A town is its people

After the war, the Special City Planning Act was created, which promoted post-war business revival lead by the government. Around the same time, in Tokyo, there were several unique examples of local, civilian lead efforts to move such plans forward, which were followed up and supported by the government. Amid this, Kihei Suzuki promoted a vision of the future through performance districts, an example of which was Kabukicho, as well as promoted civilian lead post-war revitalization (the first Shinjuku Revitalization Land Readjustment Union).

The Kabukicho Planning Diagram
Until then, Kabukicho was known as Tsunohazu North 1-chome. After the war, when Kihei Suzuki returned from evacuating, he called out to the people of the area: “We should reorganize the way the land of our homes and businesses is being used. We will plan a revival for the town council. I hold most leases in this town; those who hold leases should proactively release them if there is a convincing method to reconfigure the usage of land here,” and had a proposal: “We will create artistic facilities for the East, and create a moral business district.” Mohei Mineshima, the largest land owner in the area, agreed with this proposal, and promised to assist him, instantly making the idea more realizable. Additionally, as they were looking to attract the Kabuki Theater Corp., there was a call for a name suitable for a new cultural area, and the suggestion of the department head of the Ishikawa Hideaki City Plan, who was working hard at revitalizing the metropolitan area after the war, was chosen: “Kabukicho”. And so Kabukicho was born in Shinjuku on April 1st, 1948.
Thanks to the work of Kihei Suzuki, construction plans for theaters and cinemas, performance arenas, and dance halls for kabuki performances were created, and construction was just beginning when suddenly Emergency Financial Measure ordinances were rolled out, resulting in temporary construction restrictions and bank account closures. The plan became impossible to see through, and failed. At the time, only Chikyuza (which later became HUMAX) received permission for construction, and continued work. When it was completed, there were lines that went all the way to the station. Later, in 1950, Kabukicho announced itself as a candidate for the Tokyo Culture and Industry Exhibition, and an arena for the exhibition was constructed, and that pavilion became the basis for the current theater town. The exhibition progressed things in the direction intended by Kihei Suzuki, but the event itself was a massive failure. Kihei, who had over extended himself in selling his personal property, went bankrupt, and in the sudden wake of his loss of inf luence, a new source of inf luence arrived: Sakujiro Fujimori (the first chairman of the Kabukicho Shopping District Promotion Association). The Kabukicho Shopping District Promotion Association and the four entertainment companies (Toho, Tokyu Recreation, HUMAX, and Toa Koko) negotiated, and together made 1955 through 1975 an era of prosperity for Kabukicho.

The original arch, constructed in 1956 on Ichibangai, Gekijo Dori.
In 1956, the Tokyu Bunka Kaikan was completed, along with Japan’s largest cinema, Milanoza, and the Tokyo Skate Rink, and, later the same year, the Koma Theater, the center of performance and music in Japan, was opened, completed Kihei Suzuki’s dream of a moral business district. Kabukicho placed theater at the center of its industrial efforts, and grew to become one of Japan’s largest business districts. On the other hand, it was also true that Kabukicho and the surrounding area always had prostitution, and the cultural presences like the cinema and skating rink, which served as places of healthy inter-gender relationships, and the red light district clashed, which propped up the potential of the area. In 1965, the new Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act (hereinafter called “the Act”) went into effect. This went on to change the destiny of the town. With the Act coming into effect, the business of late night establishments was restricted, and the neon lights of arcades, discos, and more, disappeared. All the while, erotic services (in-store massage parlors with private booths, etc.) moved in en masse after the Act to take advantage.
The liveliness of the nights there quieted, and cinemas slowly lost the ability to operate all night, which destroyed the economic structure of late nights there, and drastically decreased the sales in restaurants. The number of people visiting the red light district on the other hand increased, making large changes in the balance of Kabukicho as a business district. The cabaret club boom began after 1965, and as Heisei began, out of store services (“delivery health”, etc.) increased, which brings us to our current host club bubble.

The cabaret club Shinjuku Cats was created in 1964. This was also when the term cabaret club was coined. It turned the convent ional not ion of professionals of fer ing such services on its head, and al lowed amateur universit y students to work with clients, to massive popularity. This was fol lowed by a mas s ive increas e in establ i shment s cal l ing themselves cabaret clubs, and became a new genre in the food services industry.
In 2008, the long lived landmark of Kabukicho, the Koma Theater, closed, and in 2015, the Shinjuku Toho Building was completed in its place, one of the main tenants of which is Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, owned by FUJITA KANKO, which spurred the opening of a number of new hotels, creating a wave that suddenly changed Kabukicho into a tourist destination. After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics, in 2022, the tallest building along the Yamanote Line will be completed with 48 f loors at a height of 225m, where the old Shinjuku TOKYO MILANO once stood. The scenery is changing due to such global investments being made, and this, combined with the unchanged local f lavor of those who live and work here have created the Kabukicho of today. The ideal city structure as imagined by Hideaki Ishikawa, the man who named Kabukicho, is one with a plaza at its center, where its citizens can gather, relax, and debate one another; it is one supported by a Western democratic society. For example, he considered cleaning of the city by its citizens to be a part of the plan. The dignity of a city is determined by the hearts and actions of its citizens, and the lives lived and appearance of the citizens becomes that of the town.

