Tokyo Gay Travel
Tokyo gay travel is the best in Japan. Don’t miss out on massive gay bars in Tokyo’s gay district. Try some classic Japanese Tonkatsu and wander the glowing shopping-streets of Tokyo.
The Gay Travel Experience: Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is magical, organized, and full of gay life. Understandably, Tokyo tops the list of gay destinations in Japan. It’s quite common to run into a mix of locals and ex-pats while visiting the Tokyo gay bars, as many guys are in town on business trips. Everyone is friendlier and politer in Japan, so get ready for an awesome time!
I visited Tokyo with my boyfriend Michael, and while we heeded the general custom of minimal public affection, the occasional kiss on the streets of Tokyo raised no eyebrows. As a tourist, Tokyo gay travel is a cinch.
The Japanese are very respectful people. I would be baffled if anyone yelled anything offensive. Take note however that locals may not be as forward with their sexuality. Read more at the end of this guide for more on gay life in Japan.
If you have only one city to visit in Japan, I recommend you choose Tokyo. It’s a gay-friendly city and there’s a wealth of activities for gay travelers.
Tokyo Gay Travel: Where to Stay
Most importantly, Tokyo is enormous! Tokyo uniquely does not have a true “downtown center” as you see in cities like New York or Madrid. The densest areas of Tokyo are scattered around the metropolis. The areas between them can be quite suburban. But no matter where you go, everything is clean and organized.
Where is Tokyo Gay Neighborhood?
Tokyo’s gay area is in the Shinjuku neighborhood. The small district is just east of Shinjuku Station. The official name of the area is 2 Chome Shinjuku (here is the Google Maps location). There are more than fifteen gay bars and clubs concentrated in this tiny gay district!
Remember that if you are planning on visiting the Tokyo gay neighborhood, consider the distance to your hotel. You may want to book a place in relatively close to the gay area. Taking a 30 to 45-minute cab home from the bars may not be the most comfortable way to end your night.
In my opinion, Shinjuku and Shibuya are the best neighborhoods for gay travelers in Tokyo. Check out these spots first.
Tokyo Gay Travel Experiences
Shibuya Crossing is probably the number one thing on tourist’s lists for things to do in Tokyo. While the large crosswalk area is busy and impressive, I would not consider it a destination in itself. Plan you daily route such that you pass through Shibuya crossing and the Shibuya district on your way to do something specific.
The general Shibuya area is wonderful, filled with happy music and glowing storefronts. Since it rains a ton in Japan, you can always count on having a dry time inside the Shibuya stores!
You have to try a Chu-Hi during your Japan travels! A Chu-Hi is a sweet alcoholic drink sold in most 7-Eleven and Family Mart convenience stores. There are a bunch of different flavors as well as some knock-off brands.
Words cannot express how much I loved Maisen, a Tonkatsu restaurant in the Jingumae neighborhood. I had never eaten Tonkatsu before, which is a traditional Japanese dish of deep-fried pork culet/tempura. Michael recommended this restaurant for us to have lunch and I won’t forget it!
If you can’t make it to Maisen, then make sure to at least get to a Tonkatsu restaurant. The deep-fried dishes are mouth-watering. Once you add one of the sauces to the pork/tempura, you’ll be in heaven!
You have to try some Japanese Inari! I honestly got hooked on the ones they sell at Family Mart. They’re a cheap and delicious snack, especially if you’re hungry after all the restaurants close. Don’t be afraid of convenience store sushi in Japan. It’s still delicious and totally fresh!
Piss Alley: Authentic Tokyo Restaurants
Piss Alley is probably the most authentic restaurant spot in Tokyo. Yes, it’s a funny name, but it embodies the great history of the area, which you should definitely read about!
Locals huddle in teeny tiny restaurants that are clustered together and open to the outside. Most stop by for an after-work meal. Each little Piss Alley restaurant bar has about ten seats, and turnover is quick. They’re always cranking out orders!
Restaurants in Piss Alley are not the kind of place where you can spend two hours leisurely eating a meal. The trick here is that as long as long as you’re ordering, drinking or eating, they won’t ask you to leave!
Remember, they only have so many seats, so if you’re occupying them at dinner time, they expect you to order an appropriate amount of food.
I recommend ordering some hot sake while at your chosen Piss Alley restaurant. I’d say this is the most authentic spot to imbibe in some local liquor!
Gay Tokyo Experiences: Eat Japanese Curry
Curry is a big thing in Japan. The country is filled with restaurants that specialize in “Japanese curry.” It’s delicious and definitely different than the Indian curry dishes you are probably used to. It more so resembles a gravy as opposed to a thinner oily liquid.
