Kabukicho (KBC) is basically Vegas, everyone knows this. Lots of mobs-run things ( brothels AKA ‘fuzoku’, and gambling joints), combined with teen-oriented things (like game arcades and karaoke) to form the "entertainment district."
I’m going to ignore BOTH kinds of "entertainment" , and instead concentrate on the SIDE-EFFECT businesses: perfectly legit shops that cater to KBC’s workers and managers, rather than ordinary customers. If you’re looking to invest your money: buy some fuckin’ equity in THESE ! Not only are they totally legal, but Hoes may come and hoes may go, but they are ALWAYS going to need to get their hair and nails done (I’m talking about the hosts, but I suppose it applies to women also).
A funny thing about the side-effect businesses: you probably wouldn’t notice most of these if you walked around the KBC. They’re not usually big or flashy, and you probably have some of them in your OWN hood. The differences between YOUR stores and thir bizarro,mobster versions only become clear in the details!
Let’s start with the obvious: travel agencies:
There are around 100 of these ‘travel agencies’ in KBC. They are full of free pamphlets with detailed itineraries. But rather than open from 9 to 5, they are open from 5 to 9. And rather than travel to exotic foreign countries, their helpful staff will assist you in planning a trip to various brothels within walking distance, where sex workers from various exotic countries will be brought to YOU.
MAGAZINES: these free weeklies are just ads for gigolo/hostess jobs. They are not in the ‘travel agencies," but you can usually find them in front of 7-11 and other mainstream convenience stores. Wonder if the 7-11 shareholders know?
Anyway, the publishing industry is making a mint off the sex trade – even BESIDES porn. That’s why I call this a SIDE-EFFECT business.
Above, a COUNTER BAR.
This is a new kind of host club that exploits a loophole in the notorious "entertainment business law" that Governor Ishihara enacted to cripple business.
Basically he said "No host(ess) club can be open after 1 AM," so host-bar owners like Mr. Aida opened "counter bars" or "girls bars" where you can drink all night – but instead of flirting in a booth with a private host(ess), you flirt while standing at a bar, with a cute bartender.
They can’t shut down these ‘counter bars’ without shutting down every bar in Tokyo, goes the thinking. The bad news is, the strict law cut down on profits, but the good news is, dudes like us can now see inside the bars for free, since "counter bars" are on the first floor and have windows. Talk about transparency in the industry. . .
To read my translation of Mr. Aida’s how-to-hook-up-with-a-gigolo book "Rules Of Being A Better Lady," click here.
Below: another major SIDE-EFFECT of the sex business: hotels.
This is funny because the kanji is pronounced "an" – nothing wrong with that, but "an! an!" is also the manga sound effect of a woman panting in orgasm.
Cheesy enough for you?
Below, another kind of hotel: the capsule hotel! For people too drunk to go home, and who have lost too much money to stay at a regular hotel:
below: the locksmith. Locksmiths are very normal – but this one is open all night, in a Yakuza neighborhood. Wonder what their clients are like?
You saw the ‘decor’ of the ‘counter bar’ above. . .well, when one of their 3,000 neon lights breaks at 4 AM, where do they go?
To the ALL NIGHT NEON STORE!! They also have more color gels and light filters than a photo studio.
below: MISUZU, a popular drug store. Nothing suspicious here. You probably have one on YOUR corner. but. ..
a close inspection of the contents reveals something about kabukicho:
instead of having small amounts of 1,000 different things, this drug-store has only 8 items in stock:
Industrial amounts of cleansers / floorscrubs / stain removers
Industrial amounts of shampoo
And, depressingly, baby formula.
Given that there are 50 or so drug-stores in KBC, I am tempted to think of these as the backbone of the whole fuzoku system.
above: massage. But – this is not the ‘happy ending’ kind. This is massage FOR the hosts/hostesses THEMSELVES.
The sheer amount of these massage parlors should give you some idea how stressful hostess jobs are.
below: the T.U.C. loan-shark company. Where you can ‘get a loan’ at ‘reasonable rates.’
According to their website, they also own a dentist, a porno talent agency, some host bars, and an IT company!
Below, the TOKU SURU SUMAI REPORT AND REALTY CAFE, a real-estate agency:
According to the book Tokyo Vice, so many Yakuza use real-estate agencies as front companies, that "realtor" has become cop slang for mobster!
Anyway, this agency specializes in finding small, smoking-and-pets-OK apartments near KBC, for the workers.
Below, their flyer.
the logos on the bottom of the flyer read like a who’s who of Japan’s sex industry: CREATORS COMPANY CONNECTION, MANZOKU, POKEPARA, YUKAI. . . .How many real-estate flyers in YOUR neighborhood ARE SPONSORED BY EVERY PROSTITUTE MAGAZINE???
below: SOHO, a "kuyakushotori". This seems to be an agency that assists KBC’s fuzoku people in doing their taxes, and preparing official documents to make them legitimate. Fortunately, Shinjuku’s government office – the official seat of city authority – is ALSO LOCATED IN KABUKICHO.
Moving on . ..
