The fourth and final stop in Mr. Sato’s look at Kabukicho, the real Kamurocho.
When was the last time we left our intrepid reporter behind Mr. Satohe was still inside kabukicho, Tokyo largest host/hostess bar area. Kabukicho is so famous/infamous that when Sega developed his Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku/Like a Dragon franchise, made no secret of basing the basic video game setting, Kamurochoon Kabukicho.
Mr. Sato was pounding the pavement Kabukicho, talking to people who know it best to find out how the reality of the neighborhood compares to the dangers of a video game. After completing the first chapter of the investigation, The fate of drunkardsbut also Chapter 2: Into the Gray Darkness and Chapter 3: Crazy Cityit’s time for him to start the fourth and final part.
▼ Final chapter: Not like a dragon
Following a suggestion from the home club’s manager, Takumi Saito, Mr. Sato’s fourth and final stop of the evening was the Kabukicho Bond Hosting Club, where he was told to seek out a man named Minami to learn about the new host style that is currently in vogue in Kabukicho.
Entering the building and passing through Bond’s front door, Mr. Sato told the club staff, “I’ve come to see Minami.” “Ah, you must be Mr. Sato,” they replied. “Sit down, please. She’ll be with you in a moment,” directing him to the last of the many immaculate leather couches he’d sat on that night.
Soon he heard a male voice addressing him. “Ah, Mr. Sato, we expected you. I am Minami.
▼ Bond of the Host Club
Minami has been working at Kabukicho for over a decade and has risen to power as Bond’s “representative”, as his managerial role is officially called.
Minami: “I heard from Naruse that you had many questions for him about kabukicho in the old days.”
Mr. Sato: “Yes, I did, and now I know how dangerous this place used to be.”
Minami: “Hahaha, yes, I think you can say that. I have been working in this industry for 13 years and I also have my own experience.”
Mr. Sato: “What experiences? “
Minami: “Well, for example, once during second shift…”
Mr. Sato: “Excuse me, shift two?”
Minami: “Ah, in the host industry, we call club activity until the first shift at midnight. The second shift is called the sunrise to noon operations.
Mr. Sato: “I understand. So…”
Minami: “Once, during the second shift, customers bought us 20 bottles of champagne to drink together. All the hosts were totally exhausted, but some of them started getting nervous, pointing out each other and saying, “Hey, this guy doesn’t drink!” Things were getting hotter and hotter one guy grabbed a kitchen knife and started swinging it around“.
Mr. Sato: “Wow, that would sober me up right away.”
Minami: “I think the hosts were really hotheaded groups. For example, if a host from another club came to drink as a customer, sometimes the hosts would start fighting with him.
Mr. Sato: “Other Kabukicho veterans I spoke to told me the same thing, that there were many more fights in the area.”
Minami: “Yes, they were. And many of the hosts in those days also practiced martial arts.”
Mr. Sato: “But what now?”
Minami: “Now many hosts are calm and mature. Our customer base has changed quite a bit, and that’s partly because of the pandemic.”
Mr. Sato: “Pandemic? So your main clients keep coming, but you don’t see any new faces?
Minami: “On the contrary, actually. While we were locked down during the pandemic, many hosts put extra effort into live streaming and social media, and with people working from home, many had extra time to watch these streams. This gave them a sense of kinship with the hosts, and when things started to open up again, many of these people started coming to the host clubs to see the hosts they found out about through their broadcasts.
Mr. Sato: “Wow, so the home lifestyle has become a kind of promotion for you.”
Minami: “Yes, exactly. Many women started to like their favorite host and wanted to support him, for example oshikatsu, where they want to support their favorite idol singer or anime character. And for hosts, some of them are able to make a lot of money from these clients, even if they don’t have to drink alcohol themselves.”
Mr. Sato: “So no need to put down the booze, huh?”
Minami: “More hosts than before are increasing their earnings through social media activity. Whether you’re tough or can drink a lot doesn’t matter anymore, so being good at a fight isn’t something they can brag about. If anything, acting like he can beat people up will make the host unpopular these days.
Mr. Sato: “So you’re saying kabukicho doesn’t look like a dragon these days?”
Minami: “That’s right.”
Mr. Sato: “The atmosphere of the game scenery is a work of fiction?”
Minami: “Quite a lot.”
Mr. Sato thanked Minami for his time and headed towards Shinjuku Station. Indeed, he didn’t encounter a single random fistfight, and no NPCs approached him for help with a problem he could solve in 15 minutes that would change their lives.
In all the conversations he had that night, a recurring theme was that Kabukicho wasn’t as dangerous a place as it used to be. Glitter and booze are still available to those with yen to pay for it, but fistfights and seething, simmering beef are becoming rarer.
Is new Yakuza/ /Like a Dragon the game will arrive in 2024 and once again takes place in Kamurocho. Mr. Sato is curious to see how both the location of the video game and the actual neighborhood that inspired it will change.
But that’s all in the future, so all we can do is wait and see.
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-25-2 5th floor
Open from 20:00 to midnight