Ai Honten: A Kabukicho landmark

Kabukicho is arguably Japan's most famous entertainment district. You may know it as the backdrop of the Yakuza video game series, you may have seen glimpses of it in Japanese news reports, or you may have even visited the neighborhood yourself, but very few foreign visitors have experienced what happens on the other side of the neon signs, the flashy, sometimes gaudy facades of the various entertainment establishments which populate its busy streets.

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

One of the most famous establishments and a symbol of Kabukicho is host club Ai Honten 愛本店. Since it opened its gilded doors in 1971, founder Takeshi Aida personally built up Ai Honten piece by piece, gradually turning Ai Honten into a dazzling, opulent club where sumptuous seats and booths share space with mirrors, crystal, chandeliers, lights, statues and ornaments of all kinds. The champagne towers flowed, charming hosts entertained, and business was brisk.

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

Before long, Ai Honten became famous. In its near half-century of existence in its current Kabukicho location, the club has served as the backdrop for numerous films, television dramas, and variety shows, and has been visited by celebrities from around the world.

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

Courtesy of © Aidakanko Group

The end of an era

As with all things, however, the ravages of time have taken their toll, and the beloved establishment and its interior furnishings are too worn to allow the club to continue operating there. As a result, Ai Honten is closing its doors at the end of June 2020, in order to relocate to a new location.

While some of the numerous decorative items can be salvaged and will find a new home in Ai Honten's new location, many of them cannot. The new club will surely be wonderful, but it will never match the original.

Cafe time on weekends in June

Sometimes, the general public is only allowed into Ai Honten for special events such as the dance party Maguro House which we introduced in grape Japan. Normally, however, its doors are only open to paying female customers and men, only if they are accompanying them.

As a way of saying thank you to Kabukicho and the community which has allowed it to thrive for 49 years, and perhaps also as a way of honoring the memory of Takeshi Aida who passed away in 2018, Ai Honten is opening its doors to the public for a special "cafe time" on weekend afternoons in June from 2 PM to 5 PM.

For a mere 1,000 JPY, which includes small sweets and all you can drink coffee and other soft drinks, anyone young or old, women and even unaccompanied men can experience this unique and eminently Instaworthy landmark of the Kabukicho district before it is gone forever. Reservations are not required.

Although hosts will not be present in their normal capacity, a guide will be on hand to show you around the premises and answer any questions you may have. You'll also be able to see a floor map, through which you'll get a sense of the club's 49-year history. So why not come and relax and enjoy the nostalgic Showa Era mood of Ai Honten, take plenty of pictures, and say goodbye to a legend.

Novel coronavirus safety measures

Althoug the state of emergency has been lifted, Ai Honten is taking the following precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of its staff:

  • Body temperature check at the door
  • Hand disinfection required
  • Hand washing, cough etiquette mandatory for staff and visitors
  • Periodic disinfection of surfaces
  • Social distancing: limiting entry when crowded, avoiding queues, spaced seating.
  • Constant ventilation through entrance and back doors

Details

  • What: Ai Honten Open Cafe Time
  • Dates and Times: June 2020 Every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) 14:00 - 17:00
  • Address (JP): 愛本店 東京都新宿区歌舞伎町2-22-5 叙々苑第2ビルB1F
  • Address (EN): "Ai Honten" B1F, Jojoen Dai-ni Building, 2-22-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
  • Price: 1,000 yen (all you can drink soft drinks)
  • Website: Ai Honten

By - Ben K.