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Japan

From the chaotic streets of Tokyo to the quiet onsens of Hakone, gay travellers can't stop raving about Japan.

Japan is a tiny archipelago crammed with 2600 years of history, 126 million people, and 6852 islands. You’ll find innovation like the Shinkansen bullet train that connects distant regions with supercity Tokyo. It easily goes up to 320km/200mph and retains a perfect safety record – even fifty years after launch. Japan is also home to both Shinto spirituality (of Marie Kondo fame) and Nintendo (of Super Mario fame). There are so many contrasts, flavours, and degrees of cuteness to discover, The Land of the Rising Sun is a world unto itself.


Quick Facts

  • Capital City: Tokyo
  • Currency: Yen (JPY)
  • Languages: Japanese
  • Best Time of Year to Visit: Spring & Autumn

LGBT Rights in Japan

Lesbian Japan Travel

Best Places to Visit in Japan

More Info

Japan may not have the most progressive gay rights today, but it does have a colourful history of acceptance: many ancient samurai warriors would take their apprentice as lovers, and were understood to be in monogamous relationships. According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, 54% of the population has embraced equal rights for LGBT citizens, though many queer citizens remain in the closet – and even get married to the opposite gender. Many legal protections also remain outstanding, so while you probably wouldn’t be fired for being gay, you’d have no legal protection if you were. Fortunately progress is being made in urban centres. In 2015 Shibuya became the first of many cities to offer proof-of-partnership papers. The intent is to offer legal protection and support concerning hospital visits and cohabitation arrangements. 

Gay Activity: Legal
Lesbian Activity: Legal
Same-Sex Marriage: Not Legal
Right to Change Gender: Legal
Same-Sex Adoption: Not Legal
LGBT Discrimination: Legal

The highest concentration of gay bars on Earth – literally hundreds of them – await in Shinjuku Ni-chōme. It’s just one neighbourhood in a city with more people than all of Canada. There are clubs, brothels, and saunas (the gay kind, not the traditional onsen that we’ll discuss below). The neighbourhood is friendly to travellers but beware that some establishments only cater to locals, so have a game plan before you head out or hire a private guide. Throughout the rest of Japan, you can expect warm welcomes – but please skip PDAs of any kind (straight or gay). They’re considered tacky.

Gay Villages in Japan

In Tokyo,  Ni-chōme – aka Nichō – in Shinjuku is the largest and most friendly place for tourists to visit.

Osaka also offers a small gaybourhood in Doyamacho.

Pride Festivals & Events in Japan

Tokyo Rainbow Pride
Rainbow Reel Tokyo Film Festival

Best Gay Bars in Japan

TOKYO:

Aiiro Cafe is a great place to meet up with friends to start the night
New Sazae is a disco institution that’s been around since 1966
Arty Farty is the nightclub where you can shake your Hello Kitty
Eagle Tokyo delivers a leathery juxtaposition of east vs. west
Leo Lounge is a friendly bear bar
Campy Bar is a popular place to catch a drag show
Shinjuku Dialogue is a daytime café that actively promotes LGBT equality 

OSAKA:

Grand Slam is a dance bar popular with tourists.
Lu Pu is owned by a lesbian couple, though everyone is welcome.
The Suite is an opulent New York-styled bar inspired by The Great Gatsby.

Best Lesbian Bars and Events in Japan

Despite the density of gay bars, Tokyo isn’t a lesbian hotspot. Many locals live in the closet and/or keep a low profile, but you can still find places to meet women… 

Rainbow Burritos serves up California-style burritos in a small room with a large stained glass window of Frida Kahlo.
Kamari is owned by a former bikini model/current LGBT advocate (seriously). There’s a definite ninja theme and the staff loves to practice English with foreign visitors.
Gold Finger is Japan’s original monthly women’s party, and has been running since 1991.

5. Bullet Train

Rather than a specific destination, this is a mode of transportation. Regardless of where you go, did you even visit Japan if you don’t ride the fastest mode of ground transport? 

4. Onsens

Thousands of hot springs pepper the islands of Japan. They range from modern facilities to traditional inns to a pile of rocks on the beach. 

3. Olympic Venues 

Both leading up to and after the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo will boast venues to visit and pick up souvenirs. 

2. Deer Park

One of the oldest parks in Japan, Nara Park is famous for its thousand friendly deer that politely bow their heads for treats. 

1. Harajuku

Ever since Gwen Stefani sang about Harajuku girls, the mythology of this Tokyo neighbourhood has grown. It’s rife with vintage fashion shops, pet cafés, and flavours of the moment. Right next to it is the more upscale Omotesandō, a road that’s been called Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées.

Best Time to Visit: Spring and autumn are both great times to visit Japan. Summer can swelter more than America’s Deep South, but winter can be fun if you’re a fan of winter sports – the islands are home to more than 600 ski resorts. 

