National / Crime & Legal

Police crackdown curbing extortionist Kabukicho 'bottakuri' bar rip-offs

Kyodo, Staff Report

Cases of bottakuri rip-offs at bars and nightclubs in Tokyo’s Kabukicho entertainment district have been on the decline thanks to a police crackdown that started in May.

In a typical bottakuri, a promise of a fun night out with drinks and hostesses for just a small fee leads to a tab totaling several hundred thousand yen or even ¥1 million — accompanied with a threat.

Typically, bar staffers will call on prospective customers on the street, telling them that it will cost ¥5,000 for drinking at the bar for an hour. But when customers are about to leave, they are often told to pay an unfairly expensive amount — in some cases, more than ¥500,000.

If they cannot pay up, bar staffers sometimes take them to an ATM or even resort to violence.

Recent targets include foreign tourists, especially those from Asia, who tend to eventually give in to the demands of persistent bar staff.

According to the latest Metropolitan Police Department data, the number of calls to police complaining of such rip-offs came to 45 in July, compared with 341 in April.

In addition, the MPD says it has prompted the closure of 28 bottakuri bars since the beginning of this year, the data show.

That may be due to the impact of the police crackdown that began in May. The police have arrested 41 people since then at 14 bars and clubs in Kabukicho in connection with extortion and other charges.

Lawyers are also providing support to the victims who got into trouble and were forced to pay. The Tokyo Bar Association has opened a hotline to provide consultation to such people.

The MPD plans to deploy officers versed in bottakuri cases at Shinjuku Police Station.

“It’s important to ignore their touting. Don’t trust their words,” said a police official. “We won’t let up in our efforts to eradicate bottakuri.”

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