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Tokyo Gay Travel

Tokyo gay travel is the best in Japan. Don’t miss wolfyy’s recommendations for Tokyo’s gay bars, the gay district, hotels & things to do.

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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!

tokyo gay bar

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.

Japanese temple
tokyo gay bar
Tokyo gay travel

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.

Japanese temple
Tokyo is an ideal destination because there is a mix of everything. You have amazing shopping, similar to what you would find in Osaka, more gay bars than any Japanese city, plus the traditional sites like you’ll find in Kyoto.

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 stays
tokyo gay travel stays

Gay Tokyo: Hotels & Where to Stay

Most importantly, Tokyo is enormous! Tokyo uniquely does not have a true “downtown center.” 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.

park Hyatt tokyo
park Hyatt tokyo
Tokyo gay travel stay
When looking for neighborhoods to stay in Tokyo, keep in mind the attractions you plan to visit. Traveling around the city, whether by car or metro, can take a significant chunk of time. In my opinion, it is best to minimize travel time by optimizing your Tokyo hotel location.
Tokyo gay travel stay

Michael and I stayed in the Shinjuku neighborhood. Staying in this area is definitely convenient for visiting the gay bars. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which is only about a 10-minute cab away from the Tokyo gay district.

The Park Hyatt was impeccable. It was absolutely a dream. Definitely the classic experience you would expect from this luxury brand.

gay area tokyo

The Tokyo Gay District

Tokyo’s gay district 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!

tokyo gay district
tokyo gay district
cerulean tokyo tower hotel

Remember that if you are planning on visiting the Tokyo gay district, 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.

cerulean tokyo tower hotel

In my opinion, Shinjuku and Shibuya are the best neighborhoods for gay travelers in Tokyo. A fantastic standard hotel that is both affordable and well-designed, you have to check out Shibuya Tobu Hotel

For something a little more expensive and certainly luxurious, the Cerulean Tower Tokyo Hotel is best. This hotel will undoubtedly make your jaw drop. 

If you’re interested in Shinjuku instead, here is a custom list of the best hotels in the Shinjuku Ward.

Tokyo gay travel
Tokyo gay travel

Tokyo Gay Travel Experiences

Shibuya Crossing is probably number one on tourist’s lists of things to do on their Tokyo gay holidays. While the large crosswalk area is busy and impressive, I would not consider it a destination in itself.

Instead, I suggest you plan you daily route such that you pass through Shibuya crossing on your way to do something specific.

Chu Hi Japan
Shibuya crossing
Chu Hi Japan

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!

Shibuya crossing

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.

Tokyo Restaurants

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!

fried pork Japanese food

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!

park Hyatt Tokyo
fried pork Japanese food
park Hyatt Tokyo

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!

piss alley tokyo

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!

piss alley tokyo
tokyo gay travel

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!

tokyo gay travel

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.

Tokyo gay travel local
cooked salmon
Tokyo gay travel local

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.

cooked salmon

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!

shopping mall

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.

shopping mall
condom store tokyo
condom store tokyo

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.

Tokyo gay travel
Tokyo gay travel
Shibuya cat cafe

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.

Shibuya cat cafe

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!

Tokyo gay travel in cafe
tokyo pet cafe
Tokyo gay travel in cafe

Hedgehog Cafés In Tokyo

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.

tokyo pet cafe

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

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.

senso-ji
meiji shrine
meiji shrine

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.

tokyo gay travel
tokyo gay travel
water feature in shrine

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 travel
Tokyo gay travel

Tokyo Gay Bars

The gay bars 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 gay district.

tokyo bars at night

The Biggest Tokyo Gay Bar

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.

Dragon Men gay bar

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.

Dragon Men gay bar
Tokyo gay travel photo
Tokyo gay travel photo

Prepare for a late night, since 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.

The Eagle Tokyo Gay Bars

Tokyo has their two of their own Eagle Gay Bar locations! There is the traditional Eagle Tokyo and then there is Eagle Blue, a separate gay bar only a minute away. 

Tokyo gay travel experiences

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.

Tokyo gay travel experiences
Tokyo gay travel
eagle blue 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 so much fun watching Aiiro’s Saturday night drag show. The staff were fluent in both English and Japanese (impressive!) and the music was very upbeat.

Tokyo gay travel
Tokyo gay travel
tokyo gay nightlife

Lastly, one other gay bar I visited 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.

tokyo gay nightlife
temple in Japan
Tokyo gay travel experience

When you’re out at the bars, keep in mind that Japan prices will be similar to cities like New York or Paris. If you need to stick to a budget, remember to account for drinks that cost the equivalent of $7 to $10 USD.

Tokyo gay travel experience

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.

temple in Japan

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.

streets of tokyo
Tokyo gay travel

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.

streets of tokyo
Tokyo gay travel restaurant
using Tokyo Metro

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.

Tokyo gay travel

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

Tokyo gay travel restaurant
funny Japanese cat
tokyo gay travel experience
Additionally, there are JR (Japan Railway) lines, which operate above ground and extend outside of Tokyo. You can take JR trains to Osaka!

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

using Tokyo Metro
tokyo bus to airport
cafes gatos japon

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.

tokyo bus to airport

Need more inspiration to book some Japan 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.

gay tokyo travel
In general, these prefectures are comprised of special wards, which are then divided into districts. Tokyo specifically is both a city and a prefecture, divided into many wards and districts.
gay life Japan
local life Japan
gay life Japan

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.

tokyo gay travel experience

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.

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Traveling to China as well? Read the wolfyy Shanghai Gay Travel Guide or Hong Kong Gay Travel Guide.

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