Electricity: Type A and B sockets

Time Zone: Japanese Standard Time (UTC+9) 

Vaccinations: We recommend routine and measles vaccines, but to determine if you should take further measures, talk to your doctor or a travel medical clinic.

Visas: Citizens of Canada, the USA, and most of Europe do not need a visa for short-term visits. Click here for more info.

January 1, 2020
LGBT Rights in Japan

Japan may not have the most progressive gay rights today, but it does have a colourful history of acceptance: many ancient samurai warriors would take their apprentice as lovers, and were understood to be in monogamous relationships. According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, 54% of the population has embraced equal rights for LGBT citizens, though many queer citizens remain in the closet – and even get married to the opposite gender. Many legal protections also remain outstanding, so while you probably wouldn’t be fired for being gay, you’d have no legal protection if you were. Fortunately progress is being made in urban centres. In 2015 Shibuya became the first of many cities to offer proof-of-partnership papers. The intent is to offer legal protection and support concerning hospital visits and cohabitation arrangements. 

Gay Activity: Legal
Lesbian Activity: Legal
Same-Sex Marriage: Not Legal
Right to Change Gender: Legal
Same-Sex Adoption: Not Legal
LGBT Discrimination: Legal

Lesbian Japan Travel

The highest concentration of gay bars on Earth – literally hundreds of them – await in Shinjuku Ni-chōme. It’s just one neighbourhood in a city with more people than all of Canada. There are clubs, brothels, and saunas (the gay kind, not the traditional onsen that we’ll discuss below). The neighbourhood is friendly to travellers but beware that some establishments only cater to locals, so have a game plan before you head out or hire a private guide. Throughout the rest of Japan, you can expect warm welcomes – but please skip PDAs of any kind (straight or gay). They’re considered tacky.

Gay Villages in Japan

In Tokyo,  Ni-chōme – aka Nichō – in Shinjuku is the largest and most friendly place for tourists to visit.

Osaka also offers a small gaybourhood in Doyamacho.

Pride Festivals & Events in Japan

Tokyo Rainbow Pride
Rainbow Reel Tokyo Film Festival

Best Gay Bars in Japan

TOKYO:

Aiiro Cafe is a great place to meet up with friends to start the night
New Sazae is a disco institution that’s been around since 1966
Arty Farty is the nightclub where you can shake your Hello Kitty
Eagle Tokyo delivers a leathery juxtaposition of east vs. west
Leo Lounge is a friendly bear bar
Campy Bar is a popular place to catch a drag show
Shinjuku Dialogue is a daytime café that actively promotes LGBT equality 

OSAKA:

Grand Slam is a dance bar popular with tourists.
Lu Pu is owned by a lesbian couple, though everyone is welcome.
The Suite is an opulent New York-styled bar inspired by The Great Gatsby.

Best Lesbian Bars and Events in Japan

Despite the density of gay bars, Tokyo isn’t a lesbian hotspot. Many locals live in the closet and/or keep a low profile, but you can still find places to meet women… 

Rainbow Burritos serves up California-style burritos in a small room with a large stained glass window of Frida Kahlo.
Kamari is owned by a former bikini model/current LGBT advocate (seriously). There’s a definite ninja theme and the staff loves to practice English with foreign visitors.
Gold Finger is Japan’s original monthly women’s party, and has been running since 1991.

Best Places to Visit in Japan

5. Bullet Train

Rather than a specific destination, this is a mode of transportation. Regardless of where you go, did you even visit Japan if you don’t ride the fastest mode of ground transport? 

4. Onsens

Thousands of hot springs pepper the islands of Japan. They range from modern facilities to traditional inns to a pile of rocks on the beach. 

3. Olympic Venues 

Both leading up to and after the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tokyo will boast venues to visit and pick up souvenirs. 

2. Deer Park

One of the oldest parks in Japan, Nara Park is famous for its thousand friendly deer that politely bow their heads for treats. 

1. Harajuku

Ever since Gwen Stefani sang about Harajuku girls, the mythology of this Tokyo neighbourhood has grown. It’s rife with vintage fashion shops, pet cafés, and flavours of the moment. Right next to it is the more upscale Omotesandō, a road that’s been called Tokyo’s Champs-Élysées.

More Info

Best Time to Visit: Spring and autumn are both great times to visit Japan. Summer can swelter more than America’s Deep South, but winter can be fun if you’re a fan of winter sports – the islands are home to more than 600 ski resorts. 

Electricity: Type A and B sockets

Time Zone: Japanese Standard Time (UTC+9) 

Vaccinations: We recommend routine and measles vaccines, but to determine if you should take further measures, talk to your doctor or a travel medical clinic.

Visas: Citizens of Canada, the USA, and most of Europe do not need a visa for short-term visits. Click here for more info.

January 1, 2020

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