It’s no secret that Japan is far behind other developed countries when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
While some local governments issue same-sex union certificates, gay marriage still isn’t recognized by the Japanese government, and the Supreme Court recently ruled that transgendered people must be sterilized before they can legally change their gender.
And yet, the LGBTQ community here is stronger now than ever before. On Valentine’s Day, 13 gay and lesbian couples sued the Japanese government on the grounds that it is a violation of their rights that same-sex marriage isn’t recognized.
Even more promising is that more than 70 per cent of people in their 20s in Japan approve of legal same-sex marriage according to the National Institute of Social Security and Population Studies.
Top 3 LGBTQ-friendly places to visit in Japan
Between these socio-political strides, several upcoming international sporting events, and Japan generally being an awesome travel destination, now is the best time to travel to and explore around the country.
To help you add some LGBTQ flair to your next Japan trip, we’ve put together a list of the best gay neighborhoods in the country and what to do there.
Explore the biggest gay district and events in Tokyo
Home to two international airports and the largest city in the world, no trip to Japan is complete without spending some time in Tokyo. The capital city boasts the largest gay district in Japan, named “Shinjuku Ni-chome” or simply “Ni-chome,” about a 10-minute walk east from Shinjuku Station.
With over a hundred bars and clubs in Ni-chome for gay, lesbian, transgender, and ally clientele, it’s the perfect gay getaway. The lesbian bars Goldfinger and Rainbow Burrito and gay clubs Dragon Men and Arty Farty are particularly welcoming to English-speaking international visitors.
Tokyo is also where you’ll find the yearly LGBTQ+ film festival, Pride Parade, and Rainbow Festival events, where thousands visit to celebrate gay culture and support the community.
Go bar crawling in Osaka’s LGBTQ+ district, Doyama-cho
While Tokyo has the largest gay district in Japan, Osaka has made great strides in LGBT rights as the first city in Japan to allow same-sex couples to adopt children together.
Osaka is a quick 30-minute train ride from Kyoto, the capital of traditional Japan, and is also where many of Japan’s comedians come from. Making a trip out to Kansai for the culture and Osaka’s gay district is absolutely worth it.
Of the many excellent gay bars in Doyama-cho, two “must-visit” ones are lesbian bar WaaGwaan and gay bar Frenz Frenzy.
WaaGwaan is the queen of lesbian bars with an incredible vegan menu, and Frenz Frenzy the king of gay bars with a history of several celebrities – including Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert – singing karaoke at their establishment.
Osaka is also the home base for Kansai Rainbow Festa, which includes a parade and boasts almost 5,000 visitors annually. It takes places in the gorgeous Ogimachi Park in October.
Head up north to see the snow and Sapporo’s Susukino
Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s northernmost prefecture and island, Hokkaido. It’s famous for hosting the annual Snow Festival that gathers crowds from all around the world, and also for its illustrious gay scene.
Sapporo made national headlines in 2017 as the first major city in Japan to recognize same-sex couples and issue partnership certificates.
With several gay bars centrally located in the Susukino neighborhood, it’s easy to stop by after a skiing vacation or a visit to Nikka Whiskey’s world-famous “The Nikka Bar” near Sapporo Station.
While you’re there, don’t forget to drop by the lesbian bar Orb and gay bar Fiat for a drink – or several.
Although LGBT rights in Japan still have a long way to go, the community has never been stronger in taking a stand for their rights.
It’s an exciting time for queer people and their allies, so If you have a chance to visit any of these areas in Japan, we encourage you to stop by the nearest gay district and celebrate!
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