From Bustling to Bleak: Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, Once Crowded at Opening, Now in a State of Misery | FRIDAY DIGITAL

From Bustling to Bleak: Tokyu Kabukicho Tower, Once Crowded at Opening, Now in a State of Misery

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A view of the inside of Kabukicho Tower. The inside looks deserted, probably because it is a weekday evening.

Tokyu Kabukicho Tower opened on April 14 last year. As a new landmark in Shinjuku, it was crowded with tourists and other visitors, but the number of users has been decreasing, and on January 31, the first tenant of the Kabukicho Tower withdrew from the building. 

Although the building was a hot topic and was featured in various media when it first opened, why did it end up like this? We decided to visit the building to find out.

It was around 19:00 on a weekday, the time when the number of people in Kabukicho is increasing. But when I entered the Kabukicho Tower, it was a rattling place, and not even a third of the seats in the restaurants were occupied.

When the building first opened, it was a huge success, with visitors having to push their way through the crowds from the escalator at the entrance, but now it is possible to enter the building smoothly.

Entering one of the restaurants inside, I asked the restaurant staff if it was always like this on weekdays, and they answered in a familiar manner, as if they were often asked the same question.

It was very busy until around October last year. Every store had a 30-minute wait to enter, and there was a waiting line. Since then, the number of people has decreased, and now there aren’t any. Fridays and Saturdays. At night, there are quite a few customers, but it’s still fewer than when the building was first built. As you can see on weekdays, I have a lot of free time.

Perhaps because of the location of Kabukicho, it was noticeable that there were some well-dressed people in the mizu-shobai business, but what was more noticeable was the number of foreign tourists.

The number of foreign tourists was more conspicuous than the number of Japanese visitors to the building, which had been high since its opening.

The number of Japanese visitors to the building has decreased, so the percentage of foreign visitors has increased. Japanese customers include some businessmen and some who seem to be in the mizu-shobai business.

Another reason for the decline in the number of people is probably the aggressive pricing.

The menu at the izakaya in the building is not particularly expensive, but it does feel a little more expensive than the prices at popular izakayas in Shinjuku. The prices are about 10% to 20% higher than nearby izakayas, so if you use it as if it were a small izakaya, you’ll end up paying more. On top of that, there is also a charge, making the prices relatively high for an izakaya in Kabukicho.

When we talked to actual users, they said that not only is the price high, but there is also the problem of location. One user, a man in his 30s, told us that he visits Shinjuku every day for work, but that he no longer uses the izakaya.

When we talk to actual users, they say that not only is the price high, but there are also location issues. The user, a man in his 30s, visits Shinjuku every day for work, but he said he no longer uses the service.

The Kabukicho Tower is not a good candidate as an option because of the large number of restaurants in the Kabukicho area. In addition, the To Yoko area is still a busy place with groups of young people still forming around the plaza, although the number of young people hanging out has decreased due to the restrictions placed on the plaza.

Kabukicho Tower was born with a lot of expectations, but unless you have a certain amount of money, you won’t be able to enjoy it. Currently, the facility is mostly visited by inbound tourists and people who have a certain amount of time to spare, making the building difficult to use except for people visiting with a specific purpose.

Although it was very well received when it first opened, it may have ended like this due to various misalignments with the needs of Kabukicho.

A store that pulled out of the market this year. A sign was posted at the store.
Inside the Kabukicho Tower
Some stores with almost no customers.
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