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Gaijin shitamachi: Kinshicho a low-cost alternative to Kabukicho

Takarajima May
Takarajima May

The warmth of spring may have finally arrived but the chill of the wave of recession is still readily apparent throughout the metropolis. Yet Takarajima (May) finds the entertainment area of Kinshicho, located three train stops away from Akihabara on the Chuo Line in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, to be surprisingly indifferent to these economic difficulties.

A visit one evening in March starts with a stroll down a street called Derby-dori, situated behind the Marui department store and outside the South Exit of the station building. After just a few meters, street touts in black suits quickly approach.

“How about for 4,000 yen? For three, it will be 10,000 yen.”

The club is named Eden of the World’s Beauties.

“It’s a Filipino pub. Lots of young girls are there. Russians, Romanians, Slovaks and Ukrainians, too. Hey shacho, are you interested? Wanna hang out with some young girls from South America?”

That’s a long list of countries. Is Kinshicho really that international?

Somewhat reassuring is a metro-sexual-looking guy, who says, “My shop has Japanese girls, should you be interested.”

Unlike Kabukichicho and Ikebukuro, where new laws and enforcement activities have limited promotion of this sort, Kinshicho appears to be indifferent to these regulations.

This anarchy-like environment is a bit irritating at times. It is also a reminder of the bubble era and raises the question: Why is Kinshicho so hot now?

“While Tokyo’s laws do limit certain PR activities,” says a fuzoku writer, “Kinshicho may be getting some slack due to its location, across the [Sumida] River and facing Chiba Prefecture. The reason for the numerous gaikokujin pubs is that the girls have lost jobs in the Kabukicho and Roppongi areas and have shifted to here. There are more than 20 Filipino pubs, making this place a real Mecca. Most of the gals are married to Japanese, so having a visa makes it easier to work.”

Conveniently, the Olympic Village, as the locals refer to it, is a market offering food and daily goods suited just for these international hostesses.

Long ago, Kinshicho was a factory town. In 1937, the area emerged as an entertainment district with the establishment of the Tokyo Rakutenchi theater. A black market formed during the postwar era in front of the train station. But by 1950 it had been relocated and numerous drinking areas, such as Derby-dori, sprang to life. The Kadan-gai area — today a collection of snacks and bars — was one of the new locations for the black market stalls.

It is perhaps due to that time, when there was a mingling of U.S. occupational forces and Japanese who benefited from the war, that numerous international elements exist today.

A Kinshicho regular says that the area attracts people not only from its base of Koto and Sumida wards but also Taito, Katsushika and Edogawa wards. “It is for locals to have fun, rather than a place for tourists,” explains the regular. “There are also many single men who live with their parents and thus have some disposable income. Those working on the Tokyo Sky Tree project seem to also be fascinated by this area. You can see some of them hanging out in their work wear.”

He says the biggest trend of the moment is with pubs staffed by female Chinese students. Fees range between 4,000 and 5,000 yen per hour. “The quality of girls is very high,” the regular goes on. “Their arrogance also makes M-type men interested in them. For those who are fed up with Filipino pubs, they should give these a go. However, you cannot take the girls home with you.”

Kinshicho is also cheaper than options closer to the city center. The early-bird rate at Pink salons is 3,000 yen for 30 minutes. Indeed, prices suitable for an economy in deflation, but what about the level of the talent?

“Kinshicho gets many young girls at its pink salon,” says the same fuzoku writer. “They are from Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures. Similar to what Nishi Kawaguchi area [in Saitama Prefecture] used to be, they are girls aged 19 or 20 who are working. The lax regulation makes it easier for them to work.”

Low prices, quality service — why not give it a spin?

“Hey, for 60 minutes we’ll set you up for 1,500 yen.”

It is a low-priced, high-end (appearing) Filipino pub staffed by 30 hostesses replete with nice sofas, all-you-can-drink mizuwari and unlimited karaoke.

“Many customers are Chinese, and they are arrogant,” says a hostess in her 20s, fluent in Japanese and showing a pair of very sexy legs under her miniskirt. “I like Japanese guys, even though they don’t have that much money to spend.”

In the end, any shattered pride due to the harsh economy is quickly restored — a pleasant night of karaoke for the advertised price of 1,500 yen plus tax.

Drink, hit and run: the apparent motto of one of the last male heavens left in Tokyo.

Source: “Gaikokujin ga neon-gai no shuyaku ‘shitamachi no kabukicho’ ga atsui!” Takarajima (May, pages 134-136)