ENTERTAINMENT IN TOKYO
Shinjuku There is never a lack of something to do in Tokyo. Classical, rock, K-Pop, J-Pop and jazz by both visiting and local musicians can be heard almost every night and are performed regularly at the many theaters, halls and clubs around town. Several resident symphony orchestras have full schedules. Tickets are sold at ticket agencies in the city. Theaters presenting local and touring plays, operas and ballets abound and range from the stately New National Theatre to the Globe Tokyo, a reproduction of Shakespeare’s original.
Movie theaters feature the latest films, both international and Japanese. Some theaters specialize in revival and ‘classic’ films. There are art-house cinemas too. Listings can usually be found in the English-language daily newspapers. Kabuki productions are held throughout the year and the various schools of Noh play are showcased at specialized theaters. The all-women Takarazuka Revue, too, puts on regular performances.
Bars and drinking establishments include rock clubs, karaokes, beer halls, discos and clubs. Clubs are mainly concentrated in the Roppongi area. “Izakaya” (Japanese-style pubs with food specialties) are popular with business people and university students. Small ‘red lantern’ places which usually have one hanging beside the door cater mainly to a regular clientele and serve mostly traditional snacks. You can always check out The Park Hyatt, where much of the Bill Murray film "Lost in Translation" was shot.
Family entertainment includes the Ueno Zoo, the oldest zoo in Japan, several aquariums, many amusement and theme parks, such as Toshimaen, Tokyo Dome City, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Sanrio Puroland . The latter is an indoor theme park where you can meet Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters. The Ghibli Museum is very popular but hard to get into.
Entertainment guides and calendar of events may be obtained from the tourist office and newsstands and hotels that have a lot of Western visitors. You can also check out local Thursday or Friday weekend entertainment supplements in Japan's English-language newspapers (Japan Times, Japan News, Mainchi Daily News, and the Asahi Evening News), the Lonely Planet books, other guidebooks, and posters put up around town. Tokyo Time Out is an English-language online entertainment magazine with information on concerts, clubs, restaurants and events.
Tokyo Entertainment Areas
The Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya districts in Tokyo are places where young Japanese come to be seen and check out the latest fashions and trends. There are more than 7,000 restaurants, bars, nightclubs and adult entertainment establishment in Shinjuku, with about half of them concentrated in Kabukicho, Tokyo's main red light district.. On Sunday, rock bands congregate around Harajuku Station. Break dancers and hip hop dancers gather outside Jidokan in Shibuya.
Street performers are licensed to perform at 20 or so places around Tokyo including Shinjuku and Ryongoku subway stations, Shibuya's Hachiko Square, abd the Marunouchi Building in Marunouchi. Performers include Andes flute and drum groups, rock bands, hip-hop dancers, guitar singers, Chinese acrobats, classical violinists, xylophone players, African drummers, and girl singing groups.
The Hibiya shopping and entertainment quarter (between Hibiya Park and Yurakucho Station)is known as the "Broadway of Tokyo" because it is packed with cinemas and theaters. Mukojima is an entertainment district with traditional ryotei restaurants and geisha. Akihabara is filled with maid cafes, computer stores and shops with manga, video games and anime and is regarded as ground zero for otaku (geek) culture.
Nakameguro (near Shibuya) has long been famous for the narrow, cherry-tree lined Meguro River. In recent years it was became known as a trendy area with cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques. It pleasantly blends old and new and rustic and urban and is an oasis of calm compared to manic Shibuya. “It’s a hub of celebrities, musicians, designers and comedians,” an ex-pat resident of Nakameguro told the New York Times in 2009. “It’s tipped as a major hot spot in the design community, more foreigners live here than ever before, and there’s new restaurants popping up everywhere.”
Tokyo Bars and Nightclubs
There are thousands of nightclubs, bars and pubs in Tokyo. The most well-known nightlife areas are in Ginza, Asakusa, Akasaka and Roppongi and Shinjuku. The Asakusa District (three stops from Ueno on the subway) is one of the largest downtown entertainment centers in Tokyo. Many of the city's big cabarets and ultra-expensive hostess bars as well as theaters and cinemas are located here.
Akasaka is another nightlife center with high quality but expensive, Japanese-style restaurants and numerous bars and reasonable-priced snack shops that are popular with office workers and young people. Roppongi (centered around Roppongi Intersection) is a popular drinking area with hostess bars, discos gaijin bars and restaurants that stay open into the wee hours of the morning every night. A lot of foreigners end up here.
In Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Koreatown, near Shin-Okubo station, Showbox, features up-and-coming idols and K-pop and J-pop performers. Earthdom is a popular venue for Tokyo’s punk and hardcore fans.
Many bars are open into the wee hours of the morning. Nightclubs are required to close at 1:00am. In November 2005 clubs in Roppongi sought permission to stay open until dawn. For more information on foreigner-friendly bars try the Tokyo Pub Crawler, His and Hers Guide by Dan Riley and Gia Payne (Alexandra Press, ¥1000). It covers 90 bars accessible to stops on Tokyo's Yamanote Line. Peak Bar has one of the best views and some of the most high-priced drinks in Tokyo — if not the world. Situated on the 41st floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku (also home to the famed New York Bar from Lost in Translation), guests are invited to walk through a bamboo grove to get to this view, unhindered by construction cranes or other buildings. Park Hyatt Tokyo 41F, 3-7-1-2 Nishi-shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 163-1055 +81-3-5323-3461 Tokyo
Shin-Okubo: Tokyo’s Koreatown
Shin-Okubo:(near JR Okubo Station, north of Shinjuku) is Tokyo’s Korean pop culture mecca. Kirsty Bouwers wrote in Time Out: “Better known as Koreatown..it’s the latest hotspot for teenage girls who have taken to the Korean pop culture craze, with more Hangul (Korean alphabet) signs than you can shake a stick at. Trying to walk down the main road on a weekend is not for the faint of heart. Yet it’s not only an enclave for the K-obsessed – quite a few different ethnic minorities have taken to the area for its cheap rents, ease of transportation and hodgepodge of cultures. If you don’t live in the area, the best way to get to know it is through its cafés and restaurants. There’s food here, and lots of it. Come hungry, leave delightedly full. [Source: Kirsty Bouwers, Time Out, October 11 2018]
“Snacking and shopping your way down the main thoroughfare is the way to go, with the offerings always changing depending on what’s hot with the young crowd. Some staples are always in fashion, though: have a hotteok (pancake filled with anything from nuts to cheese and honey) at Popo Hotteok, treat yourself to bingsu (Korean-style shaved ice) at Homibing or Cafe de Bingsu (pictured above), or check out tteokbokki (hot and spicy Korean rice cakes) at the foodcourt inside Seoul Ichiba. In between mouthfuls, marvel at the latest cosmetics at the ginormous Skin Garden, The Beauty Shop or Re:Make, just a handful of the skincare and cosmetics shops in the area. Take a peek at the latest Korean idol heartthrob at Hanryu Plaza. For a coffee break, stop by Egg Coffee for a Vietnamese hot drink of the same name.
