Tokyo Guide: Shinjuku Nightlife
Tokyo Area Guide: Shinjuku Nightlife 新宿
Shinjuku, on the western edge of Tokyo, is a city within a city, that truly never sleeps. Shinjuku is the contemporary heart of Japan's bustling capital.
When you are done with shopping in Shinjuku during the day, turn your attention to all the area has to offer after dark from fine dining, to rowdy pubs, from sex and sleaze to one of the world's most vibrant gay entertainment districts.
Nishi Shinjuku in particular exudes wealth and power with its towering skyscrapers. One of the most eyecatching is Kenzo Tange's inspired citadel, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings, or 'Tocho', daily home to 13,000 bureaucrats.
Kabukicho (歌舞伎町) is a red-light district north off Yasukuni-dori Avenue, east of Seibu Shinjuku Station and accessible from the Kabukicho or Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae (Shinjuku Ward Office) intersections.
Kabukicho is renowned for its thousands of hostess bars, pink cabarets, soaplands, strip joints, porno video and DVD outlets and its numerous love hotels. Many of the sexual services on offer are not available to foreigners unless you go with a Japanese cognoscente.
Though yakuza (gangsters) are out and about here and both foreign and Japanese touts can get in your face, it is safe enough even at night, and plenty enough restaurants and bars that cater to every taste to keep you from having to wander for too long. Kabukicho is not all sleaze and there are a number of cinemas and good restaurants in the area.
However, it pays to be cautious. As with anywhere seedy, the naive and unwary are easily ripped off. Watch a YouTube video of Kabukicho.
Kabukicho is the setting for much of Natsuo Kirino's novel Out.
Golden Gai is block of bars just east of Kabukicho that preserves the Tokyo of the 1960s. It escaped the fate of most such areas in the 1980s which was arson by the yakuza for the purpose of sale to developers, thanks to the vigilance of its supporters.
Famed for its dense rows of tiny bars and its unabashed grottiness, this ground-level warren of tiny bars attracts a multitude of different types, and promises interesting encounters. Of the over 200 bars here, there are many that welcome foreigners. Look for signboards with English.
Shinjuku Ni-chome is the heart of the Tokyo gay scene.
Shinjuku Ni-Chome is accessible from the Central East Exit or South-East Exit of Shinjuku Station and is about 8 minutes' walk.
This conclave of mostly tiny bars, as well as more spacious cruise bars, dance clubs, bookshops, cafes, and saunas, is a little world unto its own after dark.
In warm weather, especially, the streets are thronged with men moving from place to place, or as spill-over from street bars, chatting with drinks in hands.
Some of the most famous gay bars and clubs that make it into the guide books include:
All tastes catered for!
Shinjuku Southern Terrace, Tokyo
Dubliners (Tel: 03 3352 6606), an Irish theme pub, part of a chain in Tokyo with branches in Ikebukuro, Shibuya, Akasaka, Toranomon and Shinagawa.
Angkor Wat (Tel: 03 3370 3019) for authentic Cambodian cuisine just west of Yoyogi Station.
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