Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

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fountainhall
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#1 Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby fountainhall » Sun Jul 01, 2018 4:06 pm

In the thread about Silom Soi 4, Gaybutton has asked if I can post some information about Shinjuku ni-chome, the best-known gay area in the sprawling metropolis in Tokyo. Having lived in the city for two years during the early 1990s and visited probably close to 100 times both before and after, I’ll try and answer his questions – although the gay scene has been changing quite rapidly and my last visit was in May 2016. I will be back in March next year and will update if necessary then.

Before going into detail, though, I think it is important to stress that whilst there are hundreds of gay bars and other gay venues like saunas, clubs and so on, the gay scene in Tokyo is nothing like Bangkok, Pattaya, Hong Kong, Manila or most other South East Asian cities. There are several reasons it is important to mention at the outset. Although the rise of the Shoguns at the start of the 17th century resulted in the thriving trading community of foreigners in Nagasaki being thrown out and the country being cut off from the rest of the word for 265 years, Japan had been all but isolated before the arrival of the European traders, Indeed, as more than one commentator has pointed out, there has been little addition to the country’s gene pool since the 8th century. Inevitably this has led to a very unique society. Japanese really had no choice but to look inward. Customs and the way of life never changed. As the population grew and with so little habitable land, everyone tended to live virtually on top of each other in tiny wooden houses. With privacy so difficult in such circumstances, Japanese had to learn to become adept at seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing and knowing but equally not knowing. Much of that remains the same today. For example, it is not unusual to see a middle-aged man sitting in a packed commuter train reading a porn manga book. Those standing around him will see it, but not see it. After they leave the train, they will not gossip about it. It is forgotten.

The Meiji Restoration changed much in Japan. The arrival of flocks of Christian missionaries also forced change re some societal norms, especially the acceptance of homosexuality which had more or less flourished beforehand but became frowned upon soon thereafter. But the adoption of so many western ideas never did much to change the basic norms of day-to-day society. Thus many aspects of Japan today can still seem strange and unwelcoming to foreigners. This is especially true in the gay bars. These will all be tiny with only a few accommodating more than between 12 and perhaps 24 customers. Although they are dotted all over the city, you will be very hard pressed to find most of them without a Japanese to guide you. You will also almost certainly be disappointed because outside of Shinjuku ni-chome, very few welcome foreigners unless with Japanese known to the mamasans.

Shinjuku ni-chome

First, the term chome essentially means district. So ni-chome is the 2nd district in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo. Here you will find around 300 bars, discos and couple of porn shops virtually all catering to the gay and lesbian community.

1. How do you find it?

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The map above gives you some clues. You can see it is to the east of the huge Shinjuku station. I have circled Shinjuku (2) in red. I’ll highlight three ways to get there. Your destination for the first two is the BYGS Shinjuku Building (circled on the map).

a) From Shinjuku station you can easily walk to ni-chome in about 12-15 minutes. Take the south exit, turn left on Koshu Kaido and just keep waking. The map is not detailed enough to show that you cannot walk in a straight line. Where Koshu Kaido veers right, you take a slight fork left for one block and find yourself on Shinjuku Dori. Continue straight over it and soon you come to the BYGS Building on your right.

b) Or you can take the north exit of Shinjuku station, turn right and walk down Shinjuku Dori. You will come to a huge Isetan Department Store on your left. Keep walking straight across till you come to a dual carriageway on your left. There turn left and you soon see the BYGS store on your right. Just before the store, turn right. You are now in the gay bar area and can explore the small streets in roughly the area of the red circle.

If it is raining, you can get underground all the way from Shinjuku station. Just follow all the signs carefully, go down a few steps and turn left and find Exit C8

c) Subway. If you are coming from another part of town, you can take the red subway line – the Marunouchi Line – to Shinjuku-Gyoemmae station (pronounced Gy – as in ‘key’ with a hard ‘G’ – o as in ‘oh!’ – em as in ‘hem’ without the ‘h’ – and mae as the actress ‘Mae’ West).