If you have the time, make a trip to Shimokitazawa. Shimokitazawa is Tokyo’s curry district! A local Japanese-American friend of Michael’s recommended that we visit this area. Depending on where you’re staying in Tokyo, it may be a little far, but it’s a super authentic place to see in Tokyo.
For something closer to central Tokyo, there is a wonderful and decently price curry restaurant called 上等カレー 渋谷本店. Head upstairs, place your order at the ticket machine, hand your receipt to the guys behind the bar and wait for deliciousness!
Tokyo Gay Travel: Go Shopping!
Visit Tokyo’s condom store! Condomania is in the basement of Parco, a shopping mall in the Shibuya neighborhood. It’s a neat little store. The lower level of Parco also has a ton of fun restaurants, if you’re hungry. The maze of restaurants is called Chaos Kitchen and it definitely is chaotic!
Harajuku is a beloved shopping street in Tokyo. The Harajuku area bustles with hundreds of unique stores and dessert shops. Boutiques selling unique clothing line the narrow streets. If you’re looking for a Cosplay or Halloween costume, this is the perfect place to pick one up.
The Ginza District is a Tokyo shopping area known for luxury. You can find all the high-fashion stores here. Ginza is one of the most luxurious shopping destinations on the planet.
Don’t forget to check out the largest Uniqlo in the world. The world’s biggest Uniqlo store is right here in Tokyo. I’m pretty sure everyone can find something cheap and awesome to wear from this beloved store.
Tokyo Gay Travel: Visit a Cat Café
I love how Japan has so many cat cafes! There are a bunch of animal cafes in Tokyo, and they don’t stop with cats! You can find pretty much any cute fuzzy animal you want in a Tokyo pet café.
Cat Café Mocha has dozens of cats in a two-story hangout. This café is by far the largest I’ve seen in terms of animal cafes. The passageways through walls, little platforms hanging from ceilings and fun cat towers make the space super interesting.
You pay by time spent at Cat Café Mocha. There is also an all-day option if you want a lot of kitty play time. Be prepared to take your shoes off, have some delicious tea (it’s free) and pet some soft and awesome-looking cats. A few are quite funny-looking!
Hedgehog Cafés, Too!
Are you allergic to cats? Then try a hedgehog café instead. Visiting Harry’s Hedgehog Café was a true highlight of my Tokyo gay travel adventure. Honestly, holding a hedgehog was on my bucket list, so I was stoked to hold one.
Harry’s also has otters and some other furry animals that you can hold. Also, it was not crowded at all. their location is off the main Harajuku strip, so it was quite calm.
Sensō-ji & Meiji Shrine
The Senso-ji and Meiji Shrine are two must-see places in Tokyo. If sightseeing temples is not really your thing, then sticking to these two sites will be more than enough. I highly recommend them.
Senso-ji is best visited at night. When you go after sundown, you can see both the temple as well as the market street all lit up. Small vendor stalls line the walkway up to the temple. The area is very picturesque. When you get to the actual shrine, make sure to follow the directions to pay respects and take a fortune.
The Meiji Shrine is best visited earlier in the day, as the morning sun glistens through the woods. I had a fantastic time with Michael exploring this beautiful, serene area. I liked the Meiji Shrine so much because there are nature trails to walk through before you arrive at the shrine. They were not too crowded!
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Want more sites to explore? Head over to the Tokyo Imperial Palace. Note that there are various sections of the Imperial Palace. The Inner Grounds are closed to the public unless you visit by guided tour. The East Gardens and Kitanomaru Park are both open to the public, so you are free to explore these areas on your own.
I thought the Ninomaru Garden was the best part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. This area is part of the East Gardens area. The Ninomaru Garden has a bunch of cute little bridges and lakefront footpaths. Check out the Koi in the ponds and grab a photo by the small waterfall.
Tokyo Gay Bars & Clubs
Gay bars and clubs in Tokyo are definitely the best in Japan. Tokyo has better gay nightlife than any other large Japanese city I’ve seen. Most of the gay bars are concentrated together in the Tokyo gay district as mentioned earlier in this guide.
Dragon Men: The Biggest Gay Bar in Tokyo
Dragon Men is the biggest gay bar in Tokyo. I would actually consider it more of a club. I went on a Saturday night and the place was packed full of guys dancing! There were both locals and expats enjoying a night out here.
Locals love Dragon Men because they play the best music in town and foreigners visit the well-known bar while on business trips. Michael and I met a Latin couple that was visiting east Asia for work.
