Cheap Sex: Beating the Cost of Loving in Tokyo

Chris Kirkland
Love is in the air (and here's how to get it).
Love is in the air (and here’s how to get some). | Photo by Adrienne Mah

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 we 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 or the preventing thereof—successful rearing of young to be covered later).

If you came here looking for sex in Tokyo, then I’d recommend trying out Ashley Madison, perhaps the easiest entry into the world of Tokyo’s bored housewives. If you’re not interested in housewives, there’s always Craigslist, which does exist in Tokyo, as does Tinder (though not to the extent it does in North America), and both cover a wider swath of people, though notably the more “westernised” or just Western.

Otherwise, if you’d like to learn about dating and romance the more traditional way, read on …

How to have cheap sex in Tokyo

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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.

One of the most populated cities in the world.
One of the most populated cities in the world. | Photo by Adrienne Mah

* This is the approximate 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. While Tokyo is vast and densely populated, the central areas provide the most opportunity and likelihood for meeting future loved ones. So let’s start with a quick rundown of which areas work best for different people.

For the younger crowd: Shibuya, Harajuku and Kichijoji.

For the more exclusive and fashionable: Daikanyama, Toyama, Omotesando, Ebisu and Nakameguro.

For the more mature or professional: Omotesando, Toyama, Roppongi (also a bit of an expat zoo) and Ginza.

Neon lights of Tokyo nightlife.
Neon lights of Tokyo nightlife. | Photo by Adrienne Mah

And for some more specific niches: Akihabara is the spiritual home of male geeks. Shimbashi, Akasaka and Yurakucho are the haunts of salarymen. Shinjuku Nichome is the queer district, while Shinjuku as a whole is a potpourri of almost everything. And Shimokitazawa, Koenji and Nishi Ogikubo are frequented by indie rockers, thrift shoppers, punks and freeters.

Nightclubs

Nightclubs can be wild (and wildly expensive) here.
Nightclubs can be wild (and wildly expensive) here. | Photo by dat' used under CC

Unless you qualify for free entry on a girls’ night, cheapos generally look to nightclubs as a last resort. It’s not uncommon to pay 3,000 yen or more just to get into a club in Tokyo. Some good deals do exist—check out 55 (formerly Jumanji 55) or Mist (formerly Greenland) in Roppongi for 1,000-yen all-you-can-drink specials, as well as T2, Womb and Camelot in Shibuya for other specials and crazy club action. There’s also mega club ageHa out in Shin-kiba—pricey but worth a visit just for the experience.

A true cheapo, however, 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/matsuri

Bon odori at a summer festival.
Bon odori at a summer festival. | Photo by Adrienne Mah

Perhaps the best opportunities come in the form of festivals or matsuri, of which there are an abundance in Tokyo, especially in the summer (also the season of fireworks). Festival merriment (maybe 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 neighborhood, though some have reputations for being a huge smash, like the Kanda Matsuri. Check out our events pages, or better yet sign up for our cheapo weekend newsletter and get the hottest Tokyo event listings in your inbox each week.

Aside from the matsuri, there are also seasonal occasions for partying, of which “hanami” (cherry blossom season) is perhaps the greatest.  On weekends during hanami season, Yoyogi Park is a veritable zoo resembling some sort of deranged music festival in which all the performers, bands, organizers and security failed to turn up. But most parks and locations of sakura (cherry blossom) trees are usually teeming with punters and festivity.

But perhaps the most “on-topic” festival is the Kanamara Matsuri—it’s a celebration of fertility that features a giant pink dildo. Need we say more?

Party in the park.
Party in the park. | Photo by Adrienne Mah

Events, exhibitions, parties

There are always parties and other types of events going on in Tokyo (including international mixers where the theme seems to be “make friends with foreigners”). Cheapo favorites include promo parties, events at galleries and museums, and trendy things like Tokyo Design Week. If you’re a Facebook user and live in Tokyo, you might find you’ve already been invited to some of them.

If not, spend a few minutes searching on Facebook and you’ll more than likely find something that fits the bill. Tip: type an area into the Facebook search box, then filter by “events” (on the far right).

A night out with locals.
A night out with locals.

House parties

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, few households throw parties, but there are some exceptions. When it starts to get cold, for example, it’s common to have a “nabe” (hot pot) party—half a dozen friends or more squeeze into someone’s apartment to huddle around the steaming bubbling pot, and it’s easy to cozy up when passing morsels from bowl to bowl in a tiny studio apartment.

And then there are always a few socialites (the author being an example) who despite only having 36m², manage to cram 30+ guests in for an all-night party.

tokyo sex
Cheapo Chris (aka Hobo CEO) doing what was either a dance or an impassioned speech.

Shopping for a mate

But really there’s no need to wait or have a plan; like all those infomercials say—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 people wandering 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, and there are plenty of cafes where you can hang out ‘til the early hours. It really doesn’t take much to start a conversation.

