Japan Rail pass gif

Gay Tokyo: travel guide to Tokyo’s best gay bars, clubs and hotels

Gay Tokyo: travel guide to Tokyo’s best gay bars, clubs and hotels

Japan is one of the leaders of gay rights in Asia.

Surprising isn’t it? Japanese society is so regimented, conservative, with strict social norms and little room for acceptance for anything different.

Despite this, Japan (along with Taiwan) is one of the few countries in Asia which has truly started to accept and protect its gay community to the point where it’s opened the door to gay civil unions.

More and more districts across Japan are legalising gay civil unions, two of them in Tokyo: Shibuya and Setagaya. So what better time to come visit the city as a gay couple? A very patient (unmarried) Stefan secretly hoping this could be THE moment…

Gay Tokyo guide LOVE statue Shinjuku

“Any chance of a gay wedding in Tokyo mon Seby…?”  “Ah, mais non Stefan, not yet…” replied the Frenchman with a wry smile, showing another empty hand to a sad, unmarried Stefan…

Tokyo itself is massive, made up of 23 wards, each governed as a separate city and inhabited by over 9 million people. Statistically that’s just under 1 million gays waiting to welcome you.

Gay Tokyo is mainly congregated in Shinjuku’s Ni-chōme (Area 2) where all the action happens. We enjoyed our time there so much that we decided to write our LGBT travel guide to Japan’s capital city.

WHERE IS SHINJUKU NI-CHOME?

Shinjuku is a major transport, located in Central Tokyo, towards the west of the famous Imperial Palace. The station itself is like a mini city, with over 200 exits, serving over 3 million people daily, making it the world’s busiest station.

It is so big that it’s directly connected to 5 other nearby stations, so definitely plan ahead where you’re heading exactly before coming here, otherwise you’ll get completely lost. We advise downloading the Tokyo subway map on your smartphone or view it here.

Ni-Chōme is a small area in Shinjuku, forming the hub of the gay scene. The 2 closest metro stations to the Ni-Chōme gay scene are:

  • Shinjuku-Sanchome: served by 3 lines: the Marunouchi, Fukutoshin and Toei Shinjuku lines
  • Shinjuku-Gyoenmae: served by the Marunouchi Line only.

THE GAY BARS AND CLUBS OF SHINJUKU NI-CHŌME

Shinjuku’s Ni-Chōme is famous for having the world’s highest concentration of gay bars with over 300 crammed together. It can be quite overwhelming, so it might pay to have a private gay guide to show you around.

We discovered an excellent local company who offer private evening tours of the gay scene with a gay English speaking guide. Tours cost 20,000 yen ($200) per person, lasts for 3 hours and includes dinner and 1 drink in 1 of the gay bars during the tour.

If you would also like to do a gay evening tour of Tokyo, complete the form below for more information.

Discover the gay scene of Tokyo with a local gay guide

To book your gay evening tour of Tokyo and receive an exclusive 5% discount, fill out this form:

How many people?

  

Please leave this field empty.

Most of these 300 bars are tiny, squeezed into unremarkable blocks. For example Usagi Bar is located on the 4th floor of a block (address: Shinjuku 2-10-2, Ebana Bldg 4F). When you arrive on the 4th floor, it’s a corridor of doors – as if you’re going to your friend’s party in his flat. But go through the door and a tiny bar reveals itself.

These bars have a warm, friendly atmosphere, centred around the bar man, who is usually the owner (or mama-san in Japanese gay slang). Usually everyone knows everyone, and sometimes they bring home cooked food to share around.

Usagi gay bar Tokyo Shinjuku 2Chome Shintaro

Hanging out with the mama-san of Usagi gay bar and its friendly punters

There are of course more mainstream bars and clubs in Ni-Chōme, which are more well known:

  • Arty Farty: popular bar open from 6pm-1am. Most come here for a few drinks than head to sister club Annex next door. It attracts an even mix of foreigners and locals.
  • Annex: club open till 4am, owned by the same guys behind Arty Farty, which attracts a young crowd in their 20s and 30s. If you get stamped in Arty Farty, you can get in here free without paying entry twice.
  • FTM Bois Bar: excellent bar for the transexual community run by the cutest FTM lad called Mizuki.
Mizuki FTM Bois gay bar Tokyo

