Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Is Shinjuku's 'gay town' threatened with extinction?

37 Comments

"Are gays vanishing from Shinjuku 2-chome!?" exclaims the headline in Spa (Apr 21).

Straight people unfamiliar with Tokyo night life might even be surprised to learn that Asia's "largest gay town" -- an area with an estimated 300 to 400 businesses -- even exists, let alone is in decline.

"Up until five to six years ago, about 80% of our patrons were gay," says Yu, the 34-year-old male "mama" of bar "K," a gay hangout that's been in operation for 13 years. "Now it's around 60%. In the past, a lot of bars refused to admit straight females, but those types of 'hard' shops have become fewer. The shops can't depend on business solely from gays any more."

According to Yu, the absence of younger people from the area has been particularly conspicuous. For some reason they no longer gravitate to this "sanctuary," as they once did.

"I go to 2-chome, but only for special events or parties," a 26-year-old Tokyo-based designer tells the magazine. "I've almost never hung out at a gay bar." The patrons, he complains, tend to be exclusive to outsiders and territorial.

"A lot of my friends say they never walk around there, because they might be mistaken for a male prostitute or get solicited by some chubby old guy, which is a real turnoff," he adds.

The district's decline has already been observed some time ago by those familiar with Shinjuku. Earlier this year, author Susumu Ryu published a 276-page manga titled, in English, "Vanishing Shinjuku 2-chome -- who severed the jugular of a flower garden of heretical culture?"

"When you think of 'gays," you get the image of those flamboyant types who mince around on TV variety shows," Ryu observes. "In other words, they're viewed as male herbivores. A lot of gays get depressed just thinking about going into a gay bar in 2-chome and striking up a conversation and making friends with someone they don't know."

It appears that what is happening in 2-chome is only part of the economic zeitgeist.

"Young Japanese don't go out drinking much these days," Ryu notes. "More of them either belong to the underpaid 'working poor' or have been laid off, and even though 2-chome tends to be inexpensive, you still pay more than 1,000 yen just to sit down and buy one drink. That's a lot for someone who's broke. They aren't going there because they can't afford it."

"With the opening of a new subway station on the Fukutoshin Line," 2-chome is no longer isolated," says Bungaku Ito, 77-year-old editor of Barazoku magazine. "New buildings are sprouting up and rents are soaring. So some of the old established shops are migrating to Ueno, Shimbashi, Asakusa and other, less-expensive areas. At these places, gay patrons age 50 and over begin their imbibing from 3 p.m.

"They're old now, and they don't have the stamina to be night owls any more," remarks Ito.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
Login to comment

Just go to Hibiya park any night of the week. A real eye opener.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let's hope so!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well of course the biggest thing is you no longer have to hang out in bars to meet guys, thanks to the Internet, and once you've met a guy, hanging out in bars is no longer the only option for weekend entertainment.

Progress, of a sort.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have lots of gay friends, but never ever went there with them. They are good people and have lots of other places to go to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

unfortunately too many gays on the net, kind of scary...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I mean there are no real men anymore...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's a shame that 2-chome is in decline, but I think it's a sign of the times; not just for gays, but across the board. I'm straight and in my 20's, but I would NEVER go to a nightclub or bar to find companionship these days. The odds of meeting a creep, drunkard, or crook are too high, not to mention the expense of cover charges and drinks. You're better off hanging out at a coffee shop or bookstore and trying to find someone who seems to have a brain in their head and who looks at the world through clear eyes, not the bottom of a bottle. Of course, it's only a matter of time before THOSE venues begin to decline, too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

completely true, LoveUSA, people are not afraid of discovering themselves bisexuals, or bi-affectives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Young Japanese don't go out and drink much these days" really? That's not what I've ever experienced. I want to check this area out, I've never been to a gay bar in Japan. Any places with cabaret or drag shows or just boring gay versions of the hostess bar?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

extinction happens to dinosaurs and volcanoes. 2-chome is just being gentrified. the dinosaurs are still erupting

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So, Tokyo has Asia’s “largest gay town“?

Just another reason not to visit that city.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I guess it's not the next big thing anymore. oh well lets see the new fad. hey maybe disco makes a come back. oh wait thats how the gay fad started. oh never mind then.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

(Not) good to see all the homophobes out in force. Also love the references to "real men."

