eight thousands. Sheesh....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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