Kyoto Gay Travel
Get excited for Kyoto gay travel! Discover the best parties with fun drag queens, top hotels, awesome things to do and gay travel tips.
The Gay Travel Experience: Kyoto, Japan
With some of the most photographed sites in Japan, Kyoto has limitless options for travelers seeking tranquility. But, even in peaceful Kyoto, there still happens to be some LGBT action! The town surely has some rainbow flair.
With this Kyoto gay travel guide, I’ll let you know which sites are most crowded, which Kyoto temples to visit, where the gay bars are and which places you should visit despite the crowds.
I always felt safe and comfortable traveling through Japan as a gay guy. While exploring Tokyo, I was with my boyfriend Michael. We did not have any negative interactions concerning being gay.
Although it is not common for anyone to show public affection in Japan, the casual kiss on the cheek or short hand hold didn’t turn any heads.
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Gay Kyoto: Where to Stay
Where is best place to stay in Kyoto? The answer is quite simple: anywhere that gives you great access to public transport! Unless you plan on taking a cab to every site you visit, quick access to several Metro stops is ideal.
Walking by quite frequently, there are dozens of beautiful hotels around Kyoto Main Station. Most tourists seek accommodations in this area too, since you can walk to your hotel upon arriving to the train station.
Hotel prices in Kyoto have various different price points. It should be quite easy to find something you love and within your budget.
Kyoto Experiences for the Gay Traveler
If you open your Google Live Translate App, have some fun scanning labels to see what some of the strange looking products actually are! The things I saw in the Japanese grocery store were very different from what you’d find in Southeast Asia or Europe.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
I must first say the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is physically stunning. The enormous shoots of bamboo are incredible. However, the forest trail is so overrun with tourists that it is difficult to enjoy. Consider this your warning! I was disappointed with the lack of peace as hundreds of tourists shouted without refrain.
In my opinion, the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is one of many world attractions that suffers over-tourism, fueled by Instagram and the presence of social media. Everyone wants to show that they’ve visited a cool place. I’m no exception. I simply wish that these places could at least be enjoyed with more respect.
Kyoto Gay Travel: Visit Fushimi Inari-Taisha
This place is huge! Before visiting, I had no idea that it takes about two hours to reach the actual peak of Fushimi Inari-Taisha. I did not climb to anywhere near the top, but I certainly enjoyed the sea of iconic, orange gate-like structures along the pathways.
Michael and I visited Fushimi Inari-Taisha at night. Since this shrine is so popular with all tourists, we figured we could have a more authentic and relaxing experience by going a couple of hours after dinner. I’m glad we chose this time because we only saw a couple of people. I recommend you do the same!
Kyoto Gay Travel: The Geisha District
Kyoto Best Temples & Castles
My first night in Kyoto, I visited the To-ji temple, a UNESCO world heritage site and a designated Japan National Treasure. I went after sundown per the recommendation of my hotel concierge. The landscape was incredibly lit, with upward facing lamps bringing out the vivid fall foliage color.
Nijo Castle was another famous Kyoto attraction I visited. The highlight of the Nijo Castle was definitely the flowers and gardens surrounding the actual buildings. I visited in November, but the gardens will certainly be more colorful in the spring.
You are able to walk through the many rooms of the palace. We did this, but it was not so thrilling. The interior of the palace was not nearly as intricate as the exterior. The castle fortifications though, are quite impressive. Spend a few moments taking in the beauty of these massive walls.
Stunning in its own way, I have a hard time deciding if The Kinkaku-ji Temple is more beautiful than the other Kyoto temples. The Kinkaku-ji is the famous Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.
The landscape surrounding this wonderful structure is breathtaking. I’m so glad I visited on a clear, sunny day. Catching the gleaming temple roof under a blue sky was awesome.
My most memorable meal in Kyoto was with Michael at a restaurant called Guilo Guilo Hitoshina. The restaurant is small and offers a traditional Japanese set-dinner menu. I had been stuffing myself full at every meal, so it was wonderful to have various smaller portions spaced out.
Aside from being portioned well, the flavors were delicious and their hot sake was just what we needed after walking outside in the cool air all evening.
I often ate at typical ramen restaurants in between visits to temples or on my way to the hotel to rest. These places are great. They are authentic, delicious and do the job.
My favorite part is getting the meal ticket after selecting my food from a machine that has photos of all the meals. You grab this ticket and bring it the counter. Simple!
If you’re someone who eats dinner late, make sure not to miss the Japanese dinner time window. After 9:00 PM, many restaurants will quickly close up shop as soon as their customers have finished.
If you end up looking for dinner after 10 PM or so, you may end up at a convenience store! This is of course a general rule. Some places could be open later.
Walk through Kamiyacho & Nabeyacho
These two small districts are definitely the most quaint and authentic slices of Kyoto. Michael and I walked down a street called Kiyamachi-dori in the Nabeyacho area, perusing some bars and restaurants.
We noticed some cozy-looking establishments on the second floors of the low rise building across the street. Their windows faced the shallow Kamo River that passes through this area. We wanted to get up into one of those cute hangouts!
Michael and I found an amazing Japanese bar in this alley called Milk Hall. It’s not a place you will find on google. We noticed Milk Hall’s elegant interior through their window from across the street.
Milk Hall is a small bar run by a man with his wife. It was the most authentic Japanese experience of my entire trip to Japan. As we walked in, a group of Japanese men who were eating some soup welcomed us and cleared their things off a nearby couch.
The owner made conversation with us and made us feel completely at home. We eventually got to it in that cozy set of chairs we saw from the street below.
Kyoto Gay Bars
There are various gay bars in Kyoto, most of which are small, intimate establishments. Kyoto gay bars have a more personal vibe than any gay bar I had ever seen before. The experience is akin to spending time in someone else’s living room with a few acquaintances.
Apple is one of the official Kyoto gay bars. The establishment is not what you would imagine a typical gay bar to be like. I would describe the Apple Kyoto gay bar as more of a private lounge. It’s not a place where large groups congregate.
Instead, Apple is a bar or you can have a drink by yourself, listen to some music and chat with the friendliest bartender you will ever meet.
Apple is on the third floor of a building near the Kamiyacho district. It felt a bit awkward approaching the entrance since there was no one walking through the hallway. Michael and I popped our heads in and were met with stares of three friendly men who were enjoying their evening.
Michael and I stared at one another and said “well, why not.” Although Apple was not the experience I expected, I’m very glad I went.
Kyoto Gay Clubs
Kyoto Gay Travel Tips
If you’re checking out flights to Japan, I suggest comparing airlines with Skyscanner. They have an awesome interface and make it super easy to optimize your route. Plus, they offer flexible ticket options in light of the pandemic.
Kyoto Tourist Crowds
I’ll tell you about the tourist crowds only to temper your expectation of Kyoto. The sites in this serene Japanese town are indeed beautiful. Many, however, are not as peaceful in person as advertisements or Instagram make them seem. Some attractions are overloaded with screaming tourists taking selfies.
Using Kyoto Public Busses
Share this Kyoto gay travel guide with a friend. Next, check out the wolfyy Tokyo Gay Travel Guide. You can’t miss the gay nightlife in the Japanese capital.