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Take Exit 1 from the west end of the train (the back carriage if you are coming from Shinjuku). At street level you will be at a pedestrian crossing. Cross straight over.

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You will then have a Family Mart on your left but go straight on for about 200 meters. Then turn left and walk up past a new construction on your left (this used to be a famous cruising park – alas now a modern building). On your right you will soon see Kings of College, one of Tokyo’s oldest escort bars with a lot of handsome guys, although few will speak much English.

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A few meters further on and you are right in the middle of the bar district.

Another alternative is to take the pale green Toei Shinjuku subway line to Shinjuku-Sanchome which is clearly marked and circled on the map. You exit into the underground passageway. Turn left and Exit C8 is very close.

Generally, a good bilingual Atlas is a huge help in finding your way in Tokyo. I always swear by this one which I found in Asia Books in Bangkok.

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2. Is it a large area with loads of bars or is it more like Boystown, Sunee Plaza, and Soi Twilight?

No, and it is getting smaller as a result of redevelopment. But it does have around 300 bars. Unlike Bangkok and Pattaya, the bars are all stacked on top of each other in quite large buildings. Each floor may have up to ten bars. SO you can get around very quickly.

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3. What kinds of bars are there? Is it go-go bars, host bars, discos, all three?

Tokyo does not have go-go bars, at least not that foreigners can access. There is a raunchier area called Kabuki-cho which is to the north of Yasukuni Dori and a lot goes on there which only Japanese know about. The bars in ni-chome are all basically beer bars with a few discos and an even smaller number of escort bars. My guess is that less than 15 bars are mixed Japanese and gaijin (the Japanese term for farang). If you enter another by mistake, you will be politely informed or it will be made clear in some other way that you are in the wrong place. So essentially you are going to the bars to drink and hopefully meet up with a Japanese who wants to meet a gaijin. Same with the discos.

4. Do the bars have offs?

There are several escort bars. King of College has been mentioned. Janny’s is another. These exist so you can take a boy from the bar or up to one of their comfortable rooms. Three problems with these bars, though. The first is that few of the boys will speak anything other than Japanese. Communication can therefore be difficult. Ask the mamasan and he will point out the boys who do speak some English. The other problem is that many Japanese pre-order and have the boys go to their homes or hotels. So even though you have seen a website full of attractive young men, there is a good chance he will not be in the bar when you are there! Then there is a very rigid system of payment. You pay by the hour. It your tryst takes longer, there are set overtime charges.

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¥14,000 is around US$125. There are also host "bars" with no bar, where you only pre-order your company from the website. All the websites are very specific about what a boy will or won’t do and when he is available, and you get charged only from the moment he arrives at your hotel room. Most require prepayment. I have never taken anyone off from these bars but know two people who have. Both reported the experience was very good and the service delivered was as stated. And although the process seems rather regimented, it is extremely efficient. My friends said they never had the impression that the boys were anything other than enjoying themselves by giving enjoyment to their customers.

From Host Boy Websites
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5. Are short time rooms available?

The host bars have nicely furnished rooms on the premises.

6. What are prices like? Drinks, tips for boys, off fees, etc.

Drinks vary but are generally in the ¥700 - ¥1,000 range (approx. US$6.50 - $9.50). In the New Sazae disco, entrance is ¥1,000 which includes one drink. Thereafter drinks are ¥700. All very reasonable. Boys from the host bars expect nothing since their tips are included in the fee. Besides, tipping is not part of Japanese culture.

7. How much do the boys expect?

If you meet a guy in a bar, he won’t expect anything other than perhaps a train fare home in the morning. Public transport shuts down around midnight and don’t even consider paying a taxi fare. Taxis are hugely expensive. Boys from the host bars do not expect any additional payment.

8. Do you tip the boys in advance or after the tryst?

Host bars normally expect payment in advance and most, if not all, will take credit cards. Once you have made a date, the boy will always turn up.

