Stuff You Should Know: Tokyo Vice City

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On the surface, Tokyo is a shiny, crime free metropolis. A place where the streets are always clean and the people are always polite. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a hotbed of drugs, hookers and sleaze under the surface – it’s just hidden away from public view.

Here are nine debaucherous things you’ll see in Tokyo, if you look hard enough…

African Touts

nigeriaThe last five years or so has seen a huge rise in Africans (especially Nigerians) coming to Japan and getting involved in the bar and club scene. While they’re relatively scarce during the day, you can’t walk more than 10 metres in Roppongi or Kabukicho at night without an aggressively friendly street tout trying to get you into a venue. Thing is, if you want to see Tokyo’s seedy underbelly they’re an (unfortunate) necessity.

While organised crime controls virtually all the strip clubs and brothels in Tokyo, the proper Yakuza are very hands off. As long as their “contributions” are paid they don’t get involved in the day to day stuff — and they’re can’t be bothered dealing with idiot westerners looking for cheap thrills. That’s where the Africans come in, they’re tolerated because they deal with this side of the market, pay their kick-backs and create a nice buffer between the drug trade and more respectable “business men.”

Since the locals don’t want a bunch of gaijin in their strip clubs messing with the women and ambiance, the Africans also look after this side of the market. If you’re white and looking for hookers in Tokyo the African touts are your connection. Simply take a stroll through Kabukicho after midnight and you’ll find yourself in a “hostess bar” quicker than you can say “how much?”

Hey, speaking of that…

Hostess Bars

hostessSo here’s the deal, most of these places offer some sort of heavily discounted drink special, e.g. two hours of complimentary booze for $40. They won’t let you see inside until you’ve paid your money — and there’s a good reason for that. They’re basically third rate brothels. Of course they can’t advertise this because of, you know, the law.

Anyway, once they get you inside your drinks are free — as promised. The catch is, you have to have a hostess with you. And you have to buy her drinks. Well, you don’t HAVE to. But you’ll never hear the end of it if you don’t start buying her booze. Oh yeah, and she’s probably not even Japanese. The hot Japanese women are reserved for the cashed-up locals, you’re going to get some Filipino imports.

Whatever their nationality, these broads have expensive taste and the cheapest thing you’ll find on the menu is usually a $30/$40 glass of champagne. Keep in mind that certain drinks are more than just a drink. A $100 half-bottle of wine usually comes with a hand job under the table. The $300 champagne is more like $20 sparkling white — but you’ll also get a “private dance” out back. It’s all a pretty standard hustle used to circumvent prostitution laws.


drugsDrugs are illegal and we don’t condone their use and yada, yada. Okay, that’s the disclaimer out of the way — on to business. Japan has strict drugs laws and recreational use is actually pretty minimal compared to somewhere like, say, Canada. Or a GOP political convention. That said, drugs aren’t that hard to find. Whether they’re any good is another matter.

Wander around Shinjuku at night and you’ll soon have African touts offering you everything from girls (more on that later) to cheap booze, to drugs. While it’s nice to think your new African friend is in fact a stand-up guy who will sell you uncut Columbian powder for a great price, the reality is you’re either going to buy a baggy of baking powder or you’re going to meet his friends and be relieved of your wallet… and good luck trying to spin that story to the local cops/your travel insurance people.

Bottom line; unless you know someone who knows someone, you’re better sticking with legal highs. Like…

Cigarettes and Booze

japan cigsIf you’re a smoker Japan is paradise. You can smoke in any bar, you can smoke in most restaurants, and cigarette packets will cost you about $5 a pop. If you’re not a smoker than a holiday to Japan is an excellent time to start.

Japan is also a great opportunity to practise your street drinking. There are vending machines on every street corner and (in the seedier parts of town) they’re full of booze. A can of Sapporo beer the size of your head will run you about $6/7.

For the more refined drinker there are also miniature cans of scotch and water.