“Spend some time soaking up at jimjilbang (Korean bathhouse) Ruby Palace (sorry men, it’s for women only), or the public baths of Mannenyu. If you want a crash course in K-pop and J-pop, up-and-coming idols perform at Showbox, while Earthdom is possibly the key venue for Tokyo’s punk and hardcore fans. Some comedy shows and other live performances are held at the nearby Globe Theatre. For booze, you’re probably best off at some of the many restaurants, but drinks without food are to be had at Vivo Daily Stand and Maccoli Bar. Art Space Bar Buena has regular artsy events, or otherwise just head over to Shinjuku to see where the night takes you.”
Tokyo Music Halls and Theaters
Tokyo is one of the world's great s music centers. However, tickets can be expensive, The city has several symphony orchestras that perform throughout the year, a number of ballet and opera companies, and many chamber groups and individual artists. On top of this there is a constant flow of visiting foreign orchestras, ballet and opera companies, and individual artists. .
Music Halls: The Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall hosts on classical music concerts and operas. The 1,632-seat Tokyo Opera City concert hall is said to have the best acoustics in the world. The 1810-seat opera house has also been acclaimed for its acoustics. The halls were built after careful measurements of reverberation time, bass ratio, acoustical texture, were taken at 20 opera houses and 25 symphony halls in 14 different countries. The data was carefully analyzed and models and tests were taken in some cases with dummies with microphones in their ears. Website: Tokyo Opera City operacity.jp
Budokan Hall (in Kitanomaru Park in the Imperial Palace area) is a uniquely-shaped 12,000 seat arena modeled after a Buddhist temple built to hold judo and other martial arts events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Beatles played there too. Today it hosts rock concerts and other major events. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia
Tokyo International Forum (next to Yuraku-cho Station in Ginza) is an ultra-modern, $1.5 billion complex built with glass, steel and Brazilian marble. Located on seven acres of land in the bustling Marunouchi district and designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, it opened in 1998 and boasts four separate theaters (one with 5,000 seats, Japan's largest) and the breathtaking "Glass Hall" that rises 190 feet from a garden plaza. Intended to give Tokyo a memorable landmark, the building was built according to a design that beat out 395 competitors from 68 countries. Website: Tokyo International Forum site t-i-forum.co.jp
National Theater of Japan (near the Imperial Palace, ) is one of the premier Kabuki and Noh theaters in Japan. The first state-owned theater to stage traditional theatricals, the National Theater also hosts modern and Western forms of entertainment. The theater is a three minute walk from Hanzimon Station on the Hanziman subway line. Website: National Theater of Japan site ntj.jac.go.jp
Kabuki and Noh are staged throughout most of the year at the National Theater and the 1,900-seat Kabukiza Theater in Ginza. Usually at least two productions are playing at any one time. These days theaters with kabuki and noh performances provide synopses written in English and earphone guides, with detailed English translations that coincide with the action, to help foreign observers. Takarazuka is performed at the 2,069-seat Takarazuka Theater.
Noh and kyogen are performed at the National Noh, Kanzae Nogaku-do and Tessnkai Nogaku Institute theaters and at the Yarai Noh Stage (Tel: (03)-3267-7311) near the Yarai exit of Kagurazaka Station on the Tozai subway line in Shinjuku ward. Several productions of Noh and Kyogen, are shown every week. The National Noh Theater has a new English subtitle system which uses screens like those found on the backs of some airplane seats. Occasionally the Bunraku Puppet Theater of Osaka visits Tokyo.
Kabukiza Kabukiza Theater (in Ginza, Subway: Hibiya Line or Asakusa Line, Higashi Ginza Station. Exit 3- ) is Japan's premier venue for kabuki. There are two box office beside the main theater entrance. The one on the right sells tickets for first, second and third floors and the boxes. The office on the left sells amphitheater (forth floor) tickets for ¥500 and ¥1,000. These are designed for people who want to watch only one scene and then leave, If you want to watch a entire performance you are better getting a third floor seat, which costs the same.
Although Japanese wear their best clothes, visitor's can wear what they like. People often eat noodles, curry, oden and bento meals during the performances. There are eight restaurants in the theater to serve customers. Ear phone guides are available in English for all performances on the first and third floor for ¥650 plus a ¥1,000 deposit. Leaflet guides in English are available for ¥1,000. C all ☎ (03)-3541-3131.
