Kabukicho — tattoos and tears?

Tokyo has numerous, very different neighbourhoods, but arguably none of them are as distinct as Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. A large red light district that boasts a varied selection of bars along with countless establishments of a more specialised, and decidedly more salacious nature. The bright lights and busy streets of which mask the less celebrated and much sadder nature of such places. An aspect that the fascinating documentary, The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, details ever so well.

Certain scenes of which, in the far from warm glow of an autumn morning, can be a little more visible.

kabukicho hostess


  1. Marc Tobolski says

    Lee – you described this area perfectly! Hustlers of all varieties, pick-pockets, relaxation massage parlors. Everything you could imagine and more. Not on the typical tourist list but darn close to many tourist areas.

    • says

      Thanks Marc. It really is quite a place, isn’t it? I see quite a few tourists on the outskirts of it, but yeah, not quite so many up and down its many streets.

  2. Matt says

    Lee, I’m always impressed at your, shall we say “balls” at taking these type of photos. It turned out great. Its an area i’ve never visited, but always been interested to.

    • Jeffrey says


      Lee is 6’4,” weighs in about 225 and sports a fine Terrance Bickle Mohawk. Everyone LOVES to have his photo taken by Lee (or else). : )

      • says

        Haha! If only….

        Basically I try to be as quick and discreet as possible, although clearly that’s not always possible. Some images I feel have to be captured though, so I just take a chance. But to be perfectly the honest, people are usually ok, and the worst it gets is usually a dirty look like this one. A smile can also quickly diffuse any potential awkwardness.

        The documentary is a real insight. Horribly sad, but a fascinating watch.

        • Matt says

          Watched the documentary. You’re right, incredibly sad. I was surprised that it was almost equally sad from the host and client point of view. I would never have guessed that many of the clients were fuzoku.

          • says

            Yes, that’s what surprised me the most. People who know how it all works and yet still succumb, exposing how very lonely they are. Terribly sad.

  3. Jeffrey says

    The world is wide enough for so many different kinds of people. Even Japan. But when I see yoof like this and know that the picture was taken in Kabukicho, you can’t help but feel that something’s gone wrong somewhere along the way.

    • says

      Yes, I know what you mean. Then multiply it by all the city’s other red light districts, and that’s a lot of people in similar situations…

  4. April says

    I keep meaning to check out that documentary. Have you ever been threatened or physical harmed for taking a photo?

    • says

      It’s well worth it. A real insight into a whole other world.

      Nah, not at all. I’ve been given dirty looks and been told not to take a photo, but that’s about it. It’s much nicer when the reaction is the complete opposite though. A smile, or sometimes even a thank you, is lovely.

      • April says

        I wondered because I’ll see someone interesting and shy away from photography them for fear of being threatened. New Orleans isn’t use to cameras everywhere, I think.

        • says

          That’s a real shame. To be honest I used to do the same and it took me a long while to get over it. Even now there are times when I’m not as confident as I’d like to be. But there again, I don’t (and never have) fear being threatened. I appreciate that New Orleans and Tokyo are very different places.

  5. Matt says

    I’ve always been curious about the red light district of Japan, I’ll give the documentary a watch – Stay safe taking those pictures!

  6. Edenbeast says

    Just came across your blog/website, and I commend you on the excellent photos you share with us. I have a question though why I keep hearing that Kabukicho is arguably the most well known red light district in Japan?, also what does a “Host” do exactly?. Thanks and keep up the great work.

  7. Toni says

    Hey, Lee,but what is that guy holding in his left hand? a comb? and folding knife? is it the barrell of a small handgun sticking out of his sleeve? inquiring minds would like to know,lol

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