Best Tokyo gay and lesbian bars

Best Tokyo gay and lesbian bars

If you're gay and in Tokyo, look no further than these 7 bars and clubs for your evening, and often early morning, escapades

“Homosexuality itself -- as long as you don’t say it -- is accepted in Japan. Once you start saying it you put yourself in a box,” said one 29-year-old woman recently to CNNGo when discussing lesbian culture.

But there is one district -- and a few special nights in other locations -- where being openly gay is celebrated. Here we discover the seven best gay night spots in Tokyo.

 

Most welcoming club: Arty Farty

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsArty Farty's famous loop on to the dance floor.Regulars and one-time visitors alike often utter the name of this established venue with smiles on their faces.

Arty Farty is widely known to be one of the most fun and friendly clubs in the Shinjuku 2-chome district, where gays, lesbians and straight partiers come together on the dance floor or have cozy conversations over music and drinks.

Arty Farty is consistently packed with diverse crowds, and is a good place to meet new people of various kinds.

One regular patron explains why he often goes. “Arty Farty is the best ... it's the most popular place for guys and girls. There’s dancing and it’s open till dawn," he says.

The drinks are also reasonable at around ¥600 and cover is free. They play all of the current gay house hits (Madonna, Kylie, Lady Gaga, etc) and between 9 p.m. and midnight guests can request their favorite tunes. 

Open Monday-Thursday 7 p.m.-3 a.m., Friday and Saturday 7 p.m.-5 a.m, Sunday 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

Arty Farty, 2F, 2-11-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 5362 9720, www.arty-farty.net 

 

Most conspicuous bar: Advocates Café

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsAdvocates customers spill on to the street.Shinjuku’s 2-chome district has two open-air style bars: Dragon Men and Advocates Café. The latter is the smaller of the two, and perhaps the reason, especially at warmer times of the year and on clear nights, much of its crowd ends up standing on the street outside.

This slightly chaotic spillage adds to the lively atmosphere of the corner venue, and gives the whole area a more vibrant and community-like feeling.

People who come here are friendly to meeting new people are often international clientele. Because of its high visibility, Advocates is the place to see and be seen in 2-chome.

Advocates was opened in 2000 by Toshinobu Yoshida, the general manager at ageHa, one of Tokyo’s most popular nightclubs. Advocates Café’s website has a personal message from the community-minded Yoshida that gives a shout-out to the "many artists and designers playing an active part in the field."

Open Monday-Saturday 6 p.m.-4 a.m., Sunday 6 p.m.-1 a.m.

Advocates Café, 2-18-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 3358 3988, www.advocates-cafe.com

 

Most authentic club: ArcH

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsClub Arch offers the best clubbing experience in Shinjuku nichome.A club that really seems to reflect the spirit of the gay community, ArcH in the 2-chome district of Shinjuku is a hot spot for locals and visitors (though for the latter, it can depend on the night).

Most nights are mixed at this venue, although there are men or women-only nights so it’s key to check the on-line schedule before going.

Drag queens are a hot feature at ArcH, where they put on not-to-be-missed shows for gay guys and girls and their friends. Featured DJs here are also said to really know their stuff -- another factor that gives ArcH points for authenticity. And the club also holds an AIDS/HIV awareness-raising event every first Sunday of the month, for free.

Also attractive for many music loving club-goers are ArcH’s theme nights, which cover music genres ranging from pop and rock to house, to the 1980s. Madonna-theme party with Madonna-inspired drag queens anyone?

Daily schedule -- http://www.clubarch.net/schedule

Club ArcH, B1F, 2nd Hayakawaya Building, 2-14-6, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 3352 6297, www.clubarch.ne

 

Most essential gay club night: Shangri-La at AgeHa

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsAgeha, Tokyo's largest club, hosts Shangri-La."AgeHa has a really huge gay night. Thousands of gays not only from around Tokyo but also from abroad, especially Taiwan and South Korea, congregate here," is how one Japanese gay clubber describes Shangri-La at AgeHa, a not-to-miss event for locals and visitors alike.