9. If you are not staying in that area, are there any problems about bringing boys to your hotel?

I have stayed in all manner of hotels from 5-star to 2-star. Never once had a problem taking anyone back.

10. What about freelancers?

In my experience, there are not many around. But I do expect there will be lots catering to the Japanese market. There may also be a few on the apps, although on my last visit I encountered none. I would not consider freelancers as I would not be sure if they are genuine and will deliver what you want, whereas with host bars you certainly get what you pay for.

11. Do you have a particular favorite bar? If yes, what makes it a favorite?

That’s a question more for others to answer as I am almost always out with Japanese friends who take me to bars westerners will not normally get into. In ni-chome, I always found GB a great place to meet gaijin (yes, its name really is GB :D :D ). And that is what most westerners are looking for unless they are on a night out with their friends or boyfriends. It’s a larger bar than most. Another bar close by is Kinsmen which I like a lot. It has a large gay clientele although it is not exclusively so. Arty Farty is also popular and recommended by many. As with all the bars in the ni-chome area, Friday and Saturday are by far the best evenings for meeting friends.

12. Saunas

Tokyo has lots of gay saunas. Like the gay bars, though, only a few welcome foreigners. Arguably the most popular is 24 Kaikan in ni-chome located very close to King of College Host Bar. This attracts all ages from students through to pretty old Japanese. In the video GB posted on the Silom Soi 4 thread, the young commentator suggests it is one of the oldest in Tokyo. He’s wrong! It is one of the most recent! There is etiquette involved in saunas and I can go into that in another post if anyone so desires.

13. Other parts of Tokyo

For a westerner on your own, Shinjuku-ni-chome is really the only place to visit. The second area with the most densely packed cluster of gay bars is Ueno (pronounced Oo (as in loop) – a (as in gray) – no). But Ueno is much more of a blue-collar part of the city and I do not know of any bar that welcomes foreigners there. Certainly I have never been to one. But for sauna lovers the Ueno branch of 24 Kaikan is definitely worth a visit. It is about a 15 minute walk from Ueno station.

There is one more 24 Kaikan near the end of the orange Ginza subway line and quite close to the famous Sensoji Shrine in Asakusa (not to be confused with Akasaka which is in the middle of the city). This was the original 24 and has been showing its age for quite a few years now. It is mostly Japanese who go but you will occasionally see some young Japanese who are interested in hooking up in a sauna with a gaijin.

14. The apps

As everywhere, the apps are taking over and the usual ones are just as popular in Tokyo. Bar owners blame the reducing number of bars in Shinjuku ni-chome (down from at least 400) on the apps. But many Japanese who are interested in foreigners are sometimes concerned about their lack of English. So take a conversation slowly. It will pay dividends. I have met several guys from the apps. No money - not even for transport - was exchanged but I have taken ones I especially liked for dinner.

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#2 Re: Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby Jun » Sun Jul 01, 2018 4:39 pm

Thanks Fountainhall. That's a good introduction for anyone planning a visit.
Also, I highly recommend a visit to Tokyo, although do bear in mind the hotels and the boys cost a lot more than in Thailand.

Beware that Shinjuku station is enormous and it's worth keeping an idea of your bearings, so you know which direction in which to leave the station.

As for the selection of boys in the host bars, I've had not problem at all finding a good selection in places like Tokyo Kids, including Friday & Saturday night. Despite the name, they are all over 18. A visit to the sauna is also highly recommended.

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#3 Re: Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby Gaybutton » Sun Jul 01, 2018 5:56 pm

Excellent post, as always fountainhall. I KNOW you just helped many readers.

I I ever go there, I'll have to try that GB bar . . .

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#4 Re: Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby a447 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:05 pm

What a wonderful post, fountainhall. This covers everything you could possibly want to know about the area.

A minor point - your pronunciation of Gyoen-mae is not quite correct. "Gyo" is pronounced "gyor" and "mae" is pronounced "my" and "e", as in "egg."

But who cares!

