This is part of the Japan Vida series, discussing certain parts about living in Japan.
First of all… they exist!
Many of my friends are gay guys and we all head to Shinjuku Nichome together on the weekends. I’ve been to gay bars, lesbian bars, gay events, lesbian events and more… Shinjuku Nichome is pretty much the only open area for gays and lesbians to act and be themselves. It’s only a very tiny block, but some fun is to be had inside. Homosexuality although having historical roots within Japan, now is very unwelcome. For more modern info: please read the Homosexuality in Japan wiki with tons of gay slang information.
Nichome – the gay and lesbian district
Nichome is a small block stacked with gay and lesbian bars, clubs, and host/sex clubs. There is not one dedicated lesbian club unlike Arty Fartys and Artys Annex which are the same gay club but 2 streets apart. Every club stamps your hand after you pay a drink/entrance fee and you are free to come and go as you please. So often many people camp in front of the conbini Sunklus and get conbini alcohol and drink outside. It makes the evening much cheaper. There’s even a park with swingset that you can go and drink in. So many people are usually wandering the streets from conbini to club or bar to club. This allows for a ton of people watching.
How many gals regard gays and lesbians
I was talking with my one*spo staff Kie and an old one Non-chan, I was buying some accessories to go out that night so they asked where I was going and I told them Nichome. Even though Nichome literally means “2nd block” and numbered everywhere in Tokyo, people usually know exactly where you mean without having to say Shinjuku Nichome. Both were shocked and amazed I had gay friends. They didn’t preach a hate of gay people, more just felt that gay people have their world and straight people have theirs. This happened with some other gals, too.
This doesn’t mean all straight gals don’t love Nichome. My best Japanese friend loves her gay boys and we met at this tiny 7 seat bar in Nichome.
Gay Japan is not Gay anywhere else…
Gaydar is a thing of the past. American gaydar does not work at all in Japan. This goes especially with males. All the effeminate gestures and metrosexual overload makes a man straight in Japan >_< It’s often the beefy crew-cut guys in Japan that are gay <_<;; It used to be that if you wore Abercrombie and Fitch you could tell a guy was gay because you had to import it. Now that A&F have opened a shop in Ginza, that’s out of the window.
Lesbians in general
Lesbians stick to roles. It is absolutely rare to see two lipstick lesbians together in Japan. If I do, I usually assume they’re friends out together. There is a definite pair off between butch and femme roles. So if you’re dressed like a gyaru with typical gal clubwear expect to get hit on by the butch type. The butch type in Japan often makes you question guy/girl when you see them at first.
Of course the gay and lesbian community is not just gay and lesbian but also has transgenders and bisexuals involved. Nichome also has the fag hags as well (which are termed okoge. Okama means burnt pot and is a slang for fag in Japan. Okoge is the burnt rice stuck at the bottom of a burnt pot. Cruel huh?).
Despite the rumors I rarely see gay gyaruo who are not working as gay hosts (and yes gay host bars exist). Since Kabukicho is close by when hosts walk by it’s hard to tell if they’re heading to Kabukicho from their host dorm/home around Nichome or if they’re actually in 2chome. I have seen two Oraora gay boys who seem couply who often go to nichome. But they are so tanned, when they talk the pink of their lips and gums just glows because they’ve turned as crispy as possible. I wanted it to be hot, but it wasn’t. There are a few, but much less and much less organized than the gyaru lesbians.
Gyaru lesbians and Dance parties
Gyaru lesbians mostly stick to their circles. However their are friends or pairs walking around as well. It’s obvious some work in Kabukicho either as hostesses/girlbars/massage because of their Agejo hair and dress preference, also they tend to show up after typical last train closing hours. There are gals who enjoy dressing in gyaruo style and one particular hottie has a nice giant VANQUISH belt to top off her gyaruo look.
One thing to note: Gay gyaru have no nails. If you don’t know why, then you don’t need to know why ^_^;;
If you go, do not expect to see a ton of lesbian gals roaming. I have seen 20 tops in Nichome.
Gals mostly show up to event nights. Girlfriend is the most popular and it’s at bar Hijouguchi which is head every last Saturday of the month. Hijouguchi has several other event nights including a gay electro night that is obscenely fun and a dandy event with great costumes (nothing like a guy with a nude colored speedo and gazelle horns on his head taking your money at the entrance).
All the girls at lesbian events are looking for people. Sure some come with friends and they’re not actively looking, but most come open.
Nichome is home to the most per-gaijin ratio I’ve seen outside of Roppongi (the famous foriegner club district). Sure sometimes you feel like you’re in a gaijin bubble, but that often means people in Nichome are more welcome to speaking and interacting with gaijin. So in a dating context many are open to foriegners. If not most of them go to small Japanese only bars (sure they’re bar doesn’t say no-foriegners, but they are usually holed away in tiny spaces which foriegners wouldn’t go looking for fun).
So if you want to see and meet lesbian gyaru then only go on event nights. However, Shinjuku Nichome is fun on most weekends. Arty Fartys and Artys annex are both fun to go to (if not entirely way too packed from 1:00 to 4:00) and unless its an event, it only costs a drink which is usually 600 yen.
My peep’s favorite bar is Adezakura. Known for its giant double red doors, it’s near Arty’s Annex. It’s lesbian until 2:00 and then goes mixed. Jin runs the place and she’s both super nice, pours ample drinks, and enjoys gaijin in her place. She’ll also pull up any music you want to hear.
Rehab mostly weekends has happy hour which lasts from 8:00-10:00. It’s directly behind Sunklus in the alley up the stairs on the 2nd floor. There’s a signboard advertising it right below the place. It’s a new place, so not often that full. The happy hour is 1000 yen ($11.00 USD) and it’s all you can drink. Apparently they don’t do shots anymore, but if you ask for any alcohol on the rocks they’ll give it to you. So it’s essentially a shot <_< They also have couches and tons of gay photo books to either stare in awe or giggle at. Best to go in a group.