Kabuki-za kabuki theater was closed from April 2010 to April 2013 to undergo a transformation into a 150-meter-tall office building with theater. After it reopened after extensive rennovation, the Japan Times reported: “ The theater underwent its fifth makeover... It was first constructed in 1889 and was rebuilt due to a number of reasons, including fire and damage during World War II. The previous theater was built in 1951. The new Kabukiza, which has a normal seating capacity of about 1,900, features an upgraded audio system, including English translation, and stage equipment, as well as customer-friendly services such as barrier-free access and lavatories for disabled people. The theater will provide explanatory notes about the plays in Japanese on liquid crystal panels that can be taken to seats. A 29-floor office building is incorporated into the new complex. [Source: Japan Times, April 3, 2013]
According to the Japan National Tourist Organization: “The new composite facility with a 145-meter-high office block encompassing 29 floors above ground and four basement floors, the theatre itself retains the characteristic Momoyama-style architecture that it had before the rebuild, including a tiled roof, camber barge-board (Chinese cusped gables) and Japanese-style balustrades. A joint endeavor between Mitsubishi Jisho Sekkei Inc. and world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the design sought to embody the beauty of Japanese architecture. Inside the theatre, the latest technology has been used to replicate the raised seats in the gallery, so that the audience on the 1st floor, the second floor and the third floor can see the Hanamichi runway through the audience to the stage as well as the audience on the ground floor. And it was used for the much smooth move of revolving stage. When you watch a kabuki performance, you will undoubtedly be captivated by the magnificent costumes, the unique acting, and many other aspects of this glamorous performing art. Earphone guides in English are available, providing explanations of the plot, characters, costumes, and props in time with the proceedings on the stage, so even non-speakers of Japanese can enjoy the performance with complete peace of mind.” [Source: JNTO] Website: Kabuki-za kabuki site kabukiweb.net
Visiting the Kabukiza Theater Complex without a Ticket
Mi-channeko wrote in trip101.com: “Even without a ticket you can enter the underground shopping zone, the roof terrace on the 5th floor or the Kabukiza Gallery, and relish the peculiar atmosphere. A new spot you should definitely visit![Source: Mi-channeko, trip101.com, June 12, 2017]
“Subway Higashi-Ginza station’s exit 2 is directly connected to the underground floor of the theater, but if you want to take a photo of the newly reconstructed building, use exit 4 instead. It will lead you to the pavement on the opposite side of the street, from where you will be able to take a photo of the entire majestic Kabukiza Theater building. Many people do the same and take photos of the impressive building. The street in front of the theater is quite busy and some large trucks often run along, so you might only have one chance for a valuable photo.
“Right of Kabukiza Theater’s main entrance is the little Kabuki Inari Daimyojin shrine. In the past Kabukiza Theater was surrounded by a wall and ordinary people could not reach this shrine, but the newly constructed place is located on a very prominent place and everyone can visit it freely. At the beginning of every month the all the actors gather in front of the little shrine and say together “Senshu Banzai Ooirikano”, which is a prayer for success of the stage shows. Now not only the people from the entertainment industry, but we also can pray to watch a great spectacle.
“There is a shopping area on basement level 2 which is directly connected to Higashi-Ginza station’s exit 2. On a rainy day you can enter without getting wet. Here you can buy not only Kabukiza Theater souvenirs, but also an ice cream with traditional Kabuki-age rice crackers or freshly baked “kintsuba” Japanese confectionary. You can eat as you walk. There is a convenience store, a café, restaurants, so this place is ideal to stop by during your Ginza shopping or to arrange a meeting with someone. From basement level 2 take the elevator to the roof terrace on floor 5. There is a roof terrace on the 5th floor where you can see Higashi-Ginza area. The terrace is arranged in a garden style with roof tiles commemorating the past history of Kabukiza Theater installed. There are also monuments of past actors and a lot of other things to see.
“In front of the garden is “Kabukiza Gallery” (admission fee required). It displays items related to kabuki and Japanese culture, so it is quite attractive for foreign visitors. While watching the Kabukiza Theater’s roof, take the vermillion-lacquered Goemon stairs down to the 4th floor corridor called “Kabukiza’s memories” where you will see an exhibition of the theater’s past buildings. You will be pleased to see little models of Kabukiza Theater’s past buildings from the old centuries. Kabukiza Gallery Open: 10:00~ 18:00 (last admission until 17:30), no closing days Admission fee: 500 JPY (free for children under elementary school age)
“There is a place called “Studio Alice photo room” on the 5th floor where you can have an interesting experience. You can rent a kimono and choose the “Watching kabuki with a kimono” option, or you can get white make-up, clothes and a wig and become dressed up as a kabuki actor with the “Become a kabuki actor” option. Many people are attracted by the fantastic experiences offered here. If you choose the “Become a kabuki actor” plan, you can dress up as some typical roles like newly-married woman, town girl, young samurai, or as characters from famous plays held in April and May. Choose the option that allows you to dress up as many different characters.If you choose “Kabukiza visit commemoration” option, you will get a photo taken in front of a typical Kabukiza play background. The photo comes with a mat in just 1 minute, making this option quite enjoyable.”
Tokyo Dome area at night
Sports in Tokyo
Spectator events are held at the Yoyogi Sports Center, Komazawa Sports Center, and the ultra-modern National Indoor Stadium and its bell-shaped annex, which was constructed for 1964 Olympics. Tokyo Dome, known as the "The Big Egg," is as clean as a hospital and the home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team. Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics.The National Stadium, also known as the Olympic Stadium, has hosted a number of international sporting events. Good jogging areas in Tokyo include the Imperial Palace area and Ueno Park.
Sumo wrestling tournaments are held in Tokyo in January, May and September at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan sumo arena (Toei Oedo Subway Line , Ryogoku Station, Exit A4) . Tickets can be obtained online. Ryogoku (between Ginza and Ueno Station) near the Yamanote line is where many sumo stables are located. The national sumo arena is here. Sumo wrestlers are often seen walking the streets.
Nippon Professional Baseball's season is from April to October. The Yomiuri Giants play at the Tokyo Dome and Tokyo Yakult Swallows play at Meiji-Jingu Stadium. Seibu Dome (Tokorozawa in Saitama) is the spectacular, sleek UFO-like home of the Seibu Lions baseball team. J.League soccer has two seasons and games are held throughout the year. Football (soccer) clubs in Tokyo include F.C. Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy 1969, both of which play at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chōfu. FC Machida Zelvia at Nozuta Stadium in Machida.
