Nowadays, there are several types of gender other than male and female, LGBTQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. Shinjuku-Ni-Chome is the district in Tokyo where such people gather and flourish in whatever form they want to express themselves with. Some of my friends and I visited a “Mix Bar” in the area (originally for our class assignment) out of curiosity and the mission of getting exposed to a new culture in our mind.
via Gaijin Pot
We picked the Campy! Bar located at the entrance of Ni-Chome. It is a “mix bar” and welcomes anyone, any gender. Different from the typical bars in the district, the Campy! bar also has cafe-time; open during daytime. So how was the experience like? Let me reveal the unique world little by little…
6:15 pm – Stepping into the mecca of LGBTQ
About 10 minutes walk from the JR station, Ni-Chome is located in the East of Shinjuku, near Shinjuku Gyoen. Consisted of many aged buildings, it had a different atmosphere from the popular shopping area. It seemed that 6 p.m. was like an early morning in the area, and there were very few people walking around.
via EnAble Japan
6:20 pm – “Hello Campy! bar”
The bar was easy to find, located right next to a main street. Bright with lights and the colorful wallpaper visible from outside, Campy! bar actually looked very welcoming and inclusive. Without specific posters and explanations on the menu board, it even looked like a standard cafe we use every day.
Photo by Kao Highvalley
6:25 pm – A Warm Welcome from the Staff
When we opened the door, we first got covered by the strong smell of cigarette – a typical bar-, followed by warm welcomes by the bartender with high-pitched voice. He was making drinks inside the counter in a tank top, and some customers were sitting at the bar enjoying their time. Once we got our spot, they started to ask for our order in a friendly way, teasing some of us for the choice of drink. Then, I had a strange feeling that the concept of gender or any standard usually used to evaluate a person were somehow all gone. The bar was creating a special atmosphere of welcoming anyone entered the door.
Photo by Kao Highvalley
6:30 pm – A Lucky Meeting
Once we settled, a lady approached us. Surprisingly, that was the crossdresser featured in a popular TV news show weeks ago (the show actually connected us with Campy!bar in the first place). His appearance and behavior were so perfectly feminine, but he kindly explained us that he is completely a guy inside. He likes to dress like a girl and enjoys acting like one when wearing female clothes; all at the same time, he is attracted to women and would like to get married one day, if he gets a chance.
Photo by Kao Highvalley
Politely and patiently responding to our numerous questions one by one, he shared us the world of crossdressers like himself. He said that Ni-Chome is now more open for more types of people, other than simply Lesbian and Gay, who are mainly considered as gender minorities in Japan. As a matter of fact, he started his life as a crossdresser since this one bar for crossdressing was opened a few years ago. Vio mentioned that he felt that he finally became who he had wanted to be when he tried dressing female clothes there. A best thing of crossdressing for him seem to be the fact that he becomes extroverted and approachable for others that he can interact with more people.
via Campy! bar
Mix bars like Campy! bar seem to be the hub for all the people in the district to socialize and get connected with the newcomers or visitors as well. It sounded that Shinjuku-Ni-Chome actually become the mecca of all gender minorities just recently.
7:45 pm – “Goodbye!”
After having a quite deep conversation with the famous crossdresser, we decided to leave the place as he was about to move to another bar. Looking around, we noticed then there were a few more customers including some international people who seemed to be also a part of the community. With enjoying some additional teasing and friendly interactions from the staffs, we said goodbye to the bar.
With hindsight, I personally felt that everyone at the mix bar was comfortable in whatever way they were expressing themselves in. There sure was the concept of gender, but people were free to make adjustments. The crossdresser could say, “I’m untouched (not having got plastic surgery or anything artificial) and a total guy inside” in a very feminine language and gesture. We all accepted him just as he introduced. Without any speculations or judgments. Just as the LGBTQ anthem “True Colors” sings, each person’s characteristics, gender preferences or anything are regarded as a color of theirs. Everyone and everything are welcomed there (including ourselves who are not a part of the community). Although it is very challenging, I think this world would be a better place if all of us can open our arms so wide and welcome each other just the way we are; possibly like the Campy! bar.