Synopsis: Bourdain dives into the subterranean world of Tokyo after dark in this episode of Parts Unknown. Starting in the red-light district of Shinjuku, Bourdain explores its various hostess bars and sex clubs, dines with professional bondage artists, and meets the inventor of tentacle porn. Along the way he samples some of the city’s food offerings with sushi chef Naomichi Yasuda.

On what makes Tokyo different:

“I never get bored and I always learn new things in Manhattan. But there’s 15, 20 different Manhattans in Tokyo to me.”

On the live entertainment at Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant:

“I’ve seen Jimi Hendrix. I’ve seen Janis Joplin. I’ve seen David Bowie Diamond Dogs. I’ve seen Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards in A Moon for the Misbegotten, directed by José Quintero on Broadway, considered one of the greatest productions ever. And this was the greatest show I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Bourdain drinking at Daitoryo with Kinoko Hajime, Tamika’s partner, and Naga.
Bourdain drinking at Daitoryo with Kinoko Hajime, Tamika’s partner, and Naga.

On life in the red-light district of Shinjuku:

“I think all of us understand that we don’t understand anything about Japan. And I totally don’t understand the porn here.”

“How much actual boning is going on in the sex district? Generally speaking, it’s more a field of dreams than the actual act of sex.”

[On the manga genre known as “tentacle porn”] “Nobody’s going to the fish market and asking for live octopus.”

On Japan’s rich food traditions:

“Every relationship I’ve ever had with a woman, at some point very early on I bring them to Yasuda in New York. And I would watch how they eat. If they talk too much, if they didn’t understand how to eat sushi, if they did not eat the uni, we will never have a relationship. That’s it. It’s the end.”

Guests weigh in:

Masa Kokubo (film producer and production manager): “People don’t like getting rejected, so they sort of pay for their pleasure. And then they make you feel welcome. Maybe you can feel like ‘I’m not that bad’ after talking to those girls or boys.”

Bourdain and Masa Kokubo walk in Tokyo.
Bourdain and Masa Kokubo walk in Tokyo.

Toshio Maeda (manga artist): “In Japan you can’t be rude in public. … But you need to just [let] off steam. So for me the manga is one way to do that.”

Naomichi Yasuda (sushi chef, formerly of Yasuda in New York): “The freshest fish, there is no taste: just chewing, just hard. And people think freshness should be good. But it [isn’t].”

Bourdain: “What percentage of Japanese men are interested in either tying up women or subjugating [them]?”
Naga (translator):“All of them.”
Bourdain: “All of them. Well, then, the question is how many Japanese men like to be tied up?”
Naga: “All of them.”

Bourdain: “Who’s the worst band in the world? The worst popular band in the world? Who?”
Member of metal band Merging Moon
: “My Chemical Romance.”