Like pretty much all the other mammals cohabiting planet Earth, the Cheapo is hardwired at an animal level to find a mate and reproduce. In this article I hope to assist fellow Cheapos living in or visiting Tokyo with some tips and pointers for economically achieving evolutionary success (at least to the point of conception – successful rearing of young to be covered later).
Where to find a mate
With up to 36 million* people to choose from, from a purely statistical point of view Tokyo is perhaps the best location in the world for finding a mate. Never in the history of humankind has there been such an abundance and density of humans living amongst one another.
* This is the approx population of the Tokyo Metropolitan area, of course in reality the true number of potential ‘mates’ isn’t quite that large.
But let’s get a little more specific.
Whilst Tokyo is particularly vast and densely populated, the central areas provide by far the most opportunity and likely hood for meeting future loved ones. So let’s start with a quick run down of what you’ll find in which areas:
For the younger crowd
For the more exclusive and fashionable
For the more mature or professional
- Roppongi (also an expat zoo)
And for some more specific niches
- Akihabara – male geeks
- Shinbashi/Akasaka/Yurakucho – salary men
- Shinjuku Nichome – gay district
- Shinjuku – a potpourri of almost everything
Unless you qualify for free entry at a Girls night, the Cheapo generally looks to night clubs as a last option. With a few exceptions, it’s not uncommon to pay 3000yen and more just to get in to a club in Tokyo. Some better deals can be found during the week, but a good Cheapo knows much more cost effective (i.e. free) ways to find a potential mate.
So let’s swiftly move on to the free options.
Festivals and Matsuri
Perhaps the best opportunities come in the form of festivals or matsuri of which there are an abundance in Tokyo most of the year round. Festival merriment (perhaps also alcohol) serves as a reliable ice-breaker plus the sheer number of people means that you’d be hard pressed not to have a least a few friendly exchanges with those around you. You’ll likely find there’s a matsuri in your local neighbourhood, though some have reputations for being a huge smash like Azabujuban Matsuri. Check out the Japan Times monthly festival listings or if you can read (some) Japanese then searching for “祭り” will provide a wealth of opportunities, for starters try http://matsuri.enjoytokyo.jp.
Aside from the matsuri, there’s also seasonal occasions for partying, of which “Hanami” (cherry blossom season) is perhaps the greatest. At weekends during Hanami season, Yoyogi park is a veritable zoo resembling some sort of deranged music festival in which all the performers, bands, organisers and security failed to turn up. But most parks and locations of sakura (cheery blossom) trees are usually teaming with punters and festivity. Also the Tokyo summer brings with it a plethora of massive firework displays (hanabi taikai), yukata clad folk, crammed together like mutant sardines each holding aloft their iPhones as they video the explosions in the sky above. The author’s personal favourite is the Tamagawa taikai.
Also Yoyogi Park is pretty much always a good spot. There’s often a weekend festival in the area behind the NHK building, and even with no festival the main park area is usually pretty lively during the spring and Autumn.
If the age range is right for you, then all the University campus parties “daigakusai” (大学祭) should be in your diary. And even if students are outside your age range they are worth checking out just for some free weekend fun.
Perhaps the most “on topic” festival is the Kanamara Matsuri – fertility festival, need I say any more?
Events, Exhibitions, Parties
The focus of a specific theme or interest is very effective at bringing people together. Cheapo favorites would include promotional parties, free art galleries and events, such as Tokyo Design Week. If you’re a facebook user and live in Tokyo, you might find you’ve already been invited to something along these lines.
If not, a few minutes searching on facebook and you’ll more than likely find something that fits the bill. Tip: type an area into facebook search box, then click on “more results” at the bottom, then filter by “events” (on the left)”.
One of my personal favourites was the H&M building in Harajuku which hosted promotional parties for various brands.
And last but not least house parties are always a great (and cheap) environment for making new friends. However you’ll likely find house parties quite rare in Tokyo. Due to the lack of space and to certain extent culture, few households throw parties, but there’s a certain demographic that stands as an exception to the rule – the richer or more sociable expats. So keep you antennae tuned for friends working at large corporations or financial institutions, and as a cheapo you’ll find it’s infinitely easier to cross paths with big spenders in Tokyo than other Western cities – you both have being foreign in common.
And then there’s always a few socialites (the author being an example) who despite only have 36m², manage to cram 30+ guests in for an all night party.
Shopping for a Mate
But really there’s no need to wait or have a plan, you can start right now. As you read this post, regardless of the time of day or date, there are thousands upon thousands of unattached and available persons wondering around central Tokyo – few cities in the world have such levels of 24/7 opportunity. Late afternoon and early evening shopping provide innumerable opportunities for interacting with new people, or during the evening there’s plenty of cafe’s where you can hang out till the early hours. It really doesn’t take much to start a conversation:
- On the street – asking for directions
- Inside department stores – asking opinions on clothes choices/hair styles/products
- In cafes – (for non natives) Help with reading Kanji on the phone
- Or simply rocking up, being direct and telling someone you find them attractive
I met the love of my life on an escalator in Tsutaya, Shibuya – I asked her opinion about whether I should cut my hair or not.