Martial arts such as judo, kendo, karate, kyudo and aikido are mostly practiced at schools, with exhibitions only occasionally open to the public. Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, in Sendagaya, Shibuya, is a large sports complex with swimming pools, training rooms, and a large indoor arena. The gymnasium has played host to the 2011 gymnastics world championships. Tokyo hosted games for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and the 2002 Soccer World Cup. If all goes well it will the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2021.
River and Bay Cruises in Tokyo
Water Cruises on traditional Japanese pleasure boats called yakatabune are available on Tokyo Bay and the Sumidagawa River. The wooden boats are flat and are furnished with tatami mat rooms and hung with red lanterns. Japanese on such cruises usually while away the hours consuming large amounts of beer and sake and singing karaoke songs.
Yakatabune cruises have traditionally been a way that the upper classes enjoyed themselves The cruises usually cost about $80 per person and include a dinner with tempura and sashimi. The cruises are held all year but for obvious reason are particularly popular in the summer and especially at a night when fireworks are being shot off. In most cases the boats are chartered by a large groups of people. Among the largest yakatabune companies are Harumiya (☎ 03-3644-1344 ); Komogata (☎ 03-3844-5591); (☎ 03-3451-2061,).
Tokyo Water Cruises offers more traditional sightseeing boat tours. There off six itineraries and the trips are particularly popular in the spring. The most popular trip costs $9.50, takes 90 minutes and runs from the pier near Hamarikyu to Odaiba Seaside park and passes near Rainbow Bridge. The Sumida River Line offers 40 minute trips on the Sumida River for $6 between Asakura and Hamarikyu Garden and passes under 12 bridges. Websites: Harumiya harumiya.co.jp ; Tokyo Cruise suijobus.co.jp
Five ferry routes to operate in Tokyo waters The routes are 1) the Tokyo Port loop line; 2) Sumidagawa river line; 3) Keihin Unga canal line; 4) a round tour between Nihonbashi and Azumabashi; and 5) another round tour in Odaiba. After the service was launched, the Japan News reported: the Tokyo Port loop line operates every Friday and Saturday. This ferry leaves and returns to Kachidoki via Hinode, Tennozu, Odaiba Marine Park and Ariake dock, making it easier for passengers to visit sightseeing spots. The fare is ¥500 per docking station visited. suitown.jp [Source: Japan News/Asia News Network, April 28, 2017]
Sumida River Cruise (from Hama Rikyo Garden) passes parks, bridges and buildings. From Hama Rikyo Garden you can take ferry upstream on the Sumida River to Asakusa. Along the way you pass an imperial duck hunting preserve that remains home to a number of waterfowl. In the spring time you can see blooming peony trees and rapeseed fields. In the summer the Sumida River is the site of some of Japan's most fantastic fireworks displays.
Amphibious Bus Water-Land Tours in Tokyo
The "Sky Duck", a 3.7-meter-tall amphibious bus, takes visitors on a tour past Tokyo Skytree tower and other popular lands in Tokyo before descending a ramp into the Kyunakagawa river in Tokyo’s Koto Ward for a water cruise. The tours are operated by Hinomaru Jidosha Kogyo. An 11-year-old fifth-grader from Sapporo who did the tour with his family told the Asahi Shimbun: "When it went into the river, a big splash of water came way up. It was great." [Source: Toyohiro Mishima, Asahi Shimbun, April 12, 2013]
Toyohiro Mishima wrote in the Asahi Shimbun: “Hinomaru Jidosha Kogyo’s president first saw an amphibious tour bus when he visited New York...Confident that it could work in Japan, too, he took the body from a Hino Motors truck and had an American specialty company refit the vehicle. The Sky Duck, which seats 41 people, is registered as both a bus and a boat, and is equipped with life jackets and flotation devices. The eight drivers each have a category-2 large vehicle driver’s license as well as a newly obtained class-1 boat license.
“There are two routes. One starts at the Skytree—where one can expect to find many tourists—and costs 2,800 yen ($28) for adults. The other route, at 2,500 yen for adults, starts at Kameido Umeyashiki, a commercial facility that also opened in March. After navigating the roads, the tour comes to a climax when the bus takes a 15-minute ride on the river. The company hopes people will "enjoy it like a theme park attraction."
“Reservations are required, and Hinomaru Jidosha Kogyo says advance tickets are selling well, especially for the Skytree route. Initially, it is only operating two buses, but the company is optimistic and hopes to increase that to 10 or so and add more routes, too...But amphibious buses cannot just go wherever they please: they need a ramp near the water to enter it. The Tokyo Bureau of Port and Harbor’s construction office has ramps that are usually limited to uses such as boat repairs, but it made an exception for JAVO to use the facilities..."There aren't very many places we can use for tours," Suchi said. For that reason, local governments have started building ramps. The ramp for the Hinomaru Jidosha Kogyo buses and its surrounding facilities are called "Kyunakagawa river station," which Koto Ward spent about 200 million yen constructing. The Tokyo metropolitan government is also planning to build new amphibious bus ramps and has included survey and design expenditures into its budget for this fiscal year. An official from the Tokyo Bureau of Port and Harbor’s planning and accounting section said amphibious buses are a "good tourism resource," and hopes they will help add to the vibrancy of the bay area.”
