Guide to a Gay Night Out in Shinjuku Nichome

Happy Pride Month to all the people who fall somewhere on the rainbow spectrum! This month, we remember the pain and struggles that our queer predecessors went through that saturates queer history, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at the bright side and have some fun at the same time. The gay scene in Tokyo is almost all condensed into the small Nichome district of Shinjuku. The streets come alive at night and offer you an endless variety of establishments to go to. Here are my top five picks:

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Campy Bar

Campy is the bar basically everyone will recommend to you. It’s a cozy bar central in the district where all members of staff are drag queens. Having great conversationalists with quick wit talking to you all night long is a guaranteed way to make your night fun. It is a gay-mix establishment, meaning it is friendly and welcoming for non-LGBT customers as well. The only downside is that the starting price for drinks are not the cheapest (¥700), but that’s the price you pay for a night full of lively conversation with the hospitable drag queens of Japan.

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Arty Farty

This is my go-to-guilty-pleasure club. I must admit, it isn’t the classiest of clubs but it’s undeniably a fun place to be with friends. A night spent in Arty will give you LIFE through an endless playlist of pop anthems by Britney, Ariana, Gaga, and such. Club goers here are mostly friendly as they are all gathered to have a shameless dance. It is not the place to go if you want a quiet chat. 

The entry fee is one drink (¥600~), which gets you a UV stamp on your wrist. The stamp allows you to unlimited re-entry, which means you can go outside for air (or cheaper alcohol) as much as you want throughout the night. Plus, you can move freely between Arty and their sister bar/club, Annex, without paying any additional charges. This means you can have a boogie, pop out, grab a cheeky drink from the convenience store, finish your drink, and go back inside! Clubbing on a budget, yes god!

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Gold Finger

You actually may have caught a glimpse of the establishment on the Tokyo episode of Gaycation with Ellen Page. Queer femmes know the struggle of being acknowledged in the LGBT community, which is mostly represented by and catered for cis gay men. While the majority of establishments in Nichome are friendly towards people of all different walks of life, there are few that are a safe space for femmes. Gold Finger, however, is one of the very few lesbian bars in the district that has been around since the 90’s. The bar welcomes everybody everyday except Mondays and Saturdays. On Mondays and third Sundays of each month, the bar is open exclusively for FTM trans men, and Saturdays for women only. Those of you interested in paying a visit (man, woman, gay, straight), I highly recommend it as the bar offers patrons free popcorn and, if you have the courage, free karaoke every night.

This bar is a shining example of an inclusive bar that also acts as a safe space for the minorities within the LGBT community. The acknowledgement displayed by the bar is the very reason they are important to the community and district.

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New Sazae

A pioneer in the gay scene in Tokyo, this 2nd floor bar has been around since Nichome was designated as the gay district of Tokyo in the late 1960’s.  When you open the door it's almost as if you have walked into a time machine: the sound of funky soul tunes welcome you and put you in a groovy daze almost instantly. Retro memorabilia are placed around the club, giving us 21st century folks a taste of the short-lived disco era that we could not experience. There is a ¥1,000 cover charge that includes one drink and all drinks after that cost ¥700, so it may not be the most budget friendly bar to go as a broke university student, but the untouched atmosphere of the 70's is all worth checking out. The drinks offered here are fairly simple, but you don't go to New Sazae to sip on pretentious drinks: you go to enjoy the music and the environment with friends. The bar has a small dance floor where we can dance intimately with close friends, and maybe even make new ones.

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Aiiro Café

Last but not least, Aiiro Café is popular to patrons from all over the world. The bar/lounge/club attracts people of all nationalities, age, and sexualities. You can’t miss the bar with its big Torii (shrine gate) and the crowd that spills out onto the streets. The interior is decorated in a modern Japanese designs with a little shrine above the bar and little lanterns around the place. It offers a more laid back atmosphere than other bars, and is a great place to just grab a drink and talk to the people around you. Aiiro Café has an especially friendly vibe about the place, plus, it’s a prime people-watching spot. It is also a popular spot for foreigners, so if you’re feeling lonely and homesick, perhaps this café is the place to meet people of similar backgrounds. 

In the words of Lady Gaga (sort of),

"No matter Gay, Straight, or Bi,

Lesbian, Transgendered life,

You're on the right track baby, [go to Nichome one night!]"

The district feels very international and is a great place to make new friends but only while drinking responsibly. I hope Pride Month is colourful and fun for you all!