Tokyo Damage Report

kabukicho : epiphenomena of fuzoku

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?

below: denkiten! 

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:

 

Make-up

Stockings

Industrial amounts of cleansers / floorscrubs / stain removers

Industrial amounts of shampoo

Condoms

Genki drinks

Wart remover

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.’

Below, the offices of the "A.Y. CORPORATION GROUP", publishers of  ‘men’s spider’, the popular gigolo fashion magazine.

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.

below: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 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?

 

24 comments Tags:

24 Comments so far

  1. Dan January 18th, 2010 6:25 pm

    Awesome post. Absolutely love Kabukicho for exactly the same reasons.

    Can’t tell you how many times I would go to Kabukicho, coffee in hand on a Saturday night and just people watch. All those tiny little bars packed inside one ordinary looking building always fascinated me. How do they all stay in business?

    Also, have you seen those pictures around KBC of that dude with the sunglasses, long fur coats and the 70′s punch perm, he’s like the godfather of Kabukicho or something?

    Dude has like two dogs on leashes with him at all times. Not sure if my description is good enough, but theres pictures and posters of him all over the place. Would love an in-depth report on who that guy is and why he is such a revered figure up in the KBC because Ive been wondering for quite a while now.

    I heard that he was a famous host turned host club owner, the who’s who of KBC back in the day if you will…

  2. Kevin January 18th, 2010 6:52 pm

    Great blog, another great post.
    I thought the T.U.C. shops are where you turn your pachinko winnings into cash. Didn’t know you could get a loan too.
    Aren’t the pet shops a scam too. A guy comes in to buy a pet for his fav hostest. She takes it back to the store and gets 80% of the original fee back. Pet store pockets 20% and she tells dumb customer that the dog ran away.

  3. Brian January 18th, 2010 8:07 pm

    I think the restaurants are a bit of a side business. Not in the sense that you go to eat, but the ones where at 4am there are hella dudes sleeping in the back corners, waiting for the train.

    About the flowers. Out at the crack of dawn, there will be tons of bouquets out on the street. New, but out for the garbage man nonetheless. If you are cheap, but like having fresh flowers in your pad, it’s a scavenger’s goldmine. Classy!

  4. orestria January 18th, 2010 9:18 pm

    I think this post just about made my life

  5. gtan January 19th, 2010 2:18 am

    the baby clothing store
    and the “yakuza grandpa” clothing shop that sells sweat suits with Warner Brothers cartoon characters on them

  6. AnokPanda January 19th, 2010 3:40 pm

    Damn! Schultz making with the expose.

    My mind is racing with thoughts of how the money really flows among the mob and it’s victims & parasites. The whole setup provides the inner circle/higher-up thugs with so many opportunities (money laundering alone would be enough). The system seems homogeneous, yet it can’t be completely beneficial for the mob to directly own/operate every segment; but having muscle and creativity they will take as much of the cake as their P&L estimates stacked against the risks and benefits will allow. Perhaps the mob does indirectly run everything, some numbers show that the “store owner yakuza” (I can’t remember the Japanese word, but they’re not real yakuza, but rather wannabes/hanger-ons/tools) compromise the largest segment of organized crime, but they are still considered minor criminals and work to service the mob. Yet with so many people working, providing for all those people would be a logistical nightmare with risks the mob would rather do without. Everyone working together to bum rush the limits of legality and the states ability to enforce(although some simply benefit/accommodate the gangstaism; the truth probably falls somewhere in the middle. I can also imagine the true bitches of this mini economy is, the public face, the hosts and hoes.

    Kinda reminds me of the shops in my city that let dudes sell drugs out them; we also got the infamous video poker arcade games, not as famous as pachinko but very similar.

  7. admin January 19th, 2010 6:20 pm

    @gtan: yakuza grandpa store is COCO 2 – instructions on how to get there are in my tour guide. Where is the baby clothing store? That sounds like a real heartbreaker.
    @brian: free flowers? Thanks for the street knowledge! all-night Restaraunts are like taxis and mangakissa – they exist in all parts, so I didn’T include them. However, clearly certain restaurants are ‘for the locals’ (hustlers on their break or after work). It would be nice to know which restaurants those are!
    @dan : perhaps the guy you are thinking of is Mr. Aida? He runs a bunch of host-pubs, both’ regular’ and ‘drag-king’ variety. I saw him holding court on the stoop of one of his establishments, while I was out taking pictures.

  8. szaszha January 19th, 2010 7:52 pm

    so you can really get laid by the hooker of your choice just for giving her some easily pawnable items? or can they still reject your ass and tell you to get lost?

  9. AnokPanda January 19th, 2010 9:38 pm

    @szaszha: I wonder to, If sex was supposed to guaranteed, but lots of people weren’t getting any, who would spend their prostitute money in a place like that, wouldn’t they just go to a straight up street walker? I think we would have to know more about the clients. They could mostly be super pathetic social outcasts who are glutens for punishment and will come back for more no matter what the outcome of the date/encounter. Sex might be a second thought to them, when what they really want is a fake courtship/relationship. Perhaps the clients are craving an alluring mix of sad sex with the thrill of a bitchy slot machine.

  10. Cameron January 20th, 2010 12:39 am

    I assume it’s mostly the formality of it, but there is an element of fantasy even in prostitution and the gift giving may be a part of selling that illusion to clients.

    Night Market by Bishop and Robinson describes in good detail how Thai sex workers sell the element of fantasy to their clients; some would keep framed photos of regular clients and hang them around their room when the client is expected to visit and there were anecdotes of gift giving as well.

    It’s not so much about giving the prostitute something of value for sex, but giving the client the fantasy of a fulfilling, reciprocal relationship.

