A wander around nightime Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red light district, is a memorable experience. Excited tourists from all around the world come to photograph and walk amongst Kabukicho’s numerous garish neon signed venues. But if you actually want to get a drink somewhere, you need luck and good judgement to avoid disappointment.
As with most places in Japan, there are signs everywhere, but they don’t help much. Bitter experience has taught me this. Four years ago, I went into a ‘Snack Bar’ and got served peanuts, not pasties, with my beer. Imagine my fury.
Even being able to read Japanese doesn’t help you much. ‘Free Guidance’ booths are everywhere. But their guidance only stretches to assisting the sex-starved. Trust me, you will only get strange looks if you go in there asking for a good place for a pint and a pasty.
Fortunately Kabukicho does have one bar of the highest quality. The bar, Shatekiya, satisfies the three criteria all good bars must meet. 1) The staff are friendly. 2) At 500 yen, the drinks are reasonably priced. 3) They have pork based snacks – the tastiest sausages outside of Cumberland.
As well as fantastic sausages, Shatekiya also has guns – Shatekiya is Japanese for shooting gallery. A growing number of devotees come here to drink and shoot. Bright-eyed beaming girls show you how to load the rifles and pistols, and then aim at the anime characters moving round on a conveyor belt.
As well as being great fun, Shatekiya provides a valuable service. For years drunkards desperate to fire a gun have had nowhere. Equally tragic, lovers of pork based snacks have often felt isolated, even stigmatised, in Japan. Now, brilliantly, both these gaps in the market have been filled. I hope the people of Tokyo are grateful.