Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Video Game Tourist

Visiting Kamurocho!

Kamurocho in Real-LifeKamurocho in Real-Life

Visiting Kamurocho (神室町)! Heartland of the Yakuza video game series.


Sega’s beloved Yakuza video game series is famous worldwide for its stunning virtual reproductions of modern Japan. So I wouldn’t go into that part.

If you’ve been reading my video game tourist posts, you’d also know I absolutely adore this game series. So glossing over this part too.

Instead, just the details! I visited “Kamurocho,” or the real-life Tokyo Kabukicho district, on November 20, 2018, hitting the area at approximately 9.30 pm. (More later, on why I’m highlight the time). Inclusive of photography, geeking, a snack, hysterical giggling, Yakuza music listening, and supper, the whole visit lasted slightly more than 90 minutes.

Of note, despite it being a Tuesday, the area was positively swarmed by tourists and revellers. Way more (PRC and Hong Kong) tourists than revellers, to be exact. In fact, some streets were so crowded, I barely managed to get a decent shot. Kiryu himself would find it difficult to brawl, without hurting a whole horde of innocent bystanders.


To repeat, I didn’t exactly visit Kamurocho, Tokyo. I was in Kabukicho (歌舞伎町). The real-life entertainment district that inspired the open-world playground in the Yakuza game series.
(All screenshots belong to Sega, naturally)


Kamurocho in the Yakuza Games

Before all else, Kamurocho screenshots from the Yakuza video game series for comparison purposes. All except one are from Yakuza 6. I chose part 6 because chronically, The Song of Life is nearest to our current year.

Yakuza 6 Tenkaichi Sign.
Kamurocho Tenka Ichi Dori Sign. The most representative landmark in the Yakuza games.
Yakuza 6 Karaoke Outlet.
Kamurocho’s Karaoke Outlet. This is one of the most authentic shopfronts reproduced in the game.
Yakuza 6 Kamurocho
Theater Square. Starting point for so many cut scenes, brawls, and hostesses substories.
Yakuza 6 Millennium Tower Entrance.
Entrance to Millennium Tower.
Yoshida Batting Center, Kamurocho.
Yoshida Batting Centre. Again, one of the most authentically reproduced buildings in the games.
Kamurocho Yakuza.
To paraphrase what a feisty old lady once said, the place with a lot of beautiful guys.
Kamurocho Landmarks.
Montage of other landmarks found throughout the Yakuza video game series.

From My Visit! Kamurocho in Real-Life. (I.E. Kabukicho)

And now, the real-life counterparts in Kabukicho that inspired the many locations in the games!

Real Life Kamurocho.
I shot this from the (damn) spot I could never get to in the game. The middle of the road.
Kamurocho, Tokyo.
A classic shot of Kabukicho worthy of a Kamurocho poster.
Kabukicho Karaoke Shop.
The karaoke! Of note, the sign isn’t unique to Kabukicho. Other outlets in Shinjuku look similar. (I also found one in Shimbashi)
Kabukicho Junction Snack Shop.
Recognize this spot? So faithfully reproduced in Yakuza 2 Kiwami?

“Musical interlude.” Throughout the visit, I was listening to Yakuza music. Justice, Pure Love in Kamurocho, Baka Mitai, etc. Which’s the best accompanying song for a Kamurocho visit in my opinion? Baka Mitai! Kiryu’s melancholic crooning so perfectly complements the dizzying lights and crowds.

Visiting Kamurocho! | Shinjuku Toho Building
Entrance to Shinjuku Toho Building. (Millennium Tower in the games) If it’s not clear enough in the smaller pic, there is an Osaka Ohsho Outlet right where it is in Yakuza 6.
Kabukicho Theater Square
The real-world Theater Square. Unfortunately, because of recent redevelopment, the iconic bowling centre/entertainment centre/cinema in the game is GONE for good. It’s replaced by a VR centre. (Update Jul 2019: The VR centre appears in Yakuza Judgment!)
Visiting Kamurocho! Playground of the Yakuza! | Entertainment Center
Where Club Sega was supposed to be. 🙁
Kamurocho Real-Life Counterparts
Hey! All these look … familiar?
Kabukicho Male Hosts Signs
Ah, the place with a lot of beautiful men. (No martial arts experts hanging out here, though)
Shinjuku Batting Centre and Interior
The batting centre and interior of. About this, the building is very faithfully reproduced in the Yakuza game series, although the real-life location is elsewhere.

