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Kabuki-chō

Listed under Squares, Streets & Urban Spaces in Tokyo, Japan.

  • Photo of Kabuki-chō
  • Photo of Kabuki-chō
Photo of Kabuki-chō
Photo by flickr user wili_hybrid
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In the aftermath of the war, a visionary Japanese businessmen had dreams of creating a theatre and entertainment district that would be envied everywhere. In a sense, he succeeded - but not in the field of Kabuki for which this Shinjuku neighbourhood is named. Instead, as things panned out, he ended up founding one of the world’s premiere red-light districts.

Wandering around Kabuki-cho is an education in market forces: the latest trends, like host bars where pretty boys entertain monied ladies, mix with old favourites such as Turkish baths (rebranded as ‘soaplands’ by popular vote after the Turkish embassy complained). The Japanese have never been shy about the business of sex. The intricacies and sheer variety of the sex trade in Japan is staggering.

However, Kabukichō is not a one-trick pony. Everyday cinemas, restaurants, bars and shops surround the pink trade (pink being the Japanese equivalent to 'blue' in English). Make of it what you will, but Shinjuku's ward office is also smack dab in the heart of all the action and skyscrapers that house large corporations are but a stone's throw away. At night, couples and groups of office workers swell the crowds. Indeed, under pressure from the authorities and the rising cost of rent in this prime location, the neighbourhood has been changing - a glance at New York’s Times Square may be instructive for where Kabukichō might be headed.

Written by  Joseph.

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