Sentos (Public Bathhouse) and Onsens (Hot Spring) in Tokyo
Sentos (Public Bathhouse) in Tokyo: 1) Konparu-yu, 2:00 pm - 10:00 pm Sun. & national holidays 470 JPY, 5minute walk from Shimbashi Sta. on Tokyo, Metro Ginza, Toei Asakusa Subway and JR, Yamanote Lines 2) Shimizu-yu, Weekday;, 12:00 pm - 0:00 am, (Enter by 11:30 pm), Sat., Sun. & national holidays;, 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm, (Enter by 10:30 pm), Fri. 470 JPY, 2minute walk from Omotesando Sta. (Exit A4), on Tokyo Metro Ginza, Hanzomon and, Chiyoda Lines 3) Akebono-yu, 3:00 pm - 1:00 am 1st & 3rd Fri. 470 JPY 15minute walk from Asakusa Sta. on Tokyo, Metro Ginza and Toei Asakusa Subway Lines
Onsens (Hot Spring) in Tokyo: 1) Rokuryukosen, (natural hot spring), 3:30 pm - 11:00 pm Mon. & Thu. 470 JPY 5minute walk from Nezu Sta. on Tokyo Metro, Chiyoda Line; 2) Takeno-yu, (natural hot spring), 3:30 pm - 11:30 pm, (Enter by 11:00 pm) Mon. & Fri. 470 JPY, 1) 6minute walk from Azabujuban Sta. (Exit 1), on Tokyo Metro Namboku Line; 2) 10 minute walk from Azabujuban Sta. (Exit, 4) on Toei Oedo Subway Line; 3) Daikoku-yu, (natural hot spring), Weekday; 3:00 pm - 10:00 am, Sat.; 2:00 pm - 10:00 am, Sun. & national holidays;, 1:00 pm - 10:00 am, Tue., (If Tue. falls on a national holiday,, it will be closed on the following, day.), 470 JPY, 6minute walk from Oshiage Sta. (Exit B2) on, Tokyo Metro Hanzomon and Toei Asakusa, Subway Lines
4) Toshimaen Niwano-yu, the age of 12 & older, 10:00 am - 11:00 pm, (Enter by 10:00 pm), Open daily except for, maintenance days, 2,350 JPY, Late check-in (6:00 pm -); 1,320 JPY, 1-2minute walk from Toshimaen Sta. on Toei, Oedo Subway (Exit A2) and Seibu Ikebukuro, Lines. 5) Tennen Onsen, Heiwajima, 24 hrs., Open daily except for, maintenance days, Weekday; 2,000 JPY (for 7 hrs.), Sat., Sun. & national holidays; 2,300 JPY (for 7 hrs.), Long-stay surcharge; 200 JPY / hour, Midnight surcharge (2:00 am - 5:00 am); 1,500 JPY, (1) 3 minutes by bus from Heiwajima Sta. on, Keikyu Line; 2) 10 minutes by bus from Omori Sta. (East Exit), on JR Keihin Tohoku Line. 6) Big Fun Heiwajima 2F, 1-1-1,, Heiwajima, Ota-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03-3768-9121, https://www.heiwajimaonsen.jp/en/, 5-4-24 Komagome, Toshima-ku,, Tokyo, Tel: 03-5907-5566, http://sakura-2005.com/english, 3-41-1 Maeno-cho, Itabashi-ku,, Tokyo, Tel: 03-5916-3826, https://www.sayanoyudokoro.co.jp, /english/
7) Maenohara Onsen, Sayano Yudokoro, 10:00 am - 1:00 am, (Enter by 0:00 am), Open daily except for, maintenance days, Weekday; 890 JPY, Sat., Sun. & national holidays; 1,120 JPY, 8minute walk from Shimurasakaue Sta. (Exit, A2) on Toei M, 2-6-3 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03-5500-1126, https://daiba.ooedoonsen.jp/en/, Tokyo Dome City 6F, 1- -,, Kasuga, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03-3817-4173, https://www.laqua.jp/en/, 3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo, Tel: 03-3990-4126, http://www.niwanoyu.jp/niwa/,
8) Oedo Onsen, Monogatari, 11:00 am - 9:00 am, (Enter by 7:00 am), Open daily, (Opening hours will be shortened, on maintenance days), Weekday; 2,768 JPY, Sat., Sun. & national holidays; 2,988 JPY, (On some designated days, admission will be changed.), Late check-in (6:00 pm -);, Weekday; 2,218 JPY, Sat., Sun. & national holidays; 2,438 JPY, Midnight surcharge (2:00 am -); 2,200 JPY, (1) 2minute walk from Telecom Center Sta. on, Yurikamome Monorail Line, (2) A free shuttle bus is available from Tokyo, Teleport Sta. (Exit A), Tokyo Sta. (Marunouchi, Central Exit), Shinagawa Sta. (Konan Exit),, Shinjuku Sta. (South Exit) and Kinshicho Sta., (South Exit),: A midnight bus to Haneda Airport is available., 1,320 JPY, (1) 6minute walk from Sugamo Sta. (Exit A4), on Toei Mita Subway Line, (2) A free shuttle bus is available from, Sugamo Sta. (South Exit) on JR Yamanote, Line
9) Spa LaQua, the age of 6 & older, 11:00 am - 9:00 am, (Enter by 8:00 am), Open daily except for, maintenance days, 2,900JPY, Surcharge on Sat., Sun., national holidays & other, designated days; 350 JPY, Midnight surcharge (1:00 am - 6:00 am); 1,980JPY, (1) 1minute walk from Korakuen Sta. on Tokyo, Metro Marunouchi and Namboku Lines, (2) 2minute walk from Kasuga Sta. on Toei Mita, and Oedo Subway Lines, (3) 6 minute walk from Suidobashi Sta. on JR, Sobu Line, Admission
Shinjuku (Shinjuku Station) is one of Tokyo's most happening places. Known for its rowdy nightspots, noodle restaurants, shopping arcades, flashing lights, huge display screens, department stores, boutiques, hostess bars, and smokey clubs, it is a places where executives and salary men gather to drink heavily, young people hang out, tourists experience Tokyo’s intensity, women shop and huge crowds cross the streets.
