Shinjuku ni-chōme (新宿二丁目, referred to colloquially simply as Ni-chōme or even Nicho) is area 2 in the special ward of Shinjuku in Tokyo, Japan. Ni-chōme is approximately a ten minute walk from Shinjuku Station along either Shinjuku or Yasukuni Avenues. Shinjuku-san-chōme Station (M-09 or S-02) on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line or Toei Shinjuku Line, or Shinjuku Gyoenmae Station (M-10) on the Marunouchi Line are within a few minutes walk of Ni-chōme. Ni-chōme is best known as the centre of Tokyo's gay scene.
Estimates of the number of gay pubs, clubs and bars in this area alone range between 200-300. In fact, it is frequently said that Ni-chōme has the highest concentration of gay bars per block of any place in the world. Nevertheless, the gaybourhood ("gay town," in Japanese) covers only a small area of a few square blocks centred around Nakadai Street.
Besides the bars, the area is also home to restaurants and cafes, shops, saunas, hotels, 'host bars' (bars where patrons can meet hustlers), cruising spots, massage parlours and brothels of varying sizes and legality. Establishments vary in size, but many are limited to ten or fewer seats. There are no gay clubs in Ni-chōme that can hold more than one hundred customers. Large gay events that attract several hundred, or several thousand people, are held at different times throughout the year outside the area.
The Ni-chōme gay sceneEdit
Bars tend to be segregated by "scene" -- for example, there are bars that cater to the bear community and their admirers, or that "specialize" in S&M, muscular men, young men, and so on -- and usually by gender as well. Many of the gay bars in Ni-chōme do not permit female customers. The few lesbian bars that can be found do not permit male customers. There are not many bars aimed at both lesbian and gay customers.
At most bars in this area, patrons usually sit at a counter and chat with the bartender. Karaoke is also popular, and gay monthly and pornographic magazines can be read at many establishments as well. Those who visit these small bars are usually regulars; since most bars have a bottle-keep system, many customers may have their own bottle at their favourite bar or bars. Loyalty to bars is returned by the bars organizing outings to onsen, hanami parties, picnics, gay sporting events, and so on. Many bars maintain large photo albums of customers, for customers, often taken at such events.
While most bar owners ("Mamas" or "Masters") are accommodating to new customers and to non-Japanese, the scene is largely geared towards regular, Japanese-speaking customers, and some venues discourage or prohibit non-Japanese from entering, regardless of their Japanese language ability. A handful of establishments, in contrast, specifically target foreigners with advertising and information in English. Five bars, Advocates, Arty Farty, Dragon, GB, and Rehab are particularly popular amongst foreign men, as well as the Japanese men who are attracted to them. Advocates in particular, though a very small bar, is known for the large crowds, both Japanese and non-Japanese, that spill out onto the sidewalk and surrounding street on weekends. These bars do not offer bottle-keep service.
Cruising does occur at some small bars and at the larger clubs, though more often takes place at cruising spots called hattenba.
Ni-chōme is also the site of some of the festivities related to Tokyo's gay pride parade and various other gay festivals and activities. Tokyo's on again off again gay parade, Tokyo Pride, usually begins near Shibuya Station, walks to Harajuku, along Meiji Avenue and Omotesando before finishing in Yoyogi Park.
The gay scene outside Ni-chōmeEdit
Tokyo's gay scene is not limited to Ni-chome. A number of other areas, such as in Shibuya, Shimbashi, Ueno, and Asakusa have conglomerations of gay bars, although none as many as Ni-chōme. Information about these bars, bookstores/sex shops, and cruising spots can be found in the Otoko-machi Map ("boy's town map"), a country-wide guide to Japanese gay establishments, or in the monthly Japanese gay magazines, such as G-men and Badi.
Tokyo also has a great number of gay "circles" (sports' teams, cultural groups, religious groups, and so on) and an internationally known Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
- Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
- UTOPIA listing of gay bars, clubs, and other establishments in Japan (en)