A word of warning – Hostess bars, and the Mizu Shobai industry
Tokyo is without doubt one of the safest places cities on the planet (well at least in terms of crime, earthquakes, tsunami and Godzilla notwithstanding), however you risk shattering it’s disneyland level innocence should you stray into the sex industry. The “Mizu Shobai” (sex industry) comes in many (50?) shades of grey, from the almost white – “snack bars”, to light – girls bars, hostess bars, to the medium – Soapland, “massage” and the dark stuff of vice documentaries.
I’d warn anyone, especially cheapos to steer clear of the whole lot. At the very least you’ll pay ridiculous prices for watered down drinks, but you risk having your drinks spiked, being robbed and seeing huge charges on your credit card bill. And there’s many tales of the police being uncooperative in helping tourists trying to file crime reports etc.
- Touts in the street, even just trying to get you into a bar
- Offers of Massage (well duh)
- Hostess bars, which normally have some sort of expensive pricing system published out front
- Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Dogenzaka in Shibuya, and Roppongi after dark are particular hotspots – by all means it’s interesting to walk around and see, but look don’t touch!
Stay safe cheapos, don’t risk Tokyo leaving a bitter taste in your mouth and ruining it’s flavor, instead get a risk free taste of Tokyo’s dark side by reading Jake Aldstein’s Tokyo Vice.
Naturally we’ve already covered a few options for cheap dates:
- Try a picnic in secret park with a half price bento
- For a posh date: go out for lunch not dinner
- Or pretend it’s trendy (rather than just because it’s cheap) and dine at a uni cafeteria
- For a sophisticated date, try omotesando’s outdoor architecture museum
- Browse through our food section for more quality cheapo dining options
- And check out our Cheapo Weekend series for regular low cost entertainment ideas
A couple of cheapo golden rules:
- Guys don’t pay for the girls half on dates – save up your money, you’ll need it for the mortgage and kids
- Girls don’t pay for your drinks, expect men to be “Gentlemen” and pay for you
- If you’re both Cheapos, then great you’ve found a perfect match! just buy an onigiri each and take it from there.
So once you’ve found your mate and been on a date, you may find you need somewhere private to go. Perhaps you’ve missed the last train and a taxi to your pokey little apartment is more than the cash in your wallet. Or maybe you live at home (seemingly as do most single Japanese) and it isn’t appropriate to bring anyone back. Or perhaps you just fancy a change from the pokey apartment.
Under the strict definition, there are actually only three areas in Tokyo in which Love Hotels can legally operate – Love Hotel hill in Shibuya, Kabukicho near Shinjuku Station and near Uguisudani Station in the general locality of Ueno. All the others scattered throughout the city are actually “business hotels” which exist in the grey area of the law as pseudo love hotels. To you the user, this of course makes absolutely no difference – except for the fact that high density means more competition – so the best deals and the cheapest places are all in Shibuya, Kabukicho or Uguisudani.
As a rule, the cheapest place is never the first one you come to. The hotels on the perimeter take advantage of the fact that their customers are probably as horny as hell and aren’t looking to shop around.
Another consideration with love hotels is that you often end up getting what you pay for – the absolute cheapest option is often a poor value proposition so paying slightly more than the minimum will often get you considerably better value.
For good deals, ether check in early evening (“rest” options disappear later in the evening, leaving only all night options) and avoid weekends where prices shoot right up. Also if you can read Japanese, try the website Happy Hotel, pretty comprehensive listings, user reviews plus you can coupons for some of the hotels.
And we’ll finish today with some more creative cheap sex ‘hacks’, but first a disclaimer: The following examples could have you being arrested for indecent exposure, so these examples are hypothetical only and not intended as real advice. So you’ll be good now, and not try any of these out
Karaoke and Manga Cafes
Karaoke booths or manga cafes are significantly less per hour than a love hotel for a (sort of) private room, albeit they don’t come with a proper bed or a lock on the door. The prudent Cheapo would consider shopping for some cushions at donki as part of the date before hand. Be warned though, rumour has it that some karaoke booths have cameras installed, but personally I’d be surprised if any staff that spotted you getting frisky on camera would be bold enough to burst in and ask if you want to order any more drinks.
For the Naturalist Cheapo Tokyo provides less outdoor options than most cities, but there are a few good spots if you know where to look.
- Apartment block roofs – a certain number of apartment blocks have no main access door, so you can just walk in and head straight for the roof. Use “Looking for a lost cat” as an excuse if ever questioned.
- Cemeteries – people the world over are frightened to venture into the resting places of the dead after dark, so a big cemetery makes a perfect spot for some privacy in the early hours.
- Bridges over major roads – road signs provide ample cover from the cars below, pedestrians if any at 4am are probably too drunk or tired to be of any concern.
Outdoors – cemetery, roof, road bridges
About The Author
So you want to get the most out of Tokyo on a budget? Well you are in safe hands. Being of British roots Chris has a natural instinct for being a complete cheap arse and spending as little money as possible. Add to this, his favourite chat up line is "Can you buy me a drink" (which has actually worked on a number of occassions) and if that wasn't enough already, he run's another blog called hoboceo.com - a true cheapo!
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