Mizuki, the super charismatic owner of the FTM Bois bar

  • Campy! Bar: very cool, colourful and welcoming bar, run by celebrity cross-dresser, Bourbonne. The staff are all dolled up in drag which adds to the fun atmosphere and there’s hilarious shows throughout the evening. Check their website for more information about the performers. Campy! opens early at 5:30pm and goes on till midnight.
Gay bar Tokyo Campy! Bar Shinjuku 2-Chōme

You can’t help falling in love with the quirky and super friendly Campy! Bar in Shinjuku

  • Dragon Men: draws a mixed crowd of expats, foreigners and locals, great for a few cocktails and a boogie. It has a happy hour of 200 yen off all drinks from Monday to Thursday 6-8pm.
  • AiiRo Cafe Bar: popular bar for drinks and identifiable by the large Torri (Japanese Shrine) outside. Look out for their 1,000 yen ($9) Beer Blast all you can drink happy hour, daily between 6-9pm.
  • Alamas: owned by the same guys behind AiiRo Cafe and have daily parties with a live DJ so check their schedules.
  • Fuji: small basement bar and popular for karaoke. Get a few sakes (Japanese rice wine) down you and then come here to belt out a few power ballads.
Gay bar Tokyo Fuji karaoke Shinjuku in 2-Chōme

Sebastien channeling his inner Celine Dion to tell Stefan just how far his heart goes on for him at Fuji gay bar in Shinjuku

GAY EVENTS IN TOKYO

Tokyo doesn’t have as many events compared to the gay scene of Berlin for example, but there are a growing number of events taking place in the city:

  • Tokyo Rainbow Pride: takes place every April/May during the Japanese Golden Week holiday, with a large Pride Parade culminating at Yoyogi Park, with parties and events alongside it.
  • Shangri-La at AgeHa: huge monthly party for the muscle boys at the AgeHa club, attracting gays from all over. Entry fee costs around 3,500 yen ($33) and is cheaper if purchased beforehand on their website.
  • Tokyo Bear Week: the first Bear Week took place in July 2016 with a variety of events, which you can follow on Twitter with #TBW2016 and also on their Facebook page.
  • Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival: started in 1992 and takes place every July, featuring LGBTQ films from around the world.

For more up to date information of all gay events in Tokyo, check out the listings on DailyXtraTravel.

gay guide Tokyo events Tokyo Rainbow Pride

Marching with pride on the streets of Tokyo

GAY FRIENDLY HOTELS TO STAY IN TOKYO

We stayed in a few places in Tokyo and these are our favourite gay friendly options both in Shinjuku and around:

THE CAPITOL HOTEL TOKYU

  • A luxury and romantic experience not to miss.
  • We loved the modern architecture of the hotel, a perfect blend of western and Japanese influcences. The rooms are innovatively designed in open space to give you a soothing experience, with gorgeous views and a rain shower to die for.
  • It is located in central Tokyo, right next to the Imperial Palace, with a subway station (Tameike-Sanno) in the basement giving you access to 4 metro lines.
  • The breakfast is fabulously delicious, with a choice of Western or traditional Japanese.
  • Rooms at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu start from 44,150 yen ($415).
Gay hotel Tokyo Capitol Hotel Tokyu

The very plush Capitol Hotel Tokyu, beautiful spacious rooms, delicious breakfast and stunning views of the big city

THE PARK HYATT

  • This is elegance and style in the heart of Shinjuku and also very close to the Ni-Chōme gay bars: 10 minutes by taxi or a 20 minutes walk.
  • As well as being plush, classy and super trendy, this was also the location for the Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson Lost In Translation film, particularly the The New York Bar on the 52nd floor. The views across the city from here are ethereal!.
  • Rooms in the Park Hyatt start from 48,000 yen ($450).
Park Hyatt gay hotel in Tokyo Shinjuku New York Bar skyline view

