Back when she was younger she couldn’t get away from them, so we visit a host club to find out what’s going on. 

About 20 years ago, our reporter Ikuna Kamezawa could hardly walk through certain sections of Tokyo’s Kabukicho without getting harassed by men calling out to her on the street.

By her estimates, things were so bad that at one stage, men would call out to her around 50 times a day, with around half of them wanting her to visit their cabaret clubs and the other half asking her to visit host clubs.

Back then, the famous red-light area in Shinjuku was filled with host clubs, where hosts personally entertain guests with drinks and banter, and today, it remains the top spot for these bars, but one thing has changed.

Now, Ikuna isn’t approached by hosts inviting her to their clubs at all.

▼ The entrance to Kabukicho

In fact, the harassment by men trying to get her to spend money at their establishments has decreased so much that Ikuna isn’t even approached by anyone these days, despite walking the same route she used to on her way to work.

Ikuna has regularly been getting off trains at the east exit of Shinjuku Station for years now, and back in the day, the harassment would start upon exiting the ticket gates, pictured below.

When she was younger, she’d even be harassed by men at the exit above ground (seen below). Sometimes, when she didn’t have the energy to deal with the harassment, she’d take a detour through Subnade, an underground shopping area.

After exiting Shinjuku Station at the east exit, Ikuna would cross over the street and walk down a path next to the Alta building, commonly known as “Scout Street” amongst women, due to all the spruikers there.

▼ Ikuna and her friends used to avoid walking through “Scout Street” (pictured below) at all costs.

Then, once you get to the big Don Quijote chainstore (pictured right, below), things used to be really hard, with a load of hosts working around the clock to get women to come and visit their establishments.

These days, however, Ikuna is now in her thirties and one thing she’s noticed about walking through the area is it’s become a lot more peaceful, because…she’s no longer approached by hosts. 

Sure, Ikuna doesn’t dress as cutesy as she might’ve ten or twenty years ago, but she’s not a bad-looking woman, and she often gets told that she still looks like she’s in her twenties. So why doesn’t she get approached by hosts?

▼ Ikuna shows us what she usually wears when walking by Kabukicho on her way to the office.

While she didn’t like the hosts stopping her when she was younger, she didn’t ever think a day would come when no host would ever approach her. Was it because of what she was wearing? Or how she looked? Or did they see her as an old hag, now that she wasn’t in her teens and twenties anymore?

Ikuna decided to take her questions to someone who would be able to answer them — Mr Naruse, the producer of the “Awake” host club in Kabukicho.

▼ Mr Naruse welcomed Ikuna into his host club with a warm smile, saying, “Nice to meet you, I’m Naruse.”

Ikuna, who’d always held a bit of a disdain for hosts due to the way they used to harass her, found herself beginning to swoon at the sight of Naruse, and his extremely attentive manner caught her totally off guard.

▼ Keep it together, Ikuna!

Somehow, here, in this warm and dimly lit environment, the host seemed far less threatening, and Ikuna felt immediately comfortable at opening her heart up to him. So, without hesitation, she asked him the question: “Why don’t hosts approach me anymore?

Mr Naruse smiled and said:

“Let me explain. Originally, the rules of the host club industry were a bit vague, but when new changes to the Amusement Business Act were introduced, activities such as spruiking for customers on the streets and opening until all hours of the night were no longer permitted.

Even then, the rules remained a little vague, so at the beginning there were many places where hosts would blend in with spruikers for izakaya pubs. However, in 2014, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Nuisance Prevention Ordinance was enforced, and it was finally impossible for even izakaya staff to spruike on the streets…”

“Huh!?!?!?” Upon hearing this story, Ikuna came to a realisation.

▼ “So it’s not because I’m older and over the hill?” she asked Mr Naruse.

Mr Naruse laughed and replied:

“No, of course not. Currently, new customers generally come to us through information desks and social media, and we hosts don’t generally stand around on city streets anymore. If we did, hosts wouldn’t leave someone like you alone, I assure you.”

▼ Thanks for the answer, Mr Naruse!

So, in the end, Ikuna’s investigation into the issue left her feeling relieved but also a little conflicted. She likes to think of herself as a strong woman who doesn’t need attention to feel special, but in a strange way, the lack of attention after years of receiving it had made her wonder if she’d lost her mojo.

While she’s definitely happy to not be harassed on the streets anymore, she’s also glad to hear the change has nothing to do with her becoming older and more jaded. More than anything, though, she’s glad the women of today don’t have to experience what she did when she was younger.

It’s a sign of just how much things have changed in Kabukicho over the years, and for more on that, you can check out Mr Naruse’s interview with Mr Sato, where he tells us just how dangerous things used to be in the notorious neighbourhood.

Reference: Smappa! Group
Photos ©SoraNews24
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