Your insight into all things Japanese never ceases to amaze me. Are you sure you weren't Japanese in an earlier life??

This forum is so lucky to have you.

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#5 Re: Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby fountainhall » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:56 pm

Many thanks for the comments, especially a447 whose knowledge of Japan is vastly superior to mine.

Re-reading what I wrote, I may have given the impression that Tokyo might be too much trouble for someone on a stop-over or for making a special trip. Honestly, it's not. Although very spread out, the city itself is fascinating and packed with masses of sights and other things to do. One of my all-time favourite small Art Galleries in the world is located not far from the Kabuki Theatre. Unfortunately the Bridgestone Museum of Art was closed in 2015 for major renovations which will not be complete until some time late next year. It is an absolute gem.

Pop into the basement of any major department store and sample the free offerings available at many of the delicatessen counters. You can probably avoid paying for a meal if you are not too obvious about it!

I'm not sure how many concert halls Tokyo now has but they are all relatively recent, world class and with stunning acoustics. All major pop stars perform here, although you will need to check well ahead if you want tickets. My next visit will hopefully coincide with the sakura season when Shinjuku Gyo-en Park, Ueno Park, Aoyama Cemetery and much of the city will be covered in a sea of blossoms. Travelling around requires a bit of advance preparation, but once you get the hang of the various trains and subway lines, it becomes one of the easiest cities anywhere when it comes to getting from A to B.

With a good map like the one I suggested, Shinjuku Station and its labyrinth of underground shops and passageways become easier to navigate. And if you pop into one of the gay friendly bars, you will be warmly welcomed by everyone.

Hotels are generally more expensive but their cost is related directly to the amount of space in the rooms. Next March I will stay at one I have visited before just off Yasukuni Dori at the entrance to Kabuki-cho and easy walking distance to Shinjuku ni-chome. At $640 total for 6 nights, I get a room with small double bed, a generous bathroom with both shower and bath and a great location. For really small rooms but a location right in ni-chome itself, you can book the City Hotel Lonestar for around $70 per night, a rate which includes breakfast.

As I mentioned in earlier threads, there are also some fascinating one-, two- or three-day trips from Tokyo – and that's after you have done a tour to Mt. Fuji and Hakone.

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#6 Re: Tokyo: Shinjuku Ni-chome

Postby a447 » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:25 pm

Tokyo can be a very intimidating city for first time visitors; it is a huge city that just goes on for miles and miles.

At first glace it appears to be very chaotic, and in a way it is. Tokyo was quickly rebuilt after the war with scant regard given to town planning. As a consequence, roads head off in all directions, most of them without names.

Visitors will find the lack of English signs daunting, but at least the train stations have all the basic info in English so after a day or two you'll find it easy to move around. Luckily, the people are incredibly helpful - if you stand on the street looking at a map you will soon be surrounded by people trying to help you. Don't be surprised if they drop what they are doing and actually take you to your destination. Incredible!

As a young man I never went to Shinjuku ni-chome (chor -may); instead I frequented sex clubs for which a very expensive membership was required. My parents bought me membership of the first club I joined as a 21st birthday gift, handing it over saying "Just be careful." Quite remarkable considering the times, but they were very liberal in their thinking.

Another hook-up place I frequented was a gay cinema in Ueno. I had so much fun there with the university students who were all very excited at seeing a gaijin cock! They were literally fighting over me!

Every Saturday afternoon a young guy would turn up carrying a large box of tissues, a bottle of disinfectant and a large bowl. He was the blow job boy. He would position himself at the very back of the cinema and we would all line up along the wall, waiting our turn. He would first disinfect your cock, blow you until you came in his mouth and then spit the cum into the bowl. Next please!

The cinema was still there three years ago. It might be worth ducking in and taking a look.

There is also a gay cinema full of action in Iidabashi and I had some fun there on my last visit.

Having fun in Tokyo is certainly not as easy or cheap as in Thailand, but it is worth giving it a go, especially now as you have fountainhall's post to guide you.


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