Approximately every two months, one of Tokyo’s most popular and largest night clubs, AgeHa, hosts a gay dance event now called Shangri-La which organizers call “Asia's biggest gay party,” or an “extravaganza that the world envies.” 

Shangri-La features a line-up of DJs who play different styles of dance music on the four dance floors the venue has to offer (including one by an outdoor pool) and includes special services which can include a food court and massage booth.

There’s also a free shuttle bus service offered from Shinjuku and Shibuya for attendees to get to the slightly out-of-the-way Shinkiba venue.

Entry fees range from approximately ¥3,000 to ¥5,000. AgeHa club members and women receive a discount.  

AgeHa, 2-2-10, Shinkiba, Koto-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 5534 1515,  www.ageha.com

 

Most established lesbian bar: Kinswomyn

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsThe staff at Kinswomyn are delighted to talk to customers.Kinswomyn is one of the oldest and best-known lesbian bars in Tokyo.

Popular because it has no seat charge, and reasonable drink prices (most start at around ¥700 for beer, wine and cocktails), the small but open space gets packed quickly, especially on weekends.

Amped up background music (rock and pop) combined with all the chatter makes for a happening, and often loud, atmosphere.

According to one regular patron, “People come here to talk and meet people, while the other bars are more like party spots.”

Kinswomyn is an exclusive women-only venue in Shinjuku’s famous 2-chome district. English is spoken by staff at the bar, and foreign patrons can often be found here mixing with friendly locals. It’s recommended for those who are looking for new encounters and intimate conversations. 

Open daily, 8 p.m.-4 a.m. (closed Tuesdays) 

Kinswomyn, 3F, Daiichi Tenka Building, 2-15-10 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, (across from Club Zip and Books Rose) tel. + 81 (0) 3 3354 8720

 

Most stylish lesbian bar: Motel #203

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsBar Motel's interior is luxurious.On Thursdays, Motel #203, a ‘girls-only’ bar in Shinjuku’s 2-chome district, opens its doors to men. But on regular nights it’s all about the women.

A ¥1,000 entry fee that includes one drink is charged, with a changing schedule for drink specials and DJs.

Motel #203 has a unique lounge-like feel to it, with its dim lighting and sexy decor including a small disco ball. 

The owner, Chiga Ogawa, is one of the pioneers of the lesbian night scene and also runs the popular Gold Finger club event for nightclubbing lesbians in Tokyo. Drinks at this stylish bar are reasonably priced, starting at around ¥700.  

Open daily, 8 p.m.-4 a.m., Sunday 8 p.m.-2 a.m. (closed Tuesday)

Motel #203, Sunny Corpo 203, 2-7-2 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 6383 4649, www.bar-motel.com

 

Most happening lesbian bar: Adezakura

Tokyo's best gay & lesbian night life spotsAdezakura red doors and street signs are hard to miss.A hard-to-miss set of double red doors welcomes you into Adezakura, one of the newest bars for lesbians and late-night partiers in Shinjuku’s 2-chome area.

Open to women only until 2 a.m., it then lets the men in until closing time. Boasting on its website that it is open year-round, the Adezakura is also open late -- until 7 a.m. most nights (well, mornings).

The venue is larger than other women-only bars in the area, and the friendly atmosphere may include international clientele.

All are invited to make requests for music. One fan of the bar asserts, “It’s the hottest new lesbian bar in Shinjuku right now, and people also go because there is no charge to get in.” 

Open Monday-Thursday 10 p.m.-7 a.m., Friday 8 p.m.-7 a.m., Saturday 8 p.m.-8 a.m., and Sunday 8 p.m.-7 a.m.

Adezakura, 2-15-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, tel. + 81 (0) 3 3351 4833, www.agit-k-kaku.com/adezakura


Ulara Nakagawa is a Canadian-born editor and writer who's been in Tokyo since 2007. She also regularly blogs at The New Emissary and is always on the look-out for a good story.
Read more about Ulara Nakagawa
CNN Partner Hotels

Executive Access

Whether you're looking for a post-meeting pint or a wild night out, creativity is on the menu at these hot Hong Kong venues