Some suggestions: On the street – asking for directions; in department stores – asking opinions on clothes/hair styles/products; in cafes – help with reading kanji on the phone; or simply rocking up, being direct and telling someone you find them attractive (in a classy manner). The author met the love of his 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 cities on the planet (at least in terms of crime; earthquakes, tsunami and Godzilla notwithstanding). However, you risk shattering its 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.

We’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 also risk having your drinks spiked, being robbed and seeing huge charges (seriously, think millions) on your credit card bill. And there are many tales of the police being uncooperative in helping tourists trying to file crime reports, etc.

Avoid these signs!
Avoid these signs! | Photo by Adrienne Mah

To be safe, avoid:

  • Touts in the street, even just trying to get you into a bar;
  • Offers of massage—if you’re knotted up, try one of these legit places instead;
  • Hostess bars, which normally have some sort of expensive pricing system published out front;
  • Kabukicho in Shinjuku, Dogenzaka in Shibuya, and Roppongi after dark—these are known hotspots—by all means it’s interesting to walk around and see, but look, don’t touch!

One exception is host bars. Targeted at women, especially office workers, these places often have first-timers’ specials, such as an all-you-can-drink (for a couple of hours) deal for as little as 1,500 yen. The intrepid can take advantage of these deals, but a few rules of thumb: (1) Speak some Japanese or take a friend who does to make sure the deal is clear. (2) Don’t give your digits to a host: he will pester you to come back, professing his love, and making you feel that you’re “different” from the other guests (you’re not—your money is as good as the next). (3) Don’t visit the same host bar twice. The first-timers’ deals are only good once; after that, you pay a premium price.

And these!
And these! | Photo by Adrienne Mah

Stay safe cheapos, don’t risk Tokyo leaving a bitter taste in your mouth and ruining its flavor.

Cheap dates

Naturally we’ve already covered a few options for cheap dates. You could try a picnic in secret park with a half-price bento; or for a posh date go out for lunch not dinner; pretend it’s trendy and dine at a uni cafeteria; try Omotesando’s outdoor architecture museum for something sophisticated; or browse through our food section for more quality cheapo dining options.

tokyo sex

Mating grounds

So once you’ve found your mate and been on a date, you may find you need somewhere private to go because unless you’re part of Japan’s wacky porn industry—Tokyo sex for the most part happens indoors and out of the public eye. 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 (as most single Japanese people seem to) and it isn’t appropriate to bring anyone back. Or perhaps you just fancy a change from the aforementioned pokey apartment.

Love hotels

Nothing to see here ...
Nothing to see here … | Photo by Adrienne Mah

There are love hotels all over Tokyo, but a few places have a higher-than-usual concentration—namely, Love Hotel Hill in Shibuya, Kabukicho near Shinjuku Station, Ikebukuro’s north side, and around Uguisudani Station in the Ueno area. 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, either check in early evening (“rest” options disappear later in the evening, leaving only all-night options) and avoid weekends where prices shoot right up.

Have a look at our love hotel guide for more deets. Also, if you can read Japanese, try the website Happy Hotel: they have pretty comprehensive listings, as well as user reviews—plus you can get coupons. Some hotels offer point cards—however, you might want to keep it classy and keep your card to yourself if you are taking multiple paramours to the same spot.

Pick your love parlour from the screen.
Pick your love parlour from the screen. | Photo by Karl Baron used under CC

Other options

We’ll finish up with some more creative cheap sex ‘hacks’, but first, a disclaimer: the following examples could have you arrested for indecent exposure, so they should be read as strictly hypothetical!

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. Be warned: rumor has it that some karaoke booths have cameras installed. Personally we’d be surprised if any staff that spotted you getting busy on camera would be bold enough to burst in and ask if you want to order any more drinks—but weigh up the risks before the frisks.

What karaoke booths do have going for them is that they have actual doors and ceilings, as opposed to manga cafe booths, which tend toward open-ceiling-ed cubicles with half doors that are easy to peer over or under. Also, karaoke will muffle any suspect sounds, while the manga cafes are much quieter and lack actual walls.

tokyo sex
That’s quite a nose …

The great outdoors

For the naturalist cheapo, Tokyo provides fewer outdoor options than most cities, but there are some good spots if you know where to look.

A certain number of apartment blocks have no main access door, so you can just walk in and head straight for the roof. Tip: use “Looking for a lost cat” as an excuse if ever questioned. And then there are cemeteries—people the world over are frightened to venture into the resting places of the dead after dark, so a big graveyard makes the perfect spot for some privacy in the early hours. Bridges over major roads are also strategic, as road signs provide ample cover from the cars below, and pedestrians—if any at 4am—are probably too drunk or tired to be of any concern.

tokyo sex
Go on, giggle. You know you want to.

Condoms

Condoms are easily found in drugstores and convenience stores, but for the best prices and selection (including various sizes), don’t forget Don Quixote (“Donki”). They also have a decent selection of sex toys, from dancing with yourself (vibrators, Fleshlights, etc.) to vanilla sex (including flavored items) to some props and S&M gear.

