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Japan Gay Travel

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 innovations like the Shinkansen bullet train that connects distant regions with supercity Tokyo. It quickly 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

Gay 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 apprentices 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. However, 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. You can expect warm welcomes throughout Japan, 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.

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) 

Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements: We’re dedicated to ensuring our tours are safe for everyone, but it is our belief that each traveler has a responsibility to protect themselves and their fellow travellers from COVID-19. As of May 1, 2023, Out Adventures no longer requires guests to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination on most of our tours. If vaccination is a requirement for entry, or on select cruises, this will be communicated at the time a trip is confirmed to depart. Before booking, we recommend that you read our COVID-19 Information Page and our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions to understand what we’re doing to minimize risk, and what will happen if you contract COVID-19 before or during an Out Adventures tour.

Other Vaccinations: Based on the entry requirements for Japan, there are no other vaccinations needed. To determine if you should take preventative measures to reduce the risk of illness, you should consult your doctor or a travel medical clinic, as Out Adventures cannot provide vaccination recommendations.

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

Last updated on Sept 24, 2021. Disclaimer: The information provided was accurate at the time of publishing, but cannot be guaranteed.
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 apprentices 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. However, 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

Gay 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. You can expect warm welcomes throughout Japan, 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.

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) 

Covid-19 Vaccination Requirements: We’re dedicated to ensuring our tours are safe for everyone, but it is our belief that each traveler has a responsibility to protect themselves and their fellow travellers from COVID-19. As of May 1, 2023, Out Adventures no longer requires guests to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination on most of our tours. If vaccination is a requirement for entry, or on select cruises, this will be communicated at the time a trip is confirmed to depart. Before booking, we recommend that you read our COVID-19 Information Page and our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions to understand what we’re doing to minimize risk, and what will happen if you contract COVID-19 before or during an Out Adventures tour.

Other Vaccinations: Based on the entry requirements for Japan, there are no other vaccinations needed. To determine if you should take preventative measures to reduce the risk of illness, you should consult your doctor or a travel medical clinic, as Out Adventures cannot provide vaccination recommendations.

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

Last updated on Sept 24, 2021. Disclaimer: The information provided was accurate at the time of publishing, but cannot be guaranteed.


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Reviews

Some from our travellers

George & Jonathan

The lodgings were fantastic, the food was excellent and we visited so many beautiful sites.

Japan: Kyoto to Tokyo
Rating:

My husband and I went on the Out Adventures – Japan tour for our honeymoon and it was fantastic.  We had never traveled out of the country before, and Robert and his team handled our 1,000 questions with the patience of saints.  Their documentation and organization made the process simple and painless.  Once we arrived, we were blown away.  Japan is a truly a beautiful country.  After we met with our group and our helpful and sweet guide, Joe, we were off on our adventure.   Before we knew it, were eating prawns the size of our forearms in a street market in Osaka, finding our inner peace in a Zen garden in Kyoto, watching the sun rise over the mountains in a traditional Japanese onsen, to bar hoping in Tokyo.  It was a marvelous trip.  The lodgings were fantastic, the food was excellent and we visited so many beautiful sites that our phones ran out of room for photos.   We cannot recommend this trip enough!

ACCOMMODATIONS:
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MEALS:
GUIDE:
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Dave D & Steve L

Fully met our expectations. A wonderful experience!

Japan: Kyoto to Tokyo
Rating:

The Japan trip was well-curated. It provided a great overview of the country; we saw so much! The hotels that were selected were outstanding. They all felt very special and were top-of-the-line. We had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this tour to any first-time visitor to Japan. We felt we experienced all the essential highlights and much more!

ACCOMMODATIONS:
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MEALS:
GUIDE:
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