The weird thing about Japan is that despite the proliferation of vending machines, no one really eats or drinks on the street — it’s just one of those cultural things. It also explains the complete lack of trash bins in Tokyo. Point is, you can buy all the booze you want, you’re just not meant to drink it in public (unless you want to look like some sort of western savage). If you’re worried about that sort of thing you can always duck down an alleyway and have your own private beer and cigarettes party. After that, maybe head to…


kabukichoThis is the red light district. It’s hidden away in the back of Shinjuku but any cab driver can point you in the right direction. You’ll know you’ve arrived when the streets start to resemble something out of Sega’s Yakuza franchise. Take a walk around during the day and it’s just a whole lot of male hosts (boy band rejects who “service” ladies) leaning against their AMG Mercedes and smoking cigarettes. Come back after midnight and it’s a different story. It’s also a world largely
closed off to western tourists wondering the streets.

The reason Tokyo can cram 20 million people into a shoebox and work is because everyone understands the social norms that go along with that close proximity. They don’t appreciate loud westerns coming in and ruining the city (or the women).

In other words, you’re not going to get into any of the really good strip clubs or brothels without a local guide. And even if you do accidentally find an authentic brothel or strip joint around Kabukicho you’ll simply be waved away by security. Which is why people visit Roppongi.


roppongiRoppongi is pretty much the worst place on earth. It’s where drunk, red faced tourists go to try and pick up Japanese girls. The US army set up shop in the area following World War II and it quickly became a den of vice and cheap nightclubs. That’s still pretty much the deal these days.

If you’re not too fussed about quality there are plenty of terrible “all you can drink” bars filled with the scum of humanity and strip clubs with broads from all over the world. There are also A MILLION African touts prowling the streets trying to be your friend and get you into their rat trap nightclubs. Surprise! They’re all super shady! The kind of places you might find your drink spiked with…


rohypnolThe problem is you probably won’t remember your “sexy times” with a cheap Filipino hooker. The one thing Nigerians in Tokyo are famous for is drugging idiot tourists and running their credit cards dry. If you’re on your own and find yourself in a hostess bar run by Africans then you’re pretty much fucked. That complimentary shot of tequila they just brought over? Yeah, that’s laced with Rohypnol and you’re not going to be waking up for another 10-14 years. You’re also not going
to remember anything.

If it’s any consolidation, these guys are pros. They’re not interested in your phone or your camera (or anything that makes it look like you’ve been robbed). In fact, they’ll go out of their way to find out which hotel you’re staying in and dump you in a cab to get you back there. The idea is you’ll wake up with the world’s worst headache, no memory of what happened, and just assume you had the most epic night ever. Then you get your credit card statement a monthly later and realise you’ve bought $10,000 in computer supplies from Nigeria.

That said, credit card companies (and local police) are aware of the problem and in most cases you will get your money refunded. Oh, and a word of warming, local cops barely speak any English, so if you need to make a police report you’ll have to find someone who speaks Japanese.

Maybe you can find one at one of the several area…

Love Hotels

love hotelThese are for the locals only, so there are sure to be plenty of them around. Since people tend to live with their parents until they’re much older, love hotels are hired out by the hour and let couples have some “alone time.” Most of them are totally automated and rooms are hired via a machine (that’s all in Japanese).

Point is, you should have a hotel room for this sort of thing. So, unless you want to specifically tell people back home you “made it” in a creepy love hotel you really don’t need to mess with them.

Just like the…

Maid Cafes

maid cafeThese are also reserved for the locals (or people who speak Japanese). The idea is you pay a girl dressed up as a French Maid to hang out with you over a drink or a meal and play retarded games together. You can choose a range of service from a menu including role play (she will yell at you, or burst into tears, or whatever), general company (listening to your boring stories and pretending to be interested) and school yard nonsense (e.g. rock, paper, scissors).

Like we said, you can totally skip this shit too.