Safe(r) Sex

Finally, if you’re getting lucky, do the right thing and get tested! For yourself, for your partner—it’s the cool thing to do! Here are some cheap and free STI clinics in Tokyo:

Shinjuku: Free STI testing twice a month

HIV/AIDS resources in Tokyo

Minato Ward HIV testing

STI testing in Shimokitazawa (In English, general healthcare also available)

For more info on contraceptions, prophylactics, and STI testing clinics in Tokyo—read our comprehensive sexual health guide.

This post is regularly updated. Last update: December 2016.



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17 Responses to “Cheap Sex: Beating the Cost of Loving in Tokyo”

  1. Great article, Chris!

  2. One note of caution regarding Japanese house parties…unlike the Western concept, which is basically: call up a bunch of your friends, have some chips and dips and maybe a BBQ going, everybody brings a plate or drinks, and you’re generally clear whether its “bring a plate to share” or BYO. In Japan, newcomers may get a shock when they’re asked to pay anywhere between 1000 to 5000 yen for attendance and food and drink. Sometimes the host has done a brilliant job of catering to their guests and you feel the cost is legit, other times you feel cheated after paying 2500 yen for some cans of beer and snack food from the conbini. Always best to check before going to a house party whether you will be expected to pay.

  3. since public drinking is legal- try wine walks- pour the wine in water bottles and walk the many many shotengais-shopping streets espcially fun in areas like Koenji or Shimokitzawa. You can pick up reasonably priced wines at Seiyu department store.

    • CheapoGreg

      Since it’s legal, couldn’t you just walk around with the wine bottle?

      • tpguide

        Only if you are Australian

        • CheapoGreg

          OK, so Australians walk around drinking from the bottle while our guest of an unspecified nationality pours the wine from a perfectly good glass bottle into a plastic water bottle. I think the Australian approach makes more sense to me!

          • Charlie

            We do the same in China, fear not. Not so much wine unless it’s a park; it’s overpriced here.

  4. osaka_mary

    Great article. I would point out that love hotel coupons are also available in the magazines Yoru Date Navi and Tokyo Date. Great for

    me as I am too cheapo to buy a new printer for the couples.jp coupons.

  5. Oishionna

    The cheapest and best value option for a love hotel is to go during the day during the week. A lot of hotels have “service time” of up to 8 hours for the same price as a 2 hour rest. Bring a bento and settle in for a fun day.

    “Rental rooms” seem to be cheaper than a Love Hotel for a quick visit – but I’ve never been brave enough to try.

  6. Shin-Okubo has a large number of love hotels and they are a lot cheaper than in Shibuya. It’s probably cheap to take a taxi to Shin-Okubo from Shibuya than it is to get a hotel in Shibuya.

    2000-3000en for a “rest”

  7. The Dude is not impressed.

    Uhhh… How exactly is this effective advice? Many of us guys have already done the Cheapos ideas and gotten nowhere except a couple dates, rejections and a ton of flakes along the way. If Chris is so successful, then that must attributed to his position as a columnist or because he speaks fluent Japanese because we internationals (prefer term then gaijins) sure as hell give 100% into meeting women respectfully throughout Japan and get none of the above. Sorry but this hasn’t proven anything until I run into him on the street instadating women. Yeah article great man.
    Here’s an idea prove it man! post a video column of you going to these places and successfully picking up women.
    .

    • Definitely speaking Japanese helps, but I doubt Chris would consider his Japanese to be fluent.

      Flakes are common in Japan for all sorts of reasons including:
      -bad weather
      -unexpected overtime
      -someone more important than a random foreigner she met once for a few minutes asks to see her
      -someone more important than a random foreigner she met once for a few minutes asks her to do a favor
      -not being at her best for whatever reason
      -being low on cash
      -house chores like laundry, or cleaning
      -etc you get the picture

      Flakes are a way of life, so you should always design your meetings so if the girl does flake, it’s no big deal.

      If you’re getting girls on dates consistently and it’s not leading to sex, than that’s where you’re real problem is, and you should focus on improving your date setup so they lead smoothly to sex.

      That means handling the logistics well among other things. There’s a reason why the Japanese have the least amount of sex per year of any country in the WORLD. Japanese women are pretty passive about sex happening, but if they’re out on a date, and certainly if they go on SEVERAL dates with you, then sex is on the table.

      • Alimac

        Sex is NOT on the table if you’re on a date or even have gone on several dates. If you’re just going on dates to have sex and not actually meet someone for a relationship I would suggest just going to a club and skipping the dating part. A woman is not obligated to have sex with you because she went on a date with you.

        • I think you may misunderstand the meaning of the idiom, “on the table.” If you do a quick search you’ll see that it means open for discussion.

          Also where does what I wrote imply that I or anyone is “just going on dates to have sex”? Like most things in life, it’s not so simple as all that.

    • GaijinAss

      My first several years in Tokyo I spoke almost no Japanese and I got laid regularly. This article is about how to date on the cheap; it isn’t a PUA seminar. If you are meeting women and not “closing” then you are doing something wrong.

  8. LiveFromShaolin

    LMAOOO THANK YOU FOR THIS

  9. Dave Handerson

    What about Pink Salons, those are good, right?


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