Shinjuku is split into three major areas: 1) Shinjuku Street, 2) the Kabukicho district, the main sleaze area, and 3) the area on west side of Shinjuku station. Shinjuku Street (pedestrian-only on Sundays) is a shopping area lined with large department stores, fashionable specialty shops, restaurants and bars. Golden Street was a center the avant garde scene in the 1960s. Now it features dozens of little bars ensconced in spaces formally occupied by brothels. Many of the bars have regular customers who often look a bit shocked when strangers or foreigners come in.
Websites: Shinjuku official site foreigncity.shinjuku.tokyo.jp ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Shinjuku Guide shinjuku-guide.com ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com ; Shinjuku Map: Tokyo Pocket Guide tokyopocketguide.com
Kabukicho: Tokyo's Sex District
Kabuki-cho (part of Shinjuku) is regarded as Tokyo's largest entertainment district and is the center of Tokyo’s sex industry. Lining its main streets and side streets are sex clubs, hostess bars, image rooms, bunny-suit clad streetwalkers, strip clubs, gambling parlors, peep shows, "soaplands" parlors, and bars with nude waitresses. Beer vending machines are found at every intersection.
Kabukicho was the center of Tokyo street life and culture in the 1960s and 70s, when it attracted drag queen geishas, rockabilly rent boys, prostitutes and yakuza gangesters. Back at that time prostitution was legal and controlled.
Kabuki-cho is home of several yakuza headquarters. The yakuza has traditionally controlled districts pornography shops, gambling parlors, and prostitution rings. Like their Italian counterparts, they also hustle "protection" money from local businesses as well as major corporations.
Many of the prostitutes and sex workers in Kabuki-cho today are Chinese who work for Chinese gangs rather the yakuza. Many of the businesses are also run by Chinese. Supermarkets sell Shanghai newspapers and restaurants offers noodles dishes found in Canton.
Yoshiwara in the 19th century Despite its unsavory reputation Kabuki-cho is generally safe to stroll around at night and certainly more safe than similar districts in cities like Bangkok or Manila. Places that do attract trouble generally don’t allow foreigners on the premises. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Guardian article Guardian
Yoshiwara (near Minaimi-Senju Station) is Tokyo's oldest red light district. Founded in 1657, it now contains Japan's largest concentration of "soaplands,” Japanese-style brothels, some which have amusing nicknames and are decorated like French chateaux. Many of the 18th and 19th century woodblock prints of women in kimonos and yukatas were set in brothels in Yoshiwara. Nearby is Sanya, sort of Tokyo’s version of skid row. A number of homeless people make their home here. The food street on the railway line to Shinjuku is known locally as “Piss Alley.”
Shibuya (Shibuya Station) is one of Tokyo's most happening places. Known for its rowdy nightspots, noodle restaurants, shopping arcades, flashing lights, huge display screens, department stores, boutiques, hostess bars, and smokey clubs, it is a place where executives and salary men gather to drink heavily, young people hang out, tourists experience Tokyo’s intensity, women shop and huge crowds cross the streets.
Shibuya is a fast-growing modern shopping and entertainment area, with department stores, shops, restaurants and bars, around Shibuya station. The landscape of colored-light billboards, cramped buildings filled with pachinko parlors, karaokes, shops, and bars on different floors was a model for the film Blade Runner . The district is particularly popular with younger people. Every street and area in the district it seems has a different atmosphere. The Shibuya Center Street is crowded with a multitude of shops, including youth fashion shops, fast food restaurants and game centers, and it is famous as the place where new trends are born that quickly spread among the youth nationwide. Koen-dori Street, which extends to Yoyogi Park, is a shopping street with a row of department stores and fashionable buildings that attract families in particular. This is a trendsetting place for youth culture.
Shibuya also serves as a starting point for Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Olympic Park, Harajuku, Akasaka and Roppongi. Harajuku and Shibuya districts are where young Japanese come to be seen and check out the latest fashions and trends. The main square is the home of one of the world's busiest pedestrian crosswalks. All around are liquid crystal display screens showing off the latest Japanese products, fashions and pop stars. Shibuya station sees about 700,000 people a day
Shibuya has become a primary place for young people, particularly girls, to hang out into the wee hours of the morning. The shops in and around 109, a shopping center near the main crossroads, is where young girls in the latest street fashions and outrageous make-up gather. On 109, Alexander Harvey wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, “Saleswomen in ruffled miniskirts shout their welcome in sticky-sweet tones above the din of club music. Japanese girls with clouds of strawberry blond curls and heavy fake eyelashes cruise the mall’s 10 floors, shopping bags dangling from their wrists.” The mall “has everything a girl could want---terry cloth hot pants, argyle sweater dresses, rhinestone-studded skull rings---all at deep discounts to department store prices.”
Many people also gather around Manderake, the world’s largest manga and anime department store. Trends that begin here spread across Japan and often make their way to Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Shanghai and even London and New York. Sometimes you can see marketing agents with clipboards asking young girls what they think about this or that.
girls in Shibuya Shibuya has been center of youth culture and street fashion since the 1970s when college-age women began gathering here to shop for the latest fashions. Over the years the girls that have come have been getting steadily younger. In the 1980s high school girls began dominating. By the 1990s, middle school girls were appearing in larger and larger numbers. Now days there are even large numbers of elementary school girls. Shibuya also has traditionally been a place where men met with geishas or their lovers. This mix of men and young girls that sometimes takes place here produces sleaze and trouble.
Shibuya has become a primary place for young people, particularly girls, to hang out into the wee hours of the morning. One 16-year-old Shibuya girl told the Daily Yomiuri, “I often spend the night in the streets or at karaoke shops, or I stay with men who ask me for a date. I’ve not returned home for several days now, because everything is boring at home, where I have nothing to do.”
Particularly disturbing is the number of young girls seen at night talking with unsavory looking middle-age men. The men will strike up a conversation, and ask the girls if they want something to eat. When the girl above was asked if she engaged in “compensated dating: (a euphemism for teenage prostitution), she said, “Why not? I can earn ¥60,000 a date.