Aside from bizarro, mob versions of everything from hotels, real-estate, locksmiths, electricians, and drugstores, there is an ENTIRE OTHER SIDE-EFFECT ECONOMY with literally dozens of shops in k-cho alone. I’m talking – of course- about THE PRESENT ECONOMY.
See, the whole host/hostess thing is, you’re not paying for sex, you’re paying to TALK – but – all that talk is meaningless without the promise of "Maybe sex later if you really treat me special." Instead of paying for sex, you pay for a PRESENT for your favorite host/hostess, to impress them. Thus the "present economy." It’s pretty complicated – clients like to buy things like clothes or jewels that the host(ess) has to wear to work, but the host(ess) prefers things that can be easily pawned for cash.
Let’s start with the cheap presents: PHOTO MAX
Photo-max is a sort of upscale purikura, where you can take a photo and they put it in a shiny locket (below). I have no idea if the client gives the picture to the host(ess) or vice versa.
For a little more, you can go to ALMOND and buy some luxurous chocolate confections for your ‘favorite.’
For a little more, you can buy a pet. (that’s why the fuzoku real-estate agency (above) brags that their apartment allow pets – a rarity in Toyko).
Supposedly fuzoku people like pets because they are small and cute, but it’s not hard to see the analogy between pets/cages and the workers themselves.
There’s at least 2 pet-stores in K-cho.
Below: the J&F BRAND SHOP:
"brand goods shops" are near the top of the "present economy." This store seems to sell both men’s and women’s goods:
handbags, shoes, watches, wallets.
BELOW: the sign on the window gives you some idea of how fraught the client/host relationship is: the sign says, "we give cash back if you return wallets bought here!"
below, PRINT SHOP INSATSU SAIKAN (literally: "printing colorful hall"), located directly accross from the Shinjuku Ward Government Office:
They do things like "put paris hilton rhinestone bling on any object to the point of encrusting", below:
But their main job is PRINTING. HOOKER GRAPHIC DESIGN, if I can say it.
If you walk inside, you will see rows and rows of sample BUSINESS CARDS for fuzoku people – the cards all have that blown-out purikura look that pervades the industry.
Below, DECO-RICH, another "hi-klass" brand emporium. They will, for a fee, ENCRUST YOUR CHAMPAGNE BOTTLE WITH RHINESTONES THAT SPELL OUT YOUR ‘FAVORITE’S NAME OR THE SLOGAN OF YOUR CHOICE. That seems to be their entire business model.
The absolute most expensive presents are found at YUKIZAKI, which only sells rolexes and shit. Their website brags about their Ginza store, and then, while coughing into its hand, sort of mentions the KBC store.. No links or maps are given. I would have loved to be at THAT meeting.
Finally, the most common part of the ‘present economy,’ is just FLOWERS. They’re romantic, cheap AND un-pawnable, so it’s no suprise that this is what the customers like to buy. There must be 100 only-at-night flower-stores in KBC alone. I wonder what the ratio of flower-stores to host-clubs is?
OK, moving on!
BOOOOOZE. Just like the booze stores in YOUR neck of the woods, except these are only open at night and only sell$1,000-and-up bottles of champagne.
The best, though, is BIG: BIG is essentially a street-stall, like those ramshackle huts that sell yakisoba or takoyaki. Except that BIG only sells champagne!
This is a FRANCHISE : there are at least 3 of them in KBC. WTF.
Below: the masterminds behind the whole racket.
Below: by Koma stadium, the CINE CITY CAFE. I assume they called it that because of the AC/DC reference, not because it’s near 3 movie-houses.
Below: another great side-effect business:
That’s right. The cops. Are they there to fight the gangsters, or become them? There’s a great part in Misha Glenny’s MCMAFIA book where he explains the custom of cops retiring early in order to run gambling and pachinko and hostess clubs: it’s a deliberate strategy to keep the Yakuza from making all the money.
Below, 5 STAR, a dress shop for working women.
LADIES PLAZA : MERCURY
For more information on the world of fuzoku fashion, go here.
Underwear emporium PURIN ( french for Pudding. Insert your own pudding joke si voo playt).
Below: as you might expect , there is no shortage of beauty salons, like ARIES (Deezamn.)
But, the top-of-the-line are the DIGITAL CREATION STUDIOS like SEEK AFTER. These places are all-in-one hooker propaganda mills, that will not only do your hair and nails, but they will shepherd you into a private photo studio for your head-shot, and then apply lots of high-end Photoshop to make it look like the world’s most expensive purikura.
Moving on, there are a bunch of unclassifiable, sinister shops that seem NEVER to be open. like the COLLINS NETWORK:
and MANAGEMENT COMPANY WAY-GROUP.
I don’t know what they do, but I assume they buy and sell the fuzoku businesses, like mob equity or something?
On second thought, probably not : because according to the poster below, Kabuki-cho really really is intolerant of organized crime.
OK, I hope you enjoyed the tour and learned about economics.
If you’re visiting Toyko, the best place to find these "side-economy" stores is 東京都新宿区歌舞伎町2丁目２３.
South of the love- hotels, north of Golden Gai, and on the east side of the KBC. There’s a whole cluster of them.
Anybody seen OTHER side-businesses that I overlooked?
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