Prepare for a late night! Dragon Men is open until 6 AM on the weekends! In fact, most of the Tokyo gay bars are open quite late. On weekdays, most are open until 1AM. Dragon Men has a cover charge of 1000 Yen, so make sure to bring enough cash!
Tokyo Gay Bars: The Eagle Tokyo
Tokyo has their own Eagle location! In fact, there are two! There is the traditional Eagle Tokyo and then there is Eagle Blue, a separate gay bar only a minute away.
These two lively spots may not be the first to pop up if you search for gay bars via Google. But, they’re there and the Eagle is definitely one of the most popular gay bars in Tokyo.
The Eagle is definitely the best gay bar to meet new friends. The space is definitely conducive to talking to people. The walkways on either side of the bar are narrow which makes a visit much less intimidating for solo travelers.
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Smaller Tokyo Gay Bars
Aiiro Café is a great gay bar to start your night out. While small, this friendly gay bar makes enough space for a drag performance! I had a bunch of fun watching Aiiro’s Saturday night drag show. The staff were fluent in both English and Japanese (impressive!) and the music was very upbeat.
One other bar I checked out was Annex. This place didn’t have anyone inside. Perhaps it was a little early on Saturday night, but I was surprised at how little people were there. Maybe I was just there on the wrong night! If you have a different experience at Annex, send wolfyy an email!
Tokyo Gay Travel Tips
To save a ton of time, try to book flights into Tokyo Haneda Airport. Haneda is much closer to the center of Tokyo as opposed to Narita Airport. I personally flew into Tokyo Narita and it took me more than two hours to get to the city center during rush hour.
Uber is available in Tokyo; I found it very easy to use! As opposed to Osaka, where Uber is simply used to match taxis with passengers, Uber in Tokyo is more of a luxury.
Where are the Trash Cans in Tokyo?
While walking through the streets of Tokyo, you’ll notice there are no garbage cans! This is not an accident. In Japanese culture, it is impolite to eat or drink while walking. Japanese society expects that you won’t really have anything to throw away that cannot wait until you reach your destination.
So, if you take your coffee to go, expect to hold onto it for a while. Usually, there are trash cans in subway station restrooms that you can utilize.
How to Get to Central Tokyo from Narita Airport
The most economical way to get to Tokyo from Haneda Airport is via the Skyliner Train and Metro or a limousine-bus. If you take the Tokyo Skyliner, you will likely need to transfer to the metro or get out and take a taxi.
The limousine busses have various convenient hotel stops, which is probably a better option if you’re staying at a major hotel. The limousine busses also have Wi-Fi. Very convenient!
Interestingly, both options are similar in cost at around 3000 Yen. As far as public transit goes, that’s not so cheap. Welcome to Japan! Most things are expensive. You’ll also need to wait in line for tickets for each.
I took the limousine bus so I wouldn’t have to lug my bags up and down escalators and through turnstiles. It was annoying enough that after landing in Tokyo that I had to travel another few hours to my hotel!
Using the Tokyo Metro
Tokyo has two underground Metro systems, each independently operated. There is the Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway. They are very much interlinked, so it is easy to transfer between them. There are a couple of things to be aware of while navigating these separate systems, however
You may not always be able to buy a ticket to your final destination because your journey may involve a “transfer.” Some machines allow you to buy these transfer tickets while others will not. When in doubt, just buy the ticket to the intermediate station where you will make your connection
Google Maps is very helpful with navigating the Tokyo Subway systems. In addition to telling you which line to take, Google maps conveniently notes which exit to take out of the underground network of passageways. These below-grade concourses can be immense, so having the additional help following the signage is great.
Need more inspiration to book your Tokyo gay travel? Let this CNN Japan Travel Article pique your curiosity.
LGBT Rights in Japan: Tokyo Leads The Way
Tokyo was one of the first areas in Japan to offer strengthened LGBT rights. You must first understand that Japan has a complex municipal structure. Most importantly are prefectures, of which Japan has 47. Some are cities and some are general areas of the country.
The Shibuya and Setagaya wards in Tokyo started recognizing same-sex partnerships in 2015. These hyper-local municipalities led the way for Japan. Since then, a slew of other cities joined the effort to increase LGBT rights.
Osaka, along with 25 other Japanese cities started offering partnership certificates to same-sex couples between 2015 and the present day. Osaka also leads the way in same-sex couple adoption. The city officially recognized a gay couple as foster parents back in 2017.
For more general information on LGBT rights in Japanese society, head to the Osaka Gay Travel Guide LGBT Rights Section.