Investigating the underbelly of Tokyo in one of its most notorious districts.

Kabukicho in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward is famous for being the real-world inspiration for Kamurocho, the notoriously sketchy yakuza ‘hood from the Yakuza video game series.

While the lively entertainment district in the real world does have a bit of a sketchy reputation, mostly due to the underhanded practices of some unscrupulous business owners, it’s nowhere near as dangerous as Kamurocho. However, there is a bit of an underground fight club going on in the area, for those who know where to find it.

The venue is a bar called “Bar & Fight Underground Arena”, fittingly located in the basement of a sketchy-looking multi-tenant building on the outskirts of Kabukicho.

While it operates as an ordinary bar, it also provides patrons with boxing gloves free of charge. That’s because professional wrestling events and boxing bouts that anyone can enter are regularly held here.

▼ As soon as you step inside the bar, you’ll be met by the fighting ring.

Whether you aim to step into the ring or not, it’s recommended that you book ahead or buy tickets in advance for popular events like the fighting “showdown series” that takes place here every month.

So why are fighting events held here? It’s because the owner is a huge fan of professional wrestling.

▼ Pro-wrestling paraphernalia is on display at the back of the bar.

There are a number of pro wrestling fans on our Japanese writing team, including reporters Go Hatori and P.K. Sanjun, but it was our reporter Seiji Nakazawa who visited the bar to find out more about its background.

Masks are displayed with a sign that states photography is strictly prohibited, but Seiji was given permission by the owner to snap some photos, albeit under the proviso they be shared with a mosaic filter.

Was this the mask that pro wrestler Junji Hirata wore when he performed under the ring name Super Strong Machine?

▼ Yes – yes, it was.

When Seiji talked to Mr Shin Sasaki, the master of this underground arena, he was told that the mask was “one of the spares prepared at the time.” While it wasn’t actually worn, it’s a genuine mask that was planned to be used, making it an impressive item for pro-wrestling fans.

▼ Autographed cards in the bar show a number of famous names have visited over the years.

After taking a look around, Seiji had a burning question: Is this fighting ring actually used? He sat down with Mr Sasaki to find out more about it.

Mr Shin Sasaki: “One of the times it’s used is for professional wrestling shows. And events for underground professional wrestling groups.

Basically, there are many such underground events, but it’s okay for customers and individuals to use it too. One time we had a boxing fight between a host who wanted to quit his job and his company president. The rule was if the president won, the host would postpone quitting, and we had a boxer in the audience, so I asked him to referee.”

Seiji: “So was it like, ‘If you knock me out you can quit?'”

Mr Shin Sasaki “Yes. In the end, the president won the match, but the subordinate also had a life to lead outside of the host world, so they settled things by extending his contract for one month only.”

Seiji was surprised to know that bouts like this took place in Kabukicho, but in a way, he figured it was better that people settled their scores in a safe space like this rather than out on the street.

So…why open a bar like this in Kabukicho? If it were Seiji, he wouldn’t want to do business in an entertainment district like Kabukicho, but why did Mr Sasaki choose to set up shop in this notorious neighbourhood?

Mr Shin Sasaki: “Actually, I used to be an actor. I belonged to a theatre company and formed a comedy duo. I had a strong image of Kabukicho being a dangerous place, but I always wanted to work here, and when I started to do business within Kabukicho, I found it’s actually a treasure trove for underground activities.

When I opened a bar here, I wanted to do something different and interesting, so I decided to set up a ring. I thought that Kabukicho would be the most popular place for that kind of underground vibe.”

Seiji couldn’t help but agree that if an underground fighting ring were to exist anywhere in Tokyo, Kabukicho would be the best place for it.

It isn’t just for fighters, though, as you can enjoy a regular night of food and drink here, with a load of options on the extensive menu.

Located near Higashi-Shinjuku Station, the Bar & Fight Underground Arena is technically within Kabukicho but it’s still a little removed from the giant Godzilla in the centre of the district.

That only makes the trip here even more of an exciting adventure, so next time you’re in the area, be sure to keep an eye out for the underground arena. Boxing gloves are optional, but remember, the Kabukicho of today is a little more sedate and far less confrontational than it was in its heyday.

Bar Information

Bar & Fight Underground Arena Chigatougijou / Bar & Fight 地下闘技場
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-14-12, Korin Bldg. B1F
新宿区歌舞伎町2-14-12 光凜ビルB1F
Hours: 7:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m. (Tue-Thu), 7:00 p.m.-5:00 a.m. (Fri and Sat)(Hours may vary depending on the customer’s situation), 7:00 p.m.-midnight (Sundays and public holidays) Ring and restaurant can be privately reserved anytime of the day or night.
Closed: Mondays, Fifth Sunday of the month

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]