(新宿二丁目, referred to colloquially simply as Ni-chōme) is an area in
the special ward of Shinjuku in
Tokyo, Japan. Ni-chōme is approximately a ten minute
walk from JR 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 Gyoen
Station (M-10) on the Marunouchi Line are within a few minutes walk
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 more gay bars per block than any other 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 gay restaurants and cafes, several 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 monthly in clubs outside the area.
The Ni-chōme gay scene
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.
Mixed venues are few.
At the smaller bars in this area, patrons usually sit at a counter and chat with the bartender. Karaoke is also popular, and pornographic and gay monthly magazines can be read at many establishments as well. Those who visit these small bars are usually regulars; since many bars operate on the bottle-keep system, many customers may have their own bottle at their favourite bar. Loyalty to bars is returned by the bars organizing outings to onsen, picnics, gay sporting events, and so on. Many bars maintain large photo albums of their 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 abilities. Some establishments, in contrast, specifically target foreigners with advertising and information in the English language.
Four bars, GB, Advocates, Dragon and Arty Farty, 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 of that spill out onto its patio and the surrounding street. 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 usually begins near Shibuya Station, walks to Harajuku, and then finishes in Yoyogi Park.
Gay scene in other parts of Tokyo
Tokyo's gay scene
is not limited to Ni-chome. A number of other areas have
conglomerations of gay bars, although none as many as Ni-chōme.
Small gay bars can also be found in various other areas, though
usually only if one is in the know. Such information is to be found
in the Otoko-machi Map ("boy's town map"), a country-wide guide to
Japanese gay establishments.
Gay bars, bookstores (sex shops), and cruising spots can be found in Shibuya, Shimbashi, Ueno, Asakusa, and other areas. Tokyo also has a great number of gay "circles" (sports' teams, cultural groups, religious groups, and so on) and an internationally famous Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.