I used to live in Takadanobaba (高田馬場), a university district full of Izakayas (居酒屋) and in proximity to Korean-town, or officially called Shin-Okubo. To relax, I enjoyed walking to Shinjuku and finding new inspirations to marvel at. This day, I happened upon a Shinto Temple with a large torii at the entrance, somehow standing proudly in between modern buildings, as if it was proclaiming its right to stand there by saying “I was here first, respect your elders, ね!”. A contemplative green walkway was a nice contrast to what I was about to experience…
One thing that most people who have been to Japan can agree upon is that Shinjuku is one of the best districts in Tokyo. This is because, it has everything you would/should ever need. If you are brazen enough to escape the chaos of the world’s busiest train station, built to serve over 1 million people per day (good look navigating its 200 exits), then you will be greatly rewarded with this fast-paced, neon lit, exciting city that still has reminiscent aspects of the Edo period.
It’s popular for adults to go shopping since Shinjuku is where trends are made. You will see young Japanese women trodding along in the dainty little high heels and skirts and their numerous fresh and heavy shopping bags in their well manicured hands. If shopping doesn’t interest you too much, pachinko, museums, beautiful architecture, live music, and even the wonderful Shinjuku Gyoen (a park fit for the emperor himself!) are easily accessible. If you’re hungry, browse the thousands and thousands of restaurants or Izakayas available. Eat dinner around 7 pm and watch the influx of business men and women getting incredibly drunk and completely transform their personalities (count how many people fall asleep at the dinner table). Don’t be surprised if they begin trying to talk to you and share their drinks and food with you.
When nighttime comes, explore the Red Light district of Tokyo (or ‘Pink Light’). Kabukicho—a name that still gives me the shivers. Pink stores with curtains line the pedestrian streets. A picture of two hands and the number ‘18’ block your view of the store’s inside. What could possibly be going on behind these cloth shields? Probably almost anything you can think of. My Japanese girlfriends kindly brought to my knowledge that the majority of Japanese men have probably paid for a girl to sleep with in these many districts around Japan. Yay…
After the quiet stroll, I entered Kabukicho from the back. What is behind the red (or pink) light district of Japan? Host/Hostess clubs (where you pay incredible amounts to talk and drink with attractive Japanese men and women!) and the plethora of love hotels.
Love hotels! Yes, that’s right! Places built specifically to make love to your significant other, or more likely, your new drunk and frisky Japanese friend. The indoor settings and décor are well designed to cater to your beastly drunken mind. You know, that tired, post-work fantasy you trail into when you’re sitting on the train looking at the cute Japanese man/woman in front of you? Well, well; you can find a Love Hotel that has the room designed just like a car of the train, but better! Or how about that crazy Jurassic Park fantasy you think about every once in a while—you can have your needs met with that one, too! Love hotels exist because if you are fortunate enough to move out of your parents’ house and live alone, then your apartment in Tokyo is tiny with thin walls and either does not allow overnight guests, or charges a fee to bring your buddy over. Haha! Regardless, the architecture and designs of these buildings are pretty cool and nice to look at. You can buy your room for the night (or couple hours) through a vending machine upon entrance to save face. The vending machine includes pictures of the room, so you can choose that huge bed with lots of props, or that basic single room.
So, I walked along the streets of this loud, hazy nightlife district. The promoters of these pink ‘almost-selling sex’ stores stand on the corners and try to get the drunk, lonely business men inside for some fun with their girls. They watch me as I walk past, confused to as why a young foreign girl is taking a stroll in these parts of the neighborhood alone. The truth is that I like walking by Robot Restaurant. They have a giant screen TV playing scenes from their performance; the music is so loud it makes you dizzy and the lights are so bright that it always reminds me that I am in a crazy, strange place in this world.
I continue onwards. I turn the corner and loop back onto the next parallel street in this district. I never get tired at looking at Godzilla, who hovers over the cinema, ready to destroy Tokyo again. I loop back in on another street, looking for something I haven’t seen before.
This time, I walk along the back and I see one of the most nerdy looking Japanese business men I’ve ever seen. He’s holding a black briefcase, standing in his suit, and looking like he’s waiting for something. I make the mistake of looking into his eyes. He quickly moves in, jabbering something in Japanese.
“Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese,” I say.
“Oh, hello. Hotel?”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“You sightseeing? Where you from?” he makes conversation.
“oh, I’m from California,” I reply. I didn’t stop walking to talk to him. He’s following me down the street.
“Oh, California! Oh. So you’re here alone? Hotel?” he asks me again.
“Yes. Hotel? What?” I’m so innocent, aren’t I!
“You want go to hotel?” he asks me leaning closer as we walk.
“what! Oh, no! I’m not… what. No. Sorry.” I’m flabbergasted. I keep walking, kind of offended that he thought I would consider such a thing.
“Sure? Hotel? Okay.” He turns back around defeated.
Luckily, Tokyo is an extremely safe city.
Shocked I continue around the area. I’m passing more little restaurants and more pink service shops. This time a black man sees me, and says, “Hey! You want a job?” I laugh, and imagine myself saying “Yeah!”, following him downstairs to his shady little blowjob shop, and being locked in there forever, never seeing the sunlight again.
I decide I had enough excitement for the night. I head home and say goodbye to the ‘you-never-know-what-you’re-going-to-get’ district of Tokyo.