Kabukichō is Tokyo’s biggest and most famous red-light district, with more bars, pubs, and drinking establishments than you can poke a stick at. It’s a little flashy and a little seedy, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary for this type of neighborhood.
What’s new in Kabukichō?
Understandably, Kabukichō has undergone a lot of changes in recent years, but things are gearing up again. Kabukichō Tower is a shiny new entertainment complex that opened in 2023 to a lot of fanfare. It has a food hall, game center, escape room, live music venue, and hotels all in one building.
Also, while not technically new, the Robot Restaurant is slated to reopen very soon.
Where is Kabukichō?
Kabukichō is located within Shinjuku Ward in central Tokyo. The neighborhood itself is just a 10-minute walk north-east of Shinjuku Station.
What is Kabukichō like?
Kabukichō is one of those places where the vibe changes significantly depending on the time and day of the week. As a nightlife district, it’s most lively in the evenings and busiest on Friday and Saturday nights. During the day, it’s a lot quieter, however some entertainment businesses like Toho Cinema, Kabukichō Tower, and Tokyo Mystery Circus are also open during the day.
Is Kabukichō safe to visit?
The short answer is, generally, yes. All kinds of sketchy things go on here but if you aren’t looking for trouble it shouldn’t come looking for you. It’s generally safer than it used to be, and the appearance in recent years of many hotels targeting foreign tourists means it is now totally normal to see families wandering the streets.
That said, the general rule is that if someone is outside trying to get you to come inside — don’t go. And if they name a price, expect to pay triple that (at least). Charges appear from no where, doors are blocked off, and your wallet will be considerably lighter whether you like it or not — so stick to regular bars unless you are serious and know what to expect. (And just to clarify, because Kabukichō makes things seem very grey, prostitution is illegal in Japan).
Male tourists are the prime targets of touts, so keep walking and enjoy a night in the liveliest part of Tokyo! Solo female tourists, meanwhile, might get offered a job.
What is Kabukichō famous for?
Kabukichō famously has something for everyone (make of that what you will) but also has some famous attractions, like Golden Gai. The entertainment district is filled with neon lights, hostess and host clubs, restaurants, and pachinko parlors as well as touts and hustlers — so you do need to keep your wits about you.
Recently, Kabukichō featured prominently in the TV drama Tokyo Vice. Both Golden Gai and the batting cages appear in the show. Read our interview with Jake Adelstein — author of the memoir, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan that inspired the show — about Kabukichō in its most debauched heyday. Seen the show? Here’s what we think it got right about Tokyo (and what it didn’t).
What to see and do in Kabukichō
The obvious answer is to go drinking. There are so many places to grab a drink in Kabukichō that you could bar-hop all weekend and not visit them all. That being said, there are also several entertainment options, ranging from cinemas to batting cages — many of which are open late into the night.
Is Kabukichō a good place to stay?
A number of hotels have opened in Kabukichō over the years, and it’s certainly a lively place to stay. If you plan on taking advantage of all Kabukichō’s drinking and entertainment options, getting a hotel in the area makes a lot of sense. However, if you are at all concerned about noise or safety, we recommend getting a hotel in the wider Shinjuku area instead.