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Kabukichō (歌舞伎町) is an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Kabukichō is the location of many host and hostess clubs, love hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, and is often called the "Sleepless Town" (眠らない街). The district's name comes from late-1940s plans to build a kabuki theater: although the theater was never built, the name stuck.
Originally, the area was known as Tsunohazu (角筈) and was a swamp. After the Meiji Period, the area became a duck sanctuary. As the Yodobashi Purification Plant was built in 1893, the ponds were filled in. In 1920, a girl's school was built there, and the surroundings were developed into a residential area. During World War II, the bombing of Tokyo in 1945 razed the area to the ground. After the war, a kabuki theatre was planned to be built there and the town changed its name to Kabukichō. Though the theatre was cancelled due to financial problems, the name remained. Kabukichō was quickly redeveloped after the war, mainly due to the efforts of the overseas Chinese in Japan who bought land left unused after the expos and greatly developed them. Examples of such people include the founder of Humax, Lin Yiwen, who started his business with a cabaret.
At present, Kabukichō has transformed from a residential area to a world famous red-light district housing over three thousand bars, nightclubs, love hotels, massage parlours, hostess clubs and the like. Although referred here as a "red light district", there are no red lights in the literal sense with prostitutes in the windows as in Amsterdam. Recently, tourism from China and Korea are on the rise, and so, many tourists can be seen in Kabukichō even during daytime.
The Shinjuku Koma Theater has been a landmark in Kabukichō. Now in its third building, it has hosted concerts and other performances by top stars, including enka singers Saburō Kitajima, Kiyoshi Hikawa, and actor Ken Matsudaira. The management announced that they would close after the December 31, 2008 show.
Entering the new millennium, laws were more strictly enforced and patrols became more frequent. These, adding to the installation of fifty closed-circuit cameras in May 2002, reduced criminal activities in Kabukichō, amidst controversy.
In 2004, the police undertook an operation clamping down on illegal clubs and brothels, causing many to go out of business. Also, there is a movement to rid Kabukichō of the yakuza ("bad hand" gangs), known as the Kabukichō Renaissance.
Kabukichō is featured in a number of media:
- Shinjuku Incident, a 2009 Jackie Chan movie set in the early '90s about Chinese immigrants in Japan
- Fuyajo, novel by Hase Seishu. Also, a movie based on the novel that was filmed in Kabukichō
- Enter the Void, a film by Gaspar Noé, was partly filmed and set in Kabukichō
- A Guide of the Sleepless Town, novel by Lee Xiaomu
- In the Miso Soup, novel by Ryu Murakami
- Dreaming Pachinko, novel by Isaac Adamson
- "Kabukichō No Joō", song by Shiina Ringo
- The School of Water Business, novel by Hikaru Murozumi
- Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, a role-playing video game by Atlus
- Yakuza series, an Action-adventure game by Sega features a fictionalized Kabukichō as Kamurocho
- Ugly Americans, novel by Ben Mezrich
- Pattern Recognition, novel by William Gibson
- Shin Pet Shop of Horrors, manga by Matsuri Akino
- The manga Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi is mostly focused around a fictional version of Kabukichou in the late 19th century
- Tokyo Vice, book by Jake Adelstein
- Kabukicho Renaissance official website - Kabukicho town information - (English)
- KABUKI町 Kabukicho ptal site (Japanese)
- Kabukicho Commune (Japanese)
- @GEHA Kabukicho Renewal Alliance (Japanese)
- Kabukicho Renaissance blog,Koichi Teratani, a documentary maker and authority on Kabukicho (Japanese)
- 27 views of Kubukicho