There are also large numbers of male “scouts” in their 20s who try to lure young girls into some endeavor, usually bad. One Shibuya regular told the New York Times, “Every scout is trying to get a girl into his business. There’s the store scout, the restaurant scout, the sex business scout, the entertainment industry scout, the fashion magazine scout.” Websites: Shibuya City city.shibuya.tokyo ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com Shibuya Map: Tokyo Essentials tokyoessentials.com/shibuya-map
Theaters in Shibuya and Shinjuku
There are numerous theaters in the Shibuya and Shinjuku Area and it seem like a bunch of them opened in the late 2000s and early 2010s.Hideki Sukenari wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “ Shibuya and Shinjuku are both synonymous with entertainment in Tokyo, but the two districts are undergoing major transformations, with huge theaters and cinema complexes set to revolutionize the city landscape...”In Shinjuku, a mega-cinema complex housed in the new Shinjuku Toho Building opened in 2015. [Source: Hideki Sukenari, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 2, 2011]
”Shibuya is already famous for its theaters and live houses, including Orchard Hall, Theatre Cocoon, Parco Theater, Aoyama Theatre, O-EAST, AX and Club Quattro. But there has been a recent spurt in building new entertainment venues and the area seems to be even more crowded with such facilities. Two cinema complexes — Shinjuku Wald 9 and Shinjuku Piccadilly — opened in 2009.
”In the Prime building, adjacent to Shibuya’s 109 fashion complex, two cinemas have recently been turned into live concert spaces. The first is CBGK Shibugeki, a 242-seat theater operated by entertainment agency Cube Inc. that opened in September. The agency hopes the theater will take on the role of the now-defunct Shibuya Jan-jan, a small theater where such entertainers as Akihiro Miwa and the late Noriko Awaya once staged live performances that are now regarded as legendary. "CBGK Shibugeki is a space where out-of-the-ordinary performances can flourish," said actor Arata Furuta, who is an adviser to the theater.
”Another theater in the Prime building has been transformed into the Mt. Rainier Hall Shibuya live house. The basement of Cinema Rise, which played an important role in Shibuya’s mini-theater boom, was also renovated into the WWW live house.Meanwhile, at the south exit of Shibuya Station, the Shibuya Ward government opened Shibuya Cultural Center Owada, a complex that is home to two halls: Sakura Hall with 729 seats, and Densho Hall with 339 seats.
”Some people feared Shinjuku would lose its prestige as an entertainment hub when local facilities closed one after another--Shinjuku Koma Theater at the end of 2008, Theatre Apple in 2009 and Koseinenkin Kaikan hall in 2010. In the nerve center of Kabukicho, where Shinjuku Koma Theater once stood, land remained vacant for some time, hardly a magnet for visitors who wanted to let their hair down. But in July, Toho Co. announced plans to build the 31-story Shinjuku Toho Building housing a cinema complex and the 1,030-room Washington Hotel on the site. The building is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015. The cinemas will boast 12 screens and 2,500 seats, making it the second-largest cinema complex in Tokyo after Odaiba Cinema Mediage in Minato Ward.
Comedy and Broadway Shows in Shibuya and Shinjuku
Hideki Sukenari wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The 2,000-seat Tokyu Theatre Orb opened in Shibuya in 2012.” It “has been dubbed a musical theater floating in the air, forms the nucleus of Shibuya Hikarie, a high-rise building built on the site of Tokyu Bunka Kaikan hall near the east exit of Shibuya Station. Hikarie has 34 stories above ground and four below and houses commercial facilities, business offices, art galleries and event halls. [Source: Hideki Sukenari, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 2, 2011]
”Tokyu Theatre Orb occupies Hikarie’s 11th to 16th floors. With a basic blue and white color scheme, the theater’s seating sections and stage are arranged to optimize the theater’s acoustics. The performance space is enclosed by a glass-walled atrium, which gives audiences a sweeping view of the city. Tokyu Corp. President Hirofumi Nomoto said, "We want to create a new Shibuya, a city renowned for its entertainment that will attract guests not only from Asia, but also from around the world." Tokyu Theatre Orb has hosted productions of West Side Story and Million Dollar Quartet, a 2010 New York Broadway hit that depicts the behind-the-scenes story of a music session that focuses on four famous singers, including Elvis Presley.
”Shinjuku is also gaining a reputation as a focal point for comedy performances. The area is heavily populated with comedy venues, including the long-established vaudeville theater Shinjuku Suehirotei, Yoshimoto Kogyo’s theater Lumine the Yoshimoto, Studio Alta and Shinjuku Fu. In May 2011, Shochiku Geino opened the 119-seat Shinjuku Kadoza theater at the site of the Theater/Tops complex. The facility aims to cultivate up-and-coming young comedians. "Shinjuku audiences are tough and don't necessarily laugh at comedians' performances. Because of their critical eye, shinjuku is an appropriate place for young comedians to hone their craft and polish their performances," said Ken Fujii, president of Shinjuku Kadoza.
Harajuku dancers in the 1990sHarajuku (one stop from Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line) is a neighborhood popular with fashion-conscious teenagers, who tend to congregate around the record stores and clothes shop. There are also many trendy shops, such as Condomania, restaurants and tea shops in the area. The pedestrian overpass from Harajuku station to Meiji Shrine and the narrow alley of Takeshita Dori is favorite gathering place for young Japanese who like to dress in outrageous cosplay costumes and relish in drawing attention to themselves. Kiddyland is good place to check out the latest weird gadgets.
Harajuku is a collective term for the area that stretches from the Harajuku Station to Omotesando. On the west side of JR Harajuku Station, there is a wood of the Meiji-jingu Shrine that is famous for a Japanese iris field where irises bloom in profusion in the rainy season, June and a treasury that stores the articles Emperor Meiji cherished in the late 19th century. The east side of the station is known nationwide as the young people’s town. On Takeshita-dori Street, in particular, this narrow pedestrian packed with young teenager in weekends.
