Plastered across Kabukichō (歌舞伎町), Shinjuku Ward, are posters that read: PLEASE STOP FEEDING RATS.
Nezumi e no esayari nado wa oyamekudasai. (ネズミへの餌やりなどはおやめください)
Kabukichō has long been a site for rats to congregate. Reports of kitten-size rats and rats in ramen broth sent Japan’s biggest red light district’s health and safety evaluation into the gutter.
But when videos of people feeding rodents began surfacing online more frequently this May, officials decided it was time to put a stop to Kabukichō’s rotting reputation.
The videos that galvanized the Shinjuku Ward Council into putting together a supplementary budget bill of about ¥8,650,000 ($57,788 USD) to tackle the rat infestation starting in November showed twenty to thirty rats piling over an open bento box in an alleyway.
Similar videos appearing to literally fuel the rats in Kabukichō’s bar scene have appeared on YouTube and TikTok so frequently that it began worrying business owners, who flooded officials with complaints.
Officials call it the ward’s “first clearance campaign” since Kabukichō’s rat problem worsened last year. Other wards will not be subject to the operation.
“Reports from restaurants and residents have been on the rise.” says an official at the Shinjuku Ward Public Health Center’s Public Hygiene and Sanitation Division.
“Rats carry many kinds of germs and viruses. I want to make (Kabukichō) a cleaner and safer area,” said Ward Chief Yoshizumi Kenichi (吉住健一).
Black to brown
Unlike previous years, when black rats roamed Kabukichō’s streets, the dominant species of the area now is the brown rat. Black rats did not spread as much because crows would prey on premature offspring.
Crows had kept the rat problem under control until now, according to officials.
Taking matters into their own hands with a revised budget, officials will use the extra funds to install rat poison in 220 locations for up to two months and buy up all food containers to prevent people from feeding rats. The ward will then rent out the containers to restaurants. Furthermore, the officials will allocate part of the budget to researching the cause of Kabukichō’s rat infestation and grasp the extent of damages.
The Japanese conservative weekly news magazine Shukan Shincho (週刊新潮) ran an article last August that exposed the ramen restaurant run by Midō Shun, manager of a popular Kabukichō host club, as allegedly serving broth with rats inside.
The whistle-blower was a former staff member and the restaurant in question was not named. The article only mentions that Midō has two restaurant locations, which are franchises of a main establishment in Tokyo.
“There had always been rats on the street, but I do get the impression that there are more now. Recently I was drinking at an outdoor table in Kabukichō. A rat came flying onto the open chair next to me where I had put down my hat, which it nearly knocked off. And some rats in Kabukichō are as big as kittens.
“People who frequent Kabukichō for drinking and leisure wouldn’t be surprised by every rat they see. But for first-timers, it’s a shock,” says a reporter for FLASH.
What to read next
 ネズミへの「餌やり」動画に新宿区が困惑. The Sankei News
 スープの中に大きなネズミ…歌舞伎町・人気ホスト経営のラーメン店、脅威の不衛生さ. Business Journal
 歌舞伎町のネズミ本格駆除へ 新宿区、苦情が殺到. The Sankei News
 歌舞伎町のネズミ一掃へ 年明け開始 新宿区が11月から生息調査. 東京新聞