Japan is becoming increasingly open-minded about the LGBT community and is arguably very progressive compared to other Asian countries, although gay couples still cannot legally marry. In Tokyo, there is an openly gay street, 2-Chome in Shinjuku with various gay bars. There are also parades, such as the annual Tokyo Rainbow Pride, that are easily accessible. The tolerance towards the LGBT community may be partly due to the fact that Japan does not have any history of religious prohibition or violence towards homosexuals, and various polls suggest that most Japanese people have no problem with the gay community.
Although there are many places to mingle with the LGBT community in Tokyo, what about in Kyoto? This city is famous for its temples, shrines, ancient traditions, and beautiful geisha girls, but most people don’t think of gay bars when Kyoto is mentioned. The fact is that the gay scene in Kyoto is pretty low key, and apart from the monthly “Diamonds are Forever” drag night at Club Metro, it is not really advertised. Therefore, you need to do some searching to find the gay venues as there is usually no indication on the outside that it’s not just another little Japanese-style izakaya bar.
However, there is a gay presence in Kyoto if you know where to look! Here are some details about my favorite gay bar in Japan and a fantastic monthly event that takes place.
Azure was the first gay bar I managed to find in Kyoto and it is still the one I go to most often. It’s in Kiyamachi, the main drinking street in Kyoto, though it’s located on the 3rd floor so you have to keep your eyes open for the sign and get up in the elevator located next to “Club Laid.” Ao is the bar’s owner and is really friendly! Most of the staff only speak a little English but they always make the effort to make you comfortable! There is a table charge of 800 yen which includes some bar snacks, and drinks are around 700 yen.
Ladies, please be aware that Azure is for men only. Also try to avoid going in a large group as there are not many seats.
Although Club Metro is not a gay venue, once a month they hold the “Diamonds are Forever” drag queen night which is pretty much an unofficial gay night. The crowd is mixed which is great as the other gay bars in Kyoto tend to be men only. The drag queens are good fun and usually interact with the crowd after the show. The event starts at 10:00 pm, and entry is 2000 yen which includes one free drink ticket or two drink tickets for students and foreigners! Additional drinks are reasonably priced after you’ve used those, with beer at around 500 yen.
Club Metro is located near Jingu Marutamachi station. Check out their English website to keep up to date on the next Diamonds are Forever event!
Thanks to the increasing acceptance of gay rights all over the world, members of the LGBT community in Japan can meet in venues more openly. With this great bar and awesome event that takes place in one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, you won’t go wrong during your night out! Osaka and Tokyo also have great nightlife so be sure to check out their many venues if you go.