Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) is the most well known red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Kabukicho is home to a number of love hotels, fetish bars, dance clubs, strip clubs and other adult oriented, late night buildings.
The district was named after a theater that was supposed to be built in the 1940’s called the “Kibuki Theater.” Though the theater was never built, the name of the district never changed.
Before the war, the area was generally swampland and unusable. The area was rebuilt after World War II. Very quickly it blossomed into one of the most highly sexualized and adult streets in Japan, as prostitution, love hotels, companionship bars and strip clubs began to pop up across the area of the city at a rapid pace. The city is also home to a lot of Tokyo’s organized crime, and many of the buildings and businesses in the area are thought to be run by the Japanese mob (both the Yakuza and the Triads have a number of members in the area). In 2004, it was estimated that the Yakuza had 1000 members and over 120 different buildings in that area alone.
In 2000, Kabukicho added a great deal of patrol cars and security to reduce many of the illegal behaviors in the area. 77 different surveillance cameras were installed as well. The result was a generally safer street as visible at night, but very little of the illegal activities that take place in the area suffered from the change, as they mostly hide underground.
This area of the city is also home to the most illegal immigration in Tokyo. The hidden, low rent areas make them ideal hiding spots for illegal immigrants, though the increase in security has cut down on the number of individuals hiding in the area.
Currently there are over 3000 bars, night clubs and other adult areas. Despite its reputation, Kabukicho is not terribly unsafe. Women are advised to walk with a companion due to inappropriate solicitations, but because the area has turned into such a booming night time city, as well as the combination of added security and extremely bright lighting, most people are rarely hassled and the area has become a popular place for younger adults to go at night for drinking with friends. While crime and illegal activities still take place, the area itself is far less dangerous than it is made out to be. Some locals refer to the area as Japan’s “city that never sleeps.”