Like pretty much all the other mammals cohabiting planet Earth, the cheapo is hardwired at an animal level to find a mate and get jiggy. In this article, we hope to assist fellow cheapos living in or visiting Tokyo with some tips and pointers for economically achieving success in this arena.
If you came here looking for sex in Tokyo, you might try Ashley Madison, perhaps the easiest entry into the world of Tokyo’s bored housewives (and husbands). If you’re not interested in that, there’s always Craigslist, which does exist in Tokyo, as does Tinder—but not to the extent it does in North America.
Otherwise, if you’d like to learn about dating and romance the more traditional way, read on.
How to have cheap sex in Tokyo
With up to 37 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 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 (note: a bit of an expat zoo) and Ginza.
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 other cool types.
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 or more just to get into a club in Tokyo. Some good deals do exist—check out 55 (formerly Jumanji 55) for ¥1,000-all-you-can-drink specials, as well as TK, Womb and Camelot in Shibuya for other specials and crazy club action. There’s also mega club ageHa out in Shinkiba—pricey but worth a visit just for the experience.
A true cheapo, however, knows far more cost-effective ways of finding a potential mate. So let’s swiftly move on to the free options.
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 (sometimes 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 verbal 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 delivered to 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.
Perhaps the most “on-topic” festival is the Kanamara Matsuri—a celebration of fertility that features a giant pink dildo. Need we say more?
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 search box, then filter by “events” (on the far right).
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 the noise prohibitions, 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.
Old-skool searching for a mate
But really, there’s no need to wait or have a formal 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 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/hairstyles/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 and respectful manner). Case in point: 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 and hostess bars—to the medium—Soapland and “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.
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 possible 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. 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.
Stay safe cheapos, don’t risk Tokyo leaving a bitter taste in your mouth.
Naturally, we’ve already covered a few options for cheap dates. You could try a picnic in a 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.
Once you’ve found your mate and been on a date (or three), 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 or hotel room 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.
There are love hotels all over Tokyo, but a few areas 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 (or sheepish) 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 get you considerably better value. For good deals, go in the early evening (“rest” options disappear later on, leaving only all-night options) and avoid weekends where prices shoot right up.
Have a look at our love hotel guide and the video below 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—though you might want to keep your card to yourself if you are taking multiple paramours to the same spot.
We’ll finish up with some more creative locations for a bit of privacy at short notice in central Tokyo. But first, an important disclaimer: the following examples are public places and could have you arrested for indecent exposure if you’re doing anything indecent, so make sure to keep it decent and don’t break the law!
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.
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 may just make 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.
Condoms and other accoutrements
Condoms are easily found in pharmacies and convenience stores, but for the best prices and selection (including a big array of sizes), head to 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.
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:
Minato Ward HIV testing (Search for “HIV tests” on the website)
STI testing in Shimokitazawa (In English, general healthcare also available)
For more information on contraceptives, prophylactics, and STI testing clinics in Tokyo, read our comprehensive sexual health guide.
One more thing …
Consent is not something that should get lost in translation. Tokyo and the people who inhabit it are not a playground; in all matters, proceed with explicit consent only! There are too many entitled and unpleasant people out there—don’t be one of them.
This post is regularly updated. Last update: January 2018.
Our favorite (read: cheapest) maid cafes in Akihabara. These types of cafes are one of Japan’s pop culture icons.