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Creative new commerce keeps Kabukicho hopping

Shukan Shincho Oct. 8
Shukan Shincho Oct. 8

“First it was Koma Stadium, which shut its doors last New Year’s Eve,” a local mutters. “Now it’s the Kabukicho McDonald’s outlet, which closed on Aug. 31. I think the place went under because it became a hangout for bar hostesses waiting for the trains to start running and homeless people, who just sat there nursing a cup of coffee.”

But, reports Shukan Shincho (Oct. 8), that doesn’t necessarily mean Tokyo’s largest adult entertainment zone has fallen victim to the recession. New businesses are springing up, appealing to consumers with super-low prices.

One such example is the Shateki Oh (King of the Marksmen) in Kabukicho 1-chome, which has been thriving since it opened last April. As the name implies, the shop is a quirky type of shooting gallery, similar to the tacky types often found in rural hot springs resorts. This one seems to be attracting sightseers on group tours to Tokyo.

Its manager says the shop gets about 100 customers a day on weekdays, and about 150 on weekends and holidays.

“Most of the business is in the evening,” he says. “A lot of the customers are men who come together with bar hostesses.”

Mizuna, a 24-hour bento shop located along a street lined with host clubs and love hotels, has been doing a land rush business in boxed meals, which it sells for a uniform price of 300 yen each.

“When we first opened, we sold items at various prices,” the owner tells Shukan Shincho. “But there are lots of restaurants in this area so our sales were sporadic. Then last April we hit on the idea of selling everything for 300 yen.”

Whatever the reason, that did the trick. Now the shop moves about 1,000 meals a day.

“We’ll get orders for 10 or 20 at a time from host clubs or people in the water trade,” he says. “But our profit is only about 10 to 20 yen per meal. Most of what we make goes to the 400,000 yen for the monthly rent and personnel costs. But still, nothing will happen if we just sit on our hands.”

Yes, Kabukicho is that kind of place, full of resolute entrepreneurial spirit and unconventional ideas.

Source: “‘Makku’ heiten de samagawari Shinjuku Kabukicho ‘shinmeibutsu,'” Shukan Shincho (Oct. 8, page 132)