Kabukichō is an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Kabuki-chō is the location of many host and hostess clubs, love hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, and is often called the “Sleepless Town” . Shinjuku Golden Gai, famous for its plethora of small bars, is part of Kabuki-cho.

The district’s name comes from late-1940s plans to build a kabuki theater; although the theater was never built, the name stuck.

The area has many movie theaters, and is located near Shinjuku Station, Seibu Shinjuku Station, and several other major railway and subway stations.

Originally, the area was known as Tsunohazu (角筈) and was a swamp. After the Meiji Period, the area became a duck sanctuary. As the Yodobashi Purification Plant was built in 1893, the ponds were filled in. In 1920, a girls’ school was built there, and the surroundings were developed into a residential area. Prior to World War II, the district was one of the areas open to foreign-born property owners (primarily from Taiwan and Korea), who mainly operated tsurekomi yado, predecessors to today’s love hotels

During the war, a bombing raid on April 13, 1945, razed the area to the ground. After the war, Kihei Suzuki from the Association of Readjustment and Reconstruction of Shinjuku worked with the major landowner, Mohei Minejima to draw up plans for Kiku-za, a kabuki theatre, in the area; they believed that performers from the Kabuki-za theatre in Ginza would accept their invitation to perform at Kiku-za. As a result, Hideaki Ishikawa, a regional planner, dubbed the town Kabuki-chō, which was adopted on April 1, 1948. Although the theatre was cancelled due to financial problems, the name remained. The Tokyu Cultural Hall [ja] (to the south, in Shibuya), Tokyu Milano-za [ja] movie theater, Tokyo Ice Skating Rink, and Shinjuku Koma Theater were all completed in 1956, cementing the area’s reputation as an entertainment center.

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Kabuki-chō was quickly redeveloped after the war, mainly due to the efforts of the overseas Chinese in Japan who bought land left unused after the expos and greatly developed them. The “three most renowned overseas Chinese of Kabukicho” include the founder of Humax, Lin Yi-wen, who started his business with a cabaret; Lin Tsai-wang, who built the Fūrin Kaikan; and Lee Ho-chu, owner of the Tokyo Hotel Chinese restaurant. In 2002, it was estimated that 70% of the land in Kabukichō was owned by foreign-born Japanese residents and their descendants. The rise of home video entertainment decreased the demand for live performances and film theaters, and Kabukichō became home to a number of video arcades, discos, and fuzoku (businesses offering sexual services)

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