What a view! Just imagine you’re Scarlett Johansson ready to be wooed,,,

THE HYATT REGENCY

  • The Hyatt Regency is a more affordable option in Shinjuku but still luxurious with a blow-your-mind entrance, popular with wedding receptions and photoshoots.
  • It’s located 5-10 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes walk to the gay bars of Shinjuku.
  • The pool, jacuzzi and gym are located high up so you can work out with a beautiful view. The club lounge is the perfect spot for a light bite and a few drinks before hitting the gay bars of Ni-Chōme.
  • Rooms start from 27,000 yen ($247) a night.
Gay hotel Tokyo Hyatt Regency Shinjuku

Working out with a view and later discussing the best way to make the perfect ramen at the Hyatt Regency’s club lounge

IMANO HOSTEL

  • Imano Hostel is a decent budget option if you don’t mind sleeping in dorm beds. They have curtains to close off your area, which makes them more like cubicles than an actual dorm.
  • Imano is located minutes walking distance from the gay bars as well as the Shinjuku-sanchome metro.
  • It’s not an exclusively gay hostel, but welcomes us; given its location so close to the gay bars of 2-Chōme, it’s hardly surprising!
  • Dorm beds start from 3,500 yen ($32) a night.

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT: MISTERBNB

  • Misterbnb is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBT community. Unlike Airbnb you know your host is gay (or at least gay friendly) and it’s a great way to connect and meet with locals in Tokyo.
  • It’s easy to use and also available to download as an app for iPhones.
Gay Tokyo gay friendly accommodation misterbnb apps for gay travellers

WHAT TO DO IN TOKYO?

  • Food Tour: an excellent way to discover downtown Tokyo and dive straight into some of the best izakayas (gastropubs). We highly recommend Arigato Food Tours ($120 per person) who will show you the best izakayas in Ginza, Yurakucho and Shinbashi.
  • Onsens: an experience not to miss! An onsen is a public bath where you bathe in various pools of water sourced from hot springs. They’re the perfect way to conquer jet lag. Our favourite is the Maenohara Onsen (1180 yen/$11 per person), closest metro is Shimura-sakaue metro. There’s also a gay onsen chain in Shinjuku called 24 Kaikan, targeted more to cruising and can also be found in Ueno and Asakusa.
  • Transform into a geisha: what better way to discover more about the elusive geisha then to transform into one at the Studio Geisha Cafe. This is an experience of a lifetime and certainly one of our favourite unique things you can do in Tokyo.
Gay Tokyo dressing up like geisha

Dressing up as geisha at the Studio Geisha Cafe in suburbia Tokyo

  • Cooking class: learn to make sushi, bento box and more in a cooking class with the excellent Arigato Japan Cooking School ($75 per person).
  • Shibuya crossing: this famous pedestrian intersection outside Shibuya Station is the perfect place to get a real feel of the immense world of Tokyo. When the road signs turn red, an invasion of bodies take over the entire area.
  • Quirky Tokyo: Tokyo is renowned for some really quirky fashion and alternative attractions, such as stroking felines while drinking your coffee at the Cat Cafe Calico in Shinjuku, or feeding owls at the Owl Cafe Mohumohu in Shinjuku.
  • Takeshita Street in Harajuku: this is the place to spot grown up women dressed up as manga characters or schoolgirls. For more, check out 8 quirky and interesting facts about Japan.
Crazy fashion on Takeshita Street in Harajuku

Sebastien transformed from a beautiful geisha into a real life Japanese school girl whilst out shopping with Stefan in Tokyo’s quirky Takeshita Street

WHERE TO EAT IN TOKYO?

Tokyo is a paradise for foodies with lots to keep your tummy inspired and content:

  • Sushi mania at Tsukiji fish market: Tokyo is THE place to come for the best sushi, specifically at the restaurants around Tsukiji – the world’s largest fish market. The market caters to the nearby restaurants, so they inevitably serve up the most delicious, fresh sushi you’ll ever try.
  • Izakayas: are gastropubs, after work bars, popular with salary men, where you come to drink sake or highball (Japanese drink of whisky and soda water) and order small inexpensive plates of food.
  • Point and hope! This became our favourite method of dining in Tokyo. In one unassuming bar we impulsively went to, Sebastien pointed to this item at random, which turned out to be a delicious plate of tempura:
Point and hope method of eating in Tokyo

