Visiting Shinjuku and the red light district of Kabukichō
When people think of Tokyo, visions of Shinjuku come to mind.
Shinjuku is modern Tokyo: the home of tall skyscrapers in West Shinjuku, the neon lights of Kabukichō (the city’s red light district in East Shinjuku), and Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world. Crowded day and night with office workers, tourists, and the service workers that cater to them, the area is (with a few exceptions) bustling and chaotic.
After 4 days in the quiet Asakusa area, we wanted to sample some of the craziness of Shinjuku. Here are some photos, a few highlights, and some observations on this area.
Kabukichō (Tokyo’s red light district)
I think anyone visiting Tokyo has to visit Kabukichō at least once, if anything just to be assaulted by the dizzying neon lights and the energy of the crowds. But I’ll be honest: if you’re looking for a little naughty nightlife and you’re a foreigner, you won’t find Kabukichō a very friendly place. Kabukichō caters to local Japanese: you won’t see English signs and the touts – who you’ll see approaching locals – will ignore you as a foreigner. If you’ve been to Bangkok or any other red light district in the world you might find this really puzzling. I had my 50th birthday while in Tokyo and we were thinking that it would be fun to have a few drinks in a strip club (Yup, I’ve got the coolest wife in the world). That never happened. The best piece of advice I would have to anyone wanting to see more than just the outside of these establishments is to make a Japanese friend and have him take you there.
I found this very interesting article on Kabukichō.
So “Hot or Not?” For us Kabukichō was “Not”. Still a fun place to walk around and take in all the lights.
A few tours in Kabukichō
Related: Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant – the craziest show we’ve ever seen
We stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel while in Shinjuku. Beautiful, big hotel and it’s a short walk from Kabukichō. A popular spot, right in the center of Kabukichō, is the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku.
International flights arrive at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (code NRT). It is located 60 km east of Tokyo.We book all plane, train, bus and private transport using 12Go Asia. They’re the best booking site in Asia.
A short walk away, West Shinjuku is totally different. Here you’ll find skyscrapers that include government buildings, shopping centers, and some of Tokyo’s premier hotels. The main streets are wide and lined with trees, it’s a nice area to walk around in the evening when the daytime hordes of office workers have gone home. One of the highlights is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which has observation decks (free!) on both towers. It’s a great spot to come for views.
Related: Going Hello Kitty Crazy at the Keio Plaza Hotel (Tokyo)
Related: A Daytrip to Nikko (Japan)
Related: How to see Tokyo with a Free Volunteer Guide
Related: Signs in Japan: The funny, strange or just unusual
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Wow – the neon lights are really amped up and what a contrast between the quieter business district and the ancient areas of Tokyo. The only place that I can think of that compares to the red light district of Tokyo is NYC’s Time Square but your photos show a place that seems ten times higher energy. Looks like a memorable place to celebrate your 50th! 😀 Anita
The only other place that comes to mind for me is Hong Kong. I have to admit the views in Hong Kong were more impressive to me, especially looking out from across the harbor in Kowloon.
Kabukichō sounds boring. I like the lights, but sounds like it caters to just Japanese businessmen with a lot of cash and a love of cartoon characters. If I was Japanese I’d save my money and spend it all in Bangkok!
Thanks Jack. Yes, I’d probably do the same 🙂
Happy 50th Birthday! Celebrating it in Tokyo must be amazing…enjoy.
Thanks you Gilda!
Love Godzilla looking over the building…. does he make noise? Kabukichō is not my type of place, but I agree with you Frank… fun to look at – once.
No, no noise. But wouldn’t it be great if he could make huge monster noises and move around a bit?
A lot of women go to strip clubs. Checking out the competition.
Or to keep up with the latest dance moves 🙂
Holy crap…that makes Times Square look like peanuts.
Thanks Peter. Yes, pretty crazy right?