Hideaki Ishikawa once said, “A town is its people.”

Text/Kouichi Teratani


19454,5The entire area is burned by the air strikes in April/May
10Reconstruction Cooperation Association (Chairman: Kihei Suzuki) established;land reorganization begins
194712Land reorganization complete
19484Kabukicho is born on April 1st
7The Entertainment and Amusement Trades Control Act comes into effect
19494Final Metropolitan train station moves from O-dori to Kabukicho
4The Kabukicho Promotion Association begins (town council and business association)
1950-6Culture and Industry Exhibition
19511The Shinjuku Ward Office moves from Ushikome to Kabukicho
19523The Seibu Shinjuku Station opens
195612The Shunjuku Tokyu Bunka Kaikan is completed on the 1st
The Shinjuku Koma Theater is completed on the 28th
The Kabukicho Promotion Cooperative is formed
19636The Kabukicho Shopping District Promotion Association is formed
11The Toden Suginami Line closes (began in October 1921)
19641Kabukicho’s first coming of age ceremony is held
2Kabukicho Benzaiten’s first bean showering ceremony is held
5The Japanese Nation Railway’s Shinjuku Minshu Station is opened
10The Tokyo Olympics are held
196510The population moving through the city between 10am and 10pm reaches 154,000
19671Kihei Suzuki’s funeral is held by the Kabukicho Association
19687The postal code system is implemented
10The Kabukicho Crime Prevention Demonstration is held
The Shinjuku student riots are held on International Anti-War day
1969The arch in Gekijo-dori 1-bangai is completed.
10The Shinjuku Police Department is opened (formerly the Yodobashi Police Department)
19703Toden disappears from Kabukicho
197211The population moving through the city between 10am and 10pm reaches 260,000
19739The Subnade underground shopping district and parking lot is completed
The Chuo-dori entrance scramble interchange is completed
19754The Shinjuku Fire Department opens (formerly the Yodobashi Fire Department)
19773The Seibu Shinjuku Station Building is created (made using the station building)
19787Kabukicho is changed into Kabukicho 1-chome
19793Central Road (formerly Chuo-dori) is completed
198010The first Shinjuku Ward Festival is held
11American Boulevard is opened
19818The first Kabukicho Furusato Festival is held
11The population moving through the city between 10am and 12am reaches 270,000
19852/13The Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act comes into effect
19877The Shinjuku Tax Department is opened (formerly the Yodobashi Tax Department)
8The Okubo Hospital closes temporarily (construction of the Metropolitan Health Plaza Hygeia begins)
19934Construction on Metropolitan Health Plaza Hygeia finishes
19985Amendments to the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act comes into effect
19991The Euro is born
20014The Koizumi Administration begins
9/1The Kabukicho building fire results in 44 deaths
20027The first Shinjuku Eisa Festival is held
2004The Korean boom arrives
20051The Kabukicho Renaissance Promotion Committee is created
20065Amendments to the Businesses Affecting Public Morals Regulation Act comes into effect come into effect
200811The Ward Office avenue illumination project begins
201112The Shinjuku Koma Theater/Shinjuku Toho building is closed
3/11The East Japan Great Earthquake hits Japan
20134The Kabukicho temporary police box, known as the Safety Station, opens
9The Shinjuku Ordinance on the Prohibition of Solicitation in Public Spaces comes into effect
12LED renovations on the Gekijo-dori 1-bangai Arch are completed
20142The Kabukicho Concierge Committee is formed
12The Shinjuku TOKYU MILANO Building “Milanoza” closes
20153The New Central Road (with new street and traffic lights, etc.) is completed
4The Hotel Gracery Shinjuku opens in the Shinjuku Toho Building
20163The Cinecity Plaza construction project is completed
11The Kabukicho Shopping District Promotion Association building demolition begins
12Sauna Green Plaza closes (sold to Tokyu)
20185Construction of the Kabukicho Shopping District Promotion Association building is completed
20208The Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics are held
20228Scheduled completion of the new Shinjuku TOKYO MILANO building (48 floors, 225m in height)