    However I cannot generalize all sex industries, so regard this as a theory.

  11. admin January 20th, 2010 2:42 am

    @cameron, anokpanda, pervs, re: gifts to hosts/hostesses.
    1) Japan in general – in all walks of life – puts a big emphasis on gifts, in fact people talk about ‘omiyage bunka’ (gift-giving culture).
    2) also Japanese (at least in Kanto – the east coast) tend to take a long time to make friends. Even outside of the host/client relationship! Like if you met a fun dude at a concert, you couldn’t say, “You sound interesting, come over to my house and let’s get stoned and listen to hella music!” You’d have to work up to that point over 4 or 5 “friend meetings” where nothing interesting is accomplished. Given this state of affairs, the extended , ritualized gift-giving courtship between customers and hosts/hostesses makes more sense.

  12. AnokPanda January 20th, 2010 7:23 am

    ya sure, but they still gotta eat and buy baby formula and dog costumes.

  13. ヤリ January 20th, 2010 9:59 am

    That pet shop on the east side of Koma always seemed so out of place. Now it makes much more sense.

    Any idea if those free guide shops cover all shops in the are or only those owned by particular groups?

  14. Riley January 21st, 2010 12:05 pm

    Awesome, I like when you take pictures outside of venues.

  15. Sarah January 22nd, 2010 1:43 am

    This was so fascinating! I’d love to see more of this kind of street anthropology on your blog. Maybe you could do a series about several different neighbourhoods around your city, and their characteristic oddities?
    I continue to enjoy your blog even when the subject matter isn’t my favourite, because your voice and style are just fun. I feel a little bit like I’m reading the blog of an alternate universe Roast Beef who got really angry and went to Japan.

  16. catoneinutica January 25th, 2010 3:54 am

    Utter brilliance. Schultz is the Emperor of the Sites about Japan. And not an effete, inbred royal like Akihiko or the Brits, but a big, ass-kicking emperor with balls, like the King of Tonga.

  17. seth January 26th, 2010 5:02 pm

    whoa. that just about broke my fragile little mind… totally enjoyable.

  18. Dario January 28th, 2010 8:02 am

    Awesome post. I’m always amazed by this kind of layers upon layers of details.

  19. xlovex January 28th, 2010 8:05 am

    Interesting post! I thought 区役所通り was the street leading up to the 区役所.

  20. Dave February 7th, 2010 11:50 pm

    Cool post.

    But I wanna protest against what I think are a couple of inaccuracies.

    Like someone else mentioned, the TUC shops are the (reputedly) Yakuza-run places where you can exchange your pachinko prizes for cash (and then they “sell” the prizes back to the pachinko parlor). That way, you can say that pachinko isn’t gambling even though that’s exactly what it is. Are you sure they do loans as well?

    Also, the SOHO places do office rentals – SOHO = Small Office Home Office. Of course they might be a front for something else, but generally I’m pretty sure it’s a legit business.

    One more thing – a lot of commenters seem to think that hostess = prostitute. It ain’t necessarily so, though in KBC the line’s probably pretty thin.

  21. spike February 9th, 2010 11:38 pm

    Awesome writeup. I’ve been to a couple of spots inside the Collins Network tower. There’s several floors of high-dollar “date clubs” and hostess bars where you can take the girls out (read: to your hotel room) for about 40K. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there so things may be different now, but you have to tip the “travel agents” for them to show you those places.

  22. trashtastika February 11th, 2010 1:31 pm

    I LOVED this post. I always stay in Kabukicho when I go to Tokyo and am besotted with the place. This was so enlightening! I didn’t know the pet stores were there for the hostesses (let alone all the other businesses)

  23. Gaijinass February 11th, 2011 11:23 pm

    I have spent a fair amount of time in Hostess clubs, most of them more upscale and honestly, only one in Kabukichou.  That having been said, the formula seems the same.  If it isn't one of the slut dumps, then the sex connection is not at all a sure thing.  Usually, in my experience, it's much more like a Girlfriend/mistress thing that develops. Guys that want to get laid can just go next door and do that for 20,000 yen.  So the ones hitting the Ho clubs are either A: pretty well loaded with money to burn and egos to boost up (aging yazzies past their prime, half ass hosts, drunk salary men about to lose their bonus) or B: mad fucking lonely and desperate (Hosts) She knows her place from the get go and the gifts or allowance keep her in that place.  You go out to eat, fuck, whatever.  The point? She is usually 15 years younger than you and isn't the wife that birthed your 3 horrible children and hates you.
    Also, particularly in KBC, about half the clients at the Hostess clubs and easily 75 % of the ones at Host clubs come from the sister/brother locations. I mean, Hosts tend to frequent hostess clubs near where they work and the same goes for Hostess girlies hitting up Host bars. They also, ridiculously, all follow and habitually read the tacky "industry" literature about Host/hostess fashion and who is number 1 and blah blah.  Its fucking sad.  The high incomes they get just generally get rolled back into the industry across the street.
    I honestly think that prostitution or porn have longer career timelines than the Host/Hostess biz.  Every single one I have known  on both sides look like shit in real light, have absolutely no grip on reality and burn through cash like they have a printing press at home.  And I have yet to meet a single ONE, despite the media hype, that escaped that industry on an up note.
    Also, KBC is one of the most eclectic areas regarding the mob in Tokyo.  It is so mixed and the territories are constantly changing, I would love to see up to date posts about that someplace.
     
    Cool post. 

  24. admin February 15th, 2011 7:12 pm

    @gaijinass: thanks! I enjoyed your post about how to survive a police interrogation. If you want more yakuza stuff in english, have you tried the “japan subculture” blog?
    http://www.japansubculture.com/
    that’s pretty much their thing.

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