Sebastien’s “point and hope” led to this delicious plate of tempura

  • Ramen bars: ramen is a seriously delicious and highly contagious meat or vegetable based broth with noodles and a variety of toppings. You can get a bowl from one of the many inexpensive ramen bars across the city, from as little as 800 yen ($8). For the best ramen bar, ask a local to point you in the direction of their favourite and check out Ramen Adventures for a deeper insight of the Tokyo world of ramen.
  • Kaiseki Japanese fine dining: involves many small plates of delicious Japanese prizes presented like works of art. We tried the Kaiseki at the Shangri-La’s Nadaman restaurant, an incredibly romantic setting, dim lights, with jaw dropping views of the city. One of the dishes at the Nadaman includes the very famous and incredibly scrumptious wagyu beef.
Nadaman gay friendly restaurant Kaiseki fine dining Tokyo

Our Kaiseki at the Nadaman restaurant included an appetiser work of art, the famous Wagyu beef and fresh heavenly sashimi

LOOKING FOR A GAY TRAVEL COMPANY?

If you’re looking for a gay-friendly tavel company to organise your trip to Tokyo and the rest of Japan, we’ve partnered with Out Asia Travels, an excellent gay owned travel agency, who offer tailored tours and itineraries.

These guys are locals, passionate travellers and have a real insight of Japanese culture and the gay scene accross the country. They are offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount for bookings of 7 days or more when you quote NOMADIC5 in your enquiry.

Enjoy a 5% DISCOUNT on your holiday in Japan for bookings of 7 days or more

Fill out this form to start planning your dream holiday in the Land of the Rising Sun. Remember to quote NOMADIC5 to claim your exclusive 5% discount:

Is it your first time visiting Japan?

YesNo

How many people are travelling?

  

Please leave this field empty.

Travel recommendations to Japan

Train saving tips: Depending on how many trains you plan to take in Japan, it may be worth investing in a 7 days JR Pass ($250), which allows you unlimited travel throughout the country for 7 consecutive days. But you must buy it from an agent before you go.

We personally used Japan Rail Pass. They offered the best prices and would definitely recommend them.

Travel insurance: Whether you go diving, hiking or just lay on the beach all day long, you need travel insurance. We use World Nomads because they offer considerable coverage especially for adventurous travellers. They also make it easy to make a claim as it’s all done online.

Flights: To fly to Japan and within, we recommend Skyscanner. Their website is very easy to use and they always offer the best prices. You can even search for the cheapest flights for any given month.

Hotels: Japan has a huge diversity of accommodation options. It is not the cheapest country to travel in but we found that quality is consistent with the price you pay. When we plan a holiday, we use Tripadvisor to research about the best places to stay and activities to do. We also use Booking.com to find the best deals and to book accommodation online.

FOR MORE INSPIRATION:

 

IF YOU ENJOYED READING, PLEASE PIN FOR TO READ LATER:

Gay Tokyo guide gay bars of Shinjuku

You may also like:

44 Comments

  1. You guys have a dream life. What an incredible adventure it must be. This looks truly amazing and how I would love to travel with you guys one day. I love the details that you share. Thanks again guys!!

    Reply
    • Awww thanks Fred- we’d also love to meet you one day too 🙂

      Reply
      • Great guide and such fun reading it bursting into giggles. And the photos are something. Having spent 6 week in Japan 2 years ago, my partner and I are going there again in Sept but staying for 3 months. Will try out the gay bars and other places this time – inspired b your guide. Thanks. Maybe see you in Japan

        Reply
        • Thanks Balu! You’re gonna love it- amazing country.

          Reply
  2. Wow guys! I do really like your new look and feel! Very enjoyable! Well done 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Sergio 🙂

      Reply
  3. Great guide to for Toyko , all the needed information for the scene.

    Reply
    • Thanks Mark

      Reply
  4. I never would have thought as Tokyo as a gay destinations. Now I have have 1 more reason to visit! I may go next July for the Film Festival and then visit Campy Bar because it looks awesome

    Reply
    • Thx Claire! You’re sure to have an ace time ?

      Reply
  5. Love that caption of the “love” photo! Ahah.

    Great resource, as usual. Will share this with a friend that’s headed that way soon.

    Reply
    • Thx buddy ?

