Hey all you good good people. I posted here about 2 months ago asking for advices on how to plan a short trip to Tokyo with a heavy focus on exploring the city's gay (sex) life. I actually booked a trip from Hong Kong to San Francisco that gave me a 20 hrs layover in Tokyo both ways. I did spend just the night in Tokyo for my first leg, but since it was so enjoyable I decided to book a cheap one way ticket from Tokyo to Hong Kong on the way back so I could spend a few more days there. The second leg exceeded all my expectations. Here are what I have found about gay Tokyo and I hope this sharing will be useful to you in the near future. The Basics
So first, on where to stay. My recommendation is definitely Shinjuku. It is easy to go to from either Narita or Haneda Airport. I landed at Haneda on my first layover at around 5pm, and since I have already filled in all my COVID vaccaintion information and uploaded all documents online, plus also filling in all the immigration and customs forms online using Visit Japan Web
, it took me no time to clear all procedures and left the airport. I immediately got an e-money card called Suica (there's at least another one, but I don't remember the name now) which you can use on almost all public transportation plus paying for shopping and vending machines. You can buy them easily from any subway/train ticket vending machine and there are instructions in English.
I booked a capsule hotel in the Kabukicho district
for my first layover, which is just a 10 min walk from the huge Shinjuku station. ONE BIG TIP - Google Map is your friend. Even as a novice traveler it took me less than 2 hrs to get to the hotel after landing at Haneda Airport with guides provided by Google. Seriously! The hotel is in Kabukicho, the red light district of Tokyo, which is amazing to just walk around at night. You will see host bars' billboards that are 2, 3 story high featuring their star hosts - both beautiful girls and boys (for women, not gays in Kabukicho). At the time of booking the capsule was just around USD30 per night, and since ¥ has gone back up against all major currencies it's probably 10-20% more expensive now.
The cons of staying in a capsule hotel are very obvious, and if you do intend to try it out please make sure you have earplugs and eye masks. I didn't return to the hotel til 2am and the party was still going on around us - I could still hear the thumb-thumb-thumb of bass from the bars/clubs above and below us. As for pros, other than cost and location, the biggest one for me is their bath house - it's big and has hot and cold pools, jacuzzi and a dry sauna, PLUS a lot of eye candies. If I am to book again I would probably book another one NOT in Kabukicho. The front desk also spoke fluent English.
On my second "layover" after spending a month back in San Francisco, I ended up staying for 3 nights in a cheap business hotel
for less than USD60, which I highly recommend. However, some Tokyo hotels have strict rule about bringing in guests back if you have only booked a single room. I didn't attempt to bring anyone back during my stay but be sure the hotel you book has easy access to sneak in guests. If you're not as budget conscious as me there are plenty of quality hotels in Shinjuku and other areas.
Another question that many have asked, I did too myself before the trip, is whether one can stay in any one of the three 24 Kaikan saunas instead of renting a hotel room. The answer is - very likely yes, if you're the kind of tourist that see it as an option. As you'll read below that all three 24 Kaikan saunas have private rooms for rent. While I didn't stay in any of the rooms I did manage to take a peep into one in Shinjuku - it's small but decent. If you look up their website you'll see that the rooms cost from ¥5,500 to ¥21,500
, the priciest ones being double rooms. Consider just a regular overnight pass costs as much as ¥3,000, it's not much more to just get a room for a proper rest.
I did want to ask the receptionist about advance booking, which is important for tourists wanting to plan ahead, but the one I spoke to barely understood what I was saying. I did manage to speak to a British expat when I left the sauna as he was coming in - he paid for a room. He told me he's never encountered a situation in which a room wasn't avaible. But even if none is available one can still sleep on in a bunk bed or on a tatami in the common areas (I will talk about them below). You may not get a good rest but at least you won't be left without a place to stay for the night. Again, earplugs and eye masks are essential. Tokyo Gay Life
Before I go into the stories of my own sexcapade, here is the basic of Tokyo gay (sex) life: as far as tourists are concern these are the main categories of gathering places and how to explore them for a good time:
- Clubs/Bars - There are literally hundreds of them in the gay Ni-Chome district, which is just a short walk from Shinjuku Station and Kabukicho. The bars tend to be small, and if you don't speak Japanese or no one speaks Japanese goes with you, they will be a bore. The few ones that have large foreign clientele and English speaking staff include GB TOKYO, Engle, Engle Blue, etc. If your goal is to meet guys in bars, it probably not gonna work very well. Unless they have "cruising areas" inside them - many bars have them, including glory holes, dark rooms, etc, catering for different types of patrons and their fetishes.
They can get very wild too. A friend told me once he visited an upstair bar called Tor (knife in Japanese, which is still running) with a Japanese friend, and upon entry he saw a guy in leather gears being fisted on a sling right in the open. So some adventures can be had in bars if you know your way around. Some bars also have performances - from strippers to drag queens. Do some researches before you go and see what's on. Twitter is very popular Japan, so use it to look for information on events, parties, etc. This applies to bars and "cruise clubs" (see below). Finally, there was a big wave party scene in Tokyo before COVID, but I am not entirely sure if it's restarted. If clubbing is your thing you might be disappointed as of winter 2022.
