When I first came to Japan, I looked at the LGBT section of my travel guide in the hope of finding some information about the LGBT community in Tokyo and recommended places to go out. To my own disappointment, my guide only had a few information and the limited section was describing a small and hidden community living in the shadow of a conventional Japanese society. But after some additional research online about bars and restaurants, I decided to pay them a visit and see it for myself.
I hopped on a train to Shinjuku Ni-chome, the LGBT area of Tokyo (exit at Shinjuku-sanchome Station). I arrived at around 7 PM and the area seemed really quiet, but the crowd which came all night long blew my mind away. Soon, I was meeting people, going from one bar to another, and making new friends.
The Tokyo LGBT community was right there – a happy crowd enjoying its evening, having friendly chats in bars, outside bars, in the streets, in cafes. It was a very diverse crowd representing the whole community. People were not only Japanese, they were from all corners of the world, sometimes tourists, sometimes residents.
A lot of places in the area are open until morning so if you’re in a party mood, there’ll be plenty to explore.
1. Rainbow Burritos Doumo
The Shinjuku Ni-chome area has hundreds of places for the LGBT community such as cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.
One of my favorite places in the area is a small, cozy, and very friendly Mexican restaurant/bar called Rainbow Burritos which draws a friendly crowd and where everyone knows each other. It’s a little hard to find, but you can check out their website or their Facebook page for more information.
2. Meetup: Tokyo LGBTQIAP+ and Supporters
Aside from bars and restaurants, a good way to meet like-minded people from the community is to join this active Meetup group called “Tokyo LGBTQIAP+ and Supporters.”
The group is run by a lovely couple who regularly organizes events such as picnics, hikes, and parties, like the Lazy Moon party which gathers members of the LGBT community for a cheerful evening of dancing with local DJs, and takes place regularly in an LGBT cafe called Café Lavanderia.
3. Stonewall Japan
One very useful page to keep in mind is the famous Stonewall Japan Facebook Group where you can connect with other members, post any questions or concerns you have, or simply keep updated with upcoming events. Stonewall Japan is accessible to any member of the community whoever you are and whatever your background is.
Overall, the LGBT community in Tokyo has considerably grown in number and in visibility. Every year, the Tokyo Rainbow Pride gathers a huge number of members of the community in a cheerful and colorful atmosphere, it’s a must-do if you are around.
Tokyo Rainbow Pride Website *Automatic translation available
Japan is yet to allow same-sex marriage but it has taken some steps towards it by issuing same-sex couple certificates in a few cities across the country which give some rights (though limited) to couples such as the possibility to visit partners at the hospital. At a company level, some businesses have also been taking steps to recognize same-sex relationships, which shows a positive evolution of mentalities in Japan.
So whether you are a friend of the community, curious to explore, or are a member of the community itself, go out there and check out the area. There is something for everyone, and you’ll be surprised by how accessible the LGBT community in Tokyo is.