      Reply
  6. You look like you had such a fabulous time in Tokyo. And don’t you just look gorgeous in your kimono, just like the historical geisha. Almost wondering if there was an announcement coming at the beginning there .. maybe next time Stefan.

    Reply
  7. I think my next trip to Asia is going to be Japan. I want to eat just about everything. I think I’d have to try both the food tour and cooking class. Plus that view from the Park Hyatt is breathtaking. Saving for when I start planning my trip.

    Reply
    • Can’t wait to follow you guys in your Japan trip 🙂

      Reply
  8. You guys are awesome! Such a great guide, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Carmen – our pleasure 🙂

      Reply
  9. Oh my would love to be transformed into a geisha, seems like so much fun!

    Reply
    • RIGHT?!!! 🙂

      Reply
  10. Glad to hear Japan is so open to gay rights even though they are conservative! Looks like you found some great spots to check out! We loved Tokyo so much–I’d love to head back sometime! I love that you dressed up as a Geisha–that is an awesome photo!! We didn’t do that, but we did head up to the New York Bar–we couldn’t resist! The Ramen Adventures link just made me so hungry–I am obsessed with ramen and now I think we need to head back to Tokyo ASAp!! 🙂

    Reply
    • 🙂

      Reply
  11. What a fantastic and detailed guide. Very surprised to hear how open Japan is. That is so awesome. Your geisha dress up is hilarious. Very well done and fun. Happy travels!

    Reply
    • Thanks Rosemary ?

      Reply
  12. With the usual impression of Japan’s traditional ways, its great to discover that they’re so open to gay travel! Your Tokyo trip looks like so much fun, especially the Geisha makeover. I got one and it was the best 😉

    Reply
    • Can’t WAIT to see your photos!

      Reply
  13. You two make two good-looking geisha’s if I may say. So I did the point and hope trick myself and got lucky with a tasty bowl of ramen. One time I had to pick using a vending machine that dispensed tickets to give to the chef, also point and hope style. I love Japan and all of its quirkiness and I am so happy to hear that it is progressive and accepting of the LGBTQ community. It looks like you had a beautiful and excellent experience. Side note, I love your blog and I have a few friends who are going to love this even more. They’re going to be so happy when I send them your link. Happy Travels!

    Reply
    • Awwww thanks Susan ?

      Reply
  14. It does actually surprise me that Japan is one of the leading countries in Asia re gay rights, but it’s fantastic to hear! I would love to be in the city during Tokyo Rainbow Pride one year 🙂

    Reply
    • Right? 🙂

      Reply
  15. I love how gay friendly Tokyo is.. I never thought it would be if I’m honest. But it all sounds amazing. I wish other big cities could take note. x

    Reply
    • Agreed 🙂

      Reply
  16. You guys look so great in your Geisha get up. Good to see that Tokyo has become even more gay friendly. Looks like you had an incredible time – and oh my god the Park Hyatt looks incredible.

    Reply
    • Thanks Sophie 🙂

      Reply
  17. This post has made me so happy. I love that the gay scene is so big in Tokyo, and that it is so embraced. The photo of you two dressed up as geisha’s is the most amazing thing ever.

    Reply
    • Awww thanks Carly 🙂

      Reply
  18. Absolutely one of the best Japan tour posts I’ve ever seen, the pleasure and fun is all so evident in your pictures and descriptions. I wouldn’t mind going back to Japan to seek out everything I’ve missed out from this list in Shinjuku. Great read!

    Reply
    • Awww thx so much 🙂

      Reply
  19. Great pictures!

    Reply
    • Thanks

      Reply
  20. Thanks for such an amazing and concise guide. Leaving in three weeks. Now very excited!

    Reply
    • Thanks John! You’re gonna love it 🙂

      Reply
  21. Thanks for this guide you curated! Totally helpful!

    Reply
    • Our pleasure 🙂

      Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Who are we?

about nomadic boys

Hello and welcome to our on-line ramblings of our fun and discoveries around the world. We love diving, eating, cooking, keeping fit and general (mis)adventures.

We set up this blog to record all our travel experiences and so we can look back and laugh at ourselves. Maybe you will too! To find out more about us

Find gay friendly hotels

Purple roof gay friendly accomodation

FOLLOW US

Buy Japan rail pass