- "Cruise" Clubs - They are literally small venues for people to f**k their brains out and nothing else. There are some in the Ni-Chome district but some of the most interesting ones are outside of Shinjuku. What you need to know - as a tourist - is that most of them do not cater to foreigners. It may be easier for gayasian tourists, but my take is that the more you look like you know what you're doing, the less likely you will be refused entry. They are also very specific about which types/age groups they are mainly catering for, and sometimes they also have "theme nights" catering for even more specific types/age groups and fetishes. So you need to make sure you don't end up going to one that, bluntly speaking, you don't belong to. Do your research first, and here's a list that I found useful
, and here's another one that also includes saunas
. Go to their websites and make sure you don't end up in the right place but at the wrong time.
Japanese IMO are very obsessed with people's ages, to the point that the receptionists at those cruise clubs might require patrons to show proof of age. So bring your passport or some photo IDs. The ones that I did go provide lube but no condoms, so bring them yourself. The few Japanese guys I encountered all have their own "naughty bags" - small waist/fanny packs where they keep all the things they need for a good time, which is a great idea that we'd all adopt. While the cruise clubs do have shower rooms, they don't have separate douche stations. In one that I went some folks clearly have used the shower room to douche, which as you can imagine is functional but not very hygenic. So if you're bottom clean yourself first. I will go into the proper etiquette of being a customer and how to interact with the locals while sharing my own experiences later.
I was told that cruise clubs are usually busy between mid-afternoon to around 8pm. They usually close around midnight, sometimes overnight for the weekend and public holidays. The first one
I guess I was late to the party - it was around 9pm on a Friday and only 3, 4 people were there. The second one I went is a very popular one in the Nakano District
. It was mid-week around 7pm, and again, wasn't very busy, with on and off around 10 people that evening. In any case both places are small; around 20 or so patrons will max out the place.
- Saunas - the mother of all gay saunas in Tokyo is the 24 Kaikan group, which has 3 locations - Ni-chome in Shinjuku, Ueno and Asakusa. You're unlikely to visit the one in Asakusa; it's a bit out of the way and I am told that it's mainly catering for age 60+ (and their admirers). The one is Shinjuku is right inside the heart of Ni-Chome, and it's the busiest one that welcomes everyone. The one in Ueno is for the more mature musclemen (or what they'd call G-Men type), bears and chubs.
24 Kaikan is special because all the locations also function as proper bath houses and hotels. They occupy whole buildings of up to 10 floors. The reception is usually on 2/F (above a carpark); above it the locker room plus a TV room/resting area; 4/F Japanese-style bathing area that includes jacuzzi, dry sauna, steam room, etc; 5-6/F are open cruising areas petitioned into interconnected rooms of tatami mats and bunk beds where all the actions happen; 7-9/F are private rooms for rent for additional fees; and the one in Ueno actually has a large gym on the top floor. I read that during summer months the roof top is also open for sunbathing.
I have already talked about fees, etc above. As for the best time to go, I can only tell by my own experiences. The one in Shinjuku is the busiest and since Japan has now completely open for tourism, you will likely find at least 1/3 of its patrons are not Japanese. I went one Friday evening after 10pm and it wasn't very busy. But more people came after midnight as public transportation began to shut down. Places like 24 Kaikan and capsule hotels are popular with folks who live far from city center who somehow get trapped in areas like Shinjuku after a night of fun drinking with friends, etc. I spent two more mid-week evenings in Ueno's 24 Kaikan - both were quiet. Can't say what they're like on weekends, but it's reasonable to assume they're a lot busier.
- Sex Services - Host Bars/Escorts/Massages - I read and than checked that an encounter with a quality massueescort could be had for only around USD150 (around ¥20,000). Now if I have to be honest the only reason why I didn't try to set something up this time is language. I did visit a host bar many years ago when I visited Tokyo for the first time, and I was taken there by a French expat who spoke fluent Japanese. A host bar is where you pick a host to chat and drink with, but the end game is to "out" the host either for a "session" or for the night either in your own place or a room arranged by the bar.
While I didn't try to look for a host bar this time because, first, language, second, it can be really expensive, I did do some researches on escort/massage agents like this one
. In most other developed countries escorts and massuers usually work for themselves and advertise their services on websites like rentmen, but in Japan they are usually recruited and managed by agents. You can use the room provided by them or the selected escort can travel to you. I have read that they are more open to foreign tourists now, but if you text or write them in English it usually takes a long time for them to reply. I don't have any experiences with the agents/escorts except that one visit to a host bar mentioned above. But with ¥ at its historical low I can't stay I wasn't tempted after checking out the quality of those muscled Japanese studs on the menu. If you have experiences hiring an escort through an agent please share.
- APPs - in case you don't already know the go-to APP for online cruising in Japan is 9monster. It has a built-in translation function, which makes chatting a bit easier with the locals. However, language will always be the biggest barrier to meet Japanese guys in person. My experiences tell me that even when they sound really interested while chatting online, it's often difficult to set up dates because other than language barrier, Tokyo is a big city and people usually spend a lot of time/money traveling between home and work. Unless you're lucky enough to find someone just happen to be free and around your hotel plus don't worry about traveling back home after a date, APPs probably not gonna help you a lot in scoring. Interestingly, if you're gayasian, being a new face will likely get you a lot of attention from expats and foreigners happen to be in Japan. Mind wouldn't stop beeping me, especially Scruff and GROWLr, and most were from (white) foreigners living in Tokyo.
So these are the basics I have gathered from this trip. I will go into more details about my own experiences so you get a better idea on how etiquette - which is the most important thing IMO to have a great sexy time in gay Tokyo.