Our ace reporter hits the streets in his Kiryu Kazama cosplay to talk to the people who know Kabukicho best.

There are close to a dozen entries in Sega’s Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku/Like a Dragon video game series, and all of them have stories that take place in Kamurocho, a bar/red light district in Tokyo. Though Kamurocho is a fictional place, its look and layout is modeled extremely closely on Kabukicho, a real-life part of Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood.

Our crack reporter Mr. Sato is a fan of the Yakuza games, and has spent many hours in Kamurocho fighting thugs in the street and brawling behind the doors of exclusive clubs. Obviously, you have to expect the intensity to be dialed up in an action video game, but it still made him wonder, how dangerous a place is Kabukicho?

▼ Mr. Sato, thinking about street fights and video games

Thankfully, it just so happens that SoraNews24 HQ is located just a short walk from Kabukicho, and so Mr. Sato decided to head on over and talk to the people who work in its bars and host/hostess clubs. Before that, though, he figured a change of clothes was in order.

Well, maybe we should call it a change of costume, since he decided to cosplay as Yakuza protagonist Kiryu Kazama. It’s a pretty good likeness, though eagle-eyed observers can probably tell this isn’t the real Kiryu because the character doesn’t wear a belt made out of a plastic cord.

Now that he (mostly) looked the part, it was time to head for Kabukicho.

▼ Chapter 1: The Fate of Drunkards

Mr. Sato passed underneath the red neon gate that marks the entrance to Kabukicho Ichibangai, the main street of the neighborhood, and the real-life counterpart to the games’ Kamurocho Tenkaichi Street. Activating his gamer intuition, it was as though Mr. Sato could see an oversized-font quest prompt appear before his eyes.

Mr. Sato wasn’t looking for anyone’s mother, necessarily, but the owner, or “mama,” of a hostess bar.

Eventually, his search took him to one of Kabukicho’s many multi-bar buildings, the one that houses Club Haru.

He’d heard that the mama of this hostess bar could help him, so he made his way inside and knocked on Club Haru’s door.

“Is the mama in?” he asked when an employee opened the door, trying out his best impression of Kiryu’s deep, smooth voice. “I need to see her, so I’ll just take a seat and wait.”

He hadn’t been seated long when he heard an elegant voice say “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting. You must be Mr. Sato, correct?”

▼ Club Haru Mama: Haruka Sato (no relation to Mr. Sato)

“I believe I might be able to provide you with the answers you seek,” she said, sitting gracefully down on the red leather sofa without wrinkling her kimono.

“I was hoping you could,” Mr. Sato replied. “Can you tell me, is Kabukicho dangerous like Kamurocho is?”

“I would say it isn’t, as least not in recent years. A long time ago, though, fights broke out just about every day.”

“What? When was this?”

“I spent about five years working as a bar hostess, from when I was 20,” Haruka said. “At that time, there were fights just almost daily. Usually it’d be two customers who both took a liking to the same hostess, and they’d get into fights over wanting to be the one to have her drink with him.”

“So two customers who were strangers would start going at it?”

“No, it was usually fights between two customers at the VIP table, where both of them had come in together as part of the same group.”

“Geez, what a dumb way to get into a fight?”

“I suppose you could say that. But that’s what drinking can do to a person if they can’t handle their liquor.”

“It should have been a fun time having drinks with their friends, but they’d end up fighting each other…Looks like drinking parties don’t always end up fun. Guess that’s the fate of drunkards,” Mr. Sato mused.

“You might be right. You should always make sure to pace yourself too.”

“Ah, I’ll be all right. People think I’m a big drinker based on how I look, but I really can’t drink that much, so I switch to oolong tea pretty early in the night.”

“So you’re not as tough as you look?” Haruka giggled. “By the way, if you want to know more, further down the street there’s a host cub called Awake. You should talk to the owner, Naruse. He’s been here in kabukicho for more than 20 years, so he probably has more information for you.”

And so Mr. Sato headed back out onto the Tokyo streets. Like any good gamer, though, he took the opportunity to save his progress so far, and we’ll be back soon with the rest of his night in Kabukicho.

Related: Club Haru
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukitcho 1-2-13, 5th floor
Open 7 p.m.-midnight
Closed Sundays, Mondays

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]