Supper at Kamurocho!

The short of it, I dreamt about this for weeks. I wanted to have supper at a food outlet found in the game series.

My choice of venue: Ringer Hut. Famous for its Nagasaki dishes.

Yakuza 6 Ringer Hut
Ringer Hut as in Yakuza 6.
Kabukicho Ringer Hut.
The real-life Kabukicho Ringer Hut Outlet I visited.
Ringer Hut Nagasaki Sara Udon
What I ate. Nagasaki Sara Udon. This strongly reminded me of Singaporean zi cha style Chinese crispy noodles.




Is it safe to visit Kabukicho? I mean, Kamurocho …

I like to end this geeky post with some information regarding the overall safety of the Kabukicho entertainment district. In case, you know, you intend to make a fan visit yourself.

Back in the 90s, before my very first Japan solo trip, I read all sorts of warnings in travel books on how the area is the seediest in Tokyo. I.E. avoid at all cost.

Jump forth 10 years, and the Internet is still full of warnings about Kabukicho scams. The most notorious ones involve aggressive touts conning solo travellers or small groups into patronising outrageously priced pubs.

I’m no travel security expert. I also outright state (brag) that after traveling alone for 20 years, I’m trained to subconsciously avoid threats. In other words, I know how to stay safe. Therefore, I’d just list the details of my visit. You draw your own conclusion.

  1. I visited at 9.30 pm and left slightly after 11 pm. This is not exactly partying time, yet. Most of the outlets were full of tourists or Japanese office workers i.e. people looking to be in a hot bath by midnight. To be quite frank, I was disappointed I didn’t see anyone remotely resembling an Aniki.
  2. The main threat of Kabukicho for tourists is aggressive touting. I encountered a grand total of … one tout. A rather timid high-school-ish kid who spoke to me in stammering English. He was absolutely appalled when I said “kyo-mi ne” using my best Kiryu voice.
  3. On (2), please note that I’m not saying there are no longer any touts in Kabukicho. My conclusion is that these business savvy people wouldn’t be out in full force till later. After all, why waste time on families and tour groups?
  4. Still on (2), you know, I had my earphones on throughout. I probably looked a little too wild-eyed even for the most seasoned tout. A possible reason why I was only approached once.
  5. I didn’t venture into dark alleyways. While the prospects of finding retro porn vending machines, exotic weapons dealers, mysterious clowns, or fussy cats, were highly attractive, I don’t take such risks. No tourist should, too.
  6. I took over a hundred photos. Not once did I point my lens into someone’s face or into a shop. The closest I came to being offensive was a rear shot of a chimpira-ish ­bro at the batting centre. When his gyaru-ish girlfriend noticed, I immediately sumimasen-ed and made a show of fumbling with my camera. She smiled and I had a goddess moment.

My takeaway: Visit at a sensible hour, behave sensibly, and Kabukicho, or Kamurocho, will be a high point of your Tokyo trip.


Read about my Sotenbori Visit too!


Read my other Video Game Tourist posts.

Summary
Visiting Kamurocho! | Video Game Tourist
Article Name
Visiting Kamurocho! | Video Game Tourist
Description
Visiting Kamurocho! Or rather, Kabukicho, the real-life Tokyo red-light district that inspired the open-world of Sega’s Yakuza series.
Author
Scribbling Geek
the authorScribbling Geek
The geek divides his free time between video games, movies, anime, and attempting to write decent short stories. Oh, and trying not to sprain his fingers from playing demisemiquavers on his Electone.

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