Kabukichō is an entertainment and red-light district situated in the busy Tokyo area of Shinjuku. At night the streets are buzzing with neon lights, as the host and hostess bars and clubs come to life. Meanwhile, in the criminal underworld, around a thousand yakuza (members of transnational organised crime syndicates originating in Japan) are said to operate in the area, giving this spot the nickname the ‘Sleepless Town’.
During the 60s and 70s, one curious photographer named Watanabe Katsumi prowled the streets while taking pictures of yakuza, the pimps and the prostitutes who called Kabukichō their home. Watanabe thought of this area as his theatre and the men and women who posed for him as his actors. Here is a collection of images from his volume titled ‘The Gangs of Kabukichō’. Enjoy:
Incredible. His book ‘The Gangs of Kabukichō’ was reissued in 2006 and it can be purchased here if you’re interested in taking a deeper look into his work (although it will cost you).
For more photo collections taken from the inside of Tokyo, check out the Tokyo Rockabilly Club.