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A look back at Japan’s largest cabaret

Shukan Shincho Mar. 12

The closing of the legendary Kabukicho Club Heights has already been documented in these pages, however, Shukan Shincho (Mar. 12) offers a look back at the 36-year history of Japan’s largest cabaret, which until last week operated from the center of Tokyo’s red-light district of Kabukicho, via interviews with a few members of the club’s venerable staff.

“When it first opened, there was a fierce business battle with regards to retaining hostesses,” remarks Tatuhiro Nonaka, director of operations, who claims that at one point 300 ladies served drinks to customers at the club’s roughly 600 seats. “Scout men from competitors used to stand in front of the venue and interfere with operations.”

With hostesses, he adds, there is always a battle to be number one, and this was certainly true at the end of the month, when the winners and losers were determined by they amount of revenue they generated. But customers, too, were eager to show their support. The director recalls patrons sometimes arriving at the club with suitcases filled with 10 million yen. “The cabaret is like a toy box for adults,” he says, “because you can dance, watch the show, and drink.”

The weekly’s journalist lists such celebrated vocalists as Koji Tsuruta, Frank Nagai, and Masao Sen as past performers.

Instead of business challenges brought about the weak economy, the hall shut its doors due to redevelopment of the plot of land upon which its building sits.

At its end, the number of hostesses was roughly half of its peak. “Customers are middle-aged so they are easy to work with,” explains one hostess, Misako. “They often go to big clubs like Mikado so the system was well known.”

Mizuho, a former hostess, returned to Club Heights for one final look. “I used to work here for a bit when I was 18. Then I went on to Hollywood in Akabane and another place in Ueno. I wanted to come back and witness this place before it closed.”

Hiromi Takahashi, 60, an elevator porter, has many memories. “Of course, we had yakuza and drunks getting violent in the elevator,” says the porter, who is seen in a photo beside a sign announcing the club’s 5,000 yen entry fee. “but the economy was good I received sometimes received tips of 30,000 yen. Most of the customers were good because they knew how the whole thing works.”

Another playground for adults, Shukan Shincho concludes, has disappeared.

Source: “Kyabare no tomoshibi ga kieru,” Shukan Shincho (Mar. 12)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.