Harajuku a been known as an center of Japanese fashion since the 1970s and the crossing of Meiji-dor and Omotesandi is regarded as the epicenter. Trends over the years have included An/Nonozuka (a “tribe” of young girls with fashion magazines in hand) and Takenko-zoku (young people who performed distinctive dances wearing distinctive, colorful clothing. In recent years fast fashion has become the lasting trend with stores like Japan’s Uniqlo, the Gap, Spain’s Zara, Britain’s Tipship/ Topman and Sweden’s H&M have all become firmly planted here.
Harajuku is crowded on the weeks with Goths, Lolitas, Gothic-Lolitas, visual-kei glam rockers, flashy boys with strange haircuts, and lest we forgot the Harajuku girls with their funky, girlish hairstyles and their colorful, mismatched, accessory-laden outfits. Takeshita-Dori, across the street from Harajuku Station, is popular with 13 to 15 year olds and is good place to check out the shops that keep Tokyo’s youth culture thriving. The LeForest Department Store, with over 100 trendy boutiques inside, is popular with the younger crowds. Sometimes on a bridge near Harajuku stations teenage girls pose in Gothic make-up, punk clothes and leather kimonos. On Saturday afternoon groups play hip-hop, reggae, punk, ska, hard rock, 50s music and Japanese idol music. Websites: Photos japanforum.com Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Japan Guide japan-guide.com
Akasaka (east of Harajuku) is a night life area with a variety of things to do. There are first-rate Japanese-style restaurants for people that can afford them as well as bars and snack shops, popular with office workers and young people. Akasaka is also the home of fashionable shopping areas like the Shopping Corridor of the Akasaka Tokyu Hotel.
Louis Vuitton store Roppongi (centered around Roppongi Intersection, two miles from Ginza) is a nightlife area with a lively and international atmosphere. The bars and snack bars are open to the wee hours of the night. Many foreigners live here and party here. There is freer, less closed atmosphere than in some other Tokyo entertainment districts. In the old days many U.S. servicemen were based around here. It has traditionally been the best place in Japan to score drugs. Many of the nightclubs have African guards. The landscape and atmosphere of the neighborhood has been changed dramatically by Roppongi Hills. Roppongi's name translates into "six trees," from the samurai families who lived here during feudal times.
John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Once a U.S. serviceman's haunt, the Roppongi district became a respectable business district, then fell back into disrepute, the gentle women in kimonos giving way to mobsters and drug dealers. It's now home to the yakuza, hostess bars, drink spiking and murder. Good or bad, in this famously safe city, Roppongi stands out: elegant one block, seedy the next, a multicultural meeting spot known as Tokyo's most cosmopolitan dusk-to-dawn adult playground. See Crime[Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2010]
After World War II, the area was a popular haunt for U.S. servicemen, and visiting military men still sometimes abound here. When the economy was good, foreign-born stockbrokers and stock traders wandered out of their offices in the upscale Roppongi towers to spend their money here, attracting a parade of young, single Japanese women. Website: Japan Guide japan-guide.com
Shimbashi (near Ginza, Tokaido, Yamanote, Yokosuka, Keihin-Tōhoku lines stop at Shimbashi station) is one of the main places in downtown Tokyoites go to enjoy mugs of cold beer and warmed sake and plates of fresh sashimi and skewered yakitori grilled chicken. Laughter, shouts and spirited discussions are interspersed with the clatter-clatter from the train tracks above. Shimbashi ("New Bridge”) Station is a major interchange railway station in Tokyo's Minato Ward. It is a 10-minute walk from the Ginza shopping district, directly south of Tokyo station.
Shimbashi is an after-hours, after-work place with throngs of workers raising a glass and saying Kampai! (“Cheers!”) with their office mates and friends while gobbling down succulent goodies at izakayas (traditional Japanese pubs), undisturbed by the overhead noise from the constant stream of overhead trains and subways. Shimbashi is good place to see how Tokyoites play hard after they work hard. [Source: JNTO, January 2017]
A 1.4-kilometer stretch of road connecting the Shimbashi and Toranomon areas of central Tokyo opened in 2014. The new road is a segment of Loop Road No. 2, a not-yet-completed route that will serve as an important connection between central Tokyo and various venues to be used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The completion of the new underground section created a vast open space above., with a walkway as wide as 13 meters. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 27, 2014]
Manga-Anime-Related Places in Tokyo
Akihabara is famous for its enormous number of electric and electronics stores which deal in all kinds of appliances, computers, games, CDs, DVDs, cameras and the like at discount prices. There are a dozen of manga and anime shops that sell games, books, magazines, figures, toys and anime- and manga-related merchandise. Website:
Nakano Broadway (5-minute walk from Nakano Station on the JR and subway Tozai Lines) is a shopping center with many stores specializing in animations, comics, figures, costumes for anime characters, and so forth. Tel: 03-3388-7004 URL: Website: nbw.jp
Otome Road, (west of the Sunshine 60 building near Ikebukuro Station) is packed with shops that sell female-oriented anime goods. This is the female otaku’s equivalent to Akihabara, the area for male otaku.
J-World Tokyo(inside Sunshine City Mall, near Ikebukuro Station, 15-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station or Higashi-Ikebukuro Station on Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line) was is an indoor theme park featuring the world of Weekly magazine Shonen Jump. There were attractions related to the magazine’s three most popular series“Dragon Ball”, “One Piece”, and “Naruto”. Unfortunately, it closed in 2019.
Kawaii Monster Café (Harajuka, Omotesando) features manga-inspired waitresses, food in psychedelic colors, and an oversized décor reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland of glowing mushrooms and blinking cakes for just the right degree of fashionable weirdness. Location: YM square building 4F, 4-31-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 +81-3-5413-6142.
Image Sources: 1) 2) 4) 10) Ray Kinnane 3) JNTO 5) Kabuki 21 website 6) Wikipedia 7) Tokyo government 8) Hector Garcia 9) xorcysyt blog 11) Wikipedia 12) Andrew Gray Photosensibility
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020