When I growing up, there were no gays. If there were, the real men would have been right onto them (lo).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too bad for gays in this horrible economy. Even single gays, wiht no kids nor wife can't afford to go out and drink?? I am not gay and happily married and I find drinking out at izakayas etc..borning, I prefer my family, my kids, my son pouring me my beer too fast, he will learn sooner or later, he is only 5, how to pour daddy a beer. 2 chome ganbattene!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am straight, but I used to go to the area when I was younger. Was always lots of fun; friendly people, some bizarre entertainment, never got hassled in any way for not being gay, and even managed to pick up beautiful girls there, believe it or not. (The reason for that is that hostesses from neighbouring Kabukicho used to pop in some gay bars after work to relax.) I think the scene must be very different in similar places in the West, which I don´t have any experience with. Sorry to hear that it is disappearing, it was a fascinating scene.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have nothing against gays but I am disappointed with all the gay people or bi-people I have known without exception. They are hypocritical and have two faces, maybe it comes from their sexual confusion. sorry if that sounds as generalization but this is my experience with these people. I find them dishonest so I do not want them in my circle. Before I was more liberal and could accept them but not anymore (after too much bad experiences). Sorry for my opinion which may sound very disrespectful and seggregational but that is how I feel. I have never met even one good person of that type.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"you still pay more than 1,000 yen just to sit down and order one drink"

Not me.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gender is a social construction... not biological fact. There are five biological genders amoing humans. There is no such thing as male and female hormones. Most gay people I talked to were not really gay, but fell into one of the lesser known catagories. We all start out as female in the womb. Becoming a male is very difficult and there are many differen't steps and stages. However, elbudamexicano's comment about the economy makes sense. There are more benefits for straight couples.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

LoveUSA

maybe it comes from their sexual confusion

We're no more confused than you straight folk. It is only society that confuses us. (I'll admit to not being able to speak for those who identify as bisexual).

airrunwesker

Most gay people I talked to were not really gay, but fell into one of the lesser known catagories.

And what, exactly, are these "lesser known" categories??

The fact is, while Japan remains 30 years or so behind many other countries in terms of social and legal acceptance of homosexuality, places like 2-chome are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain any relevancy in our lives. The overall drop in drinking among younger people is certainly a factor, economics have something to do with it, as does the Internet, but these places still have a role to play as somewhere gay men and women who still find themselves stuck in the closet (and those who are not) can be themselves, among themselves, without fear of harassment or ridicule.

What you see on TV here is a fad. Our lives are not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

as long as a human being has human characteristics as kindness, compassion, humanity, then I do not care how that being identifies himself or herself - straight, gay, or whatever. However, there is too much cruelty in many people. that is the last I will write here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

gays can't have kids, unless they adopt them.

Moderator: All readers back on topic please. The subject is Shinjuku's "gay town."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

LoveUSA--then by your own admission, in your experience ("I am disappointed with all the gay people or bi-people I have known, without exception.") the entire GLBT community is missing these "human characteristics."

I submit that your experience must have been woefully limited.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hopefully, the same thing will happen to the homersexuals, too.

is this forum being moderated by a homophobe? shouldn't something be done about these types of comments?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Texasaggie,

So, Tokyo has Asia’s “largest gay town“? Just another reason not to visit that city.

So... you've decided not to visit Tokyo... because there are gay people there?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sk4ek... no offense intended. I was trying to point out that this was a more complex subject that society does not wish to explore.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like anywhere else why doesn't 2 Chome just reinvent itself? In the current times 1,000 yen just to walk in the door is not going to get droves of people. They want value for their money and a reason to go somewhere that has a decent atmosphere. It doesn't matter whether it is gay or straight, at the end of the day the business owners need to figure out how to make their business improve or they will be another statistic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lot of ignorance on here, to the guy dissing Disco, mairishnairb, without Disco they'd be no Hip-Hop and that is a historical fact my friend, Hip-Hop grew from the roots of Disco and the majority of the original jams played by the pioneers of Hip-Hop were Disco records..

Anyway I digress as Disco loving hetro might do..

Shinjuku 2-chome's decline could actually be viewed as a positive thing, perhaps the Gay community don't feel the need to put themselves in a ghetto in 2009. And fair play to them I say..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ANOTHER article about the demise of another gay neighbourhood? Actually, I suppose a “gay district’ is no different than any reduction in volume in any other business in Tokyo! I wonder if the article is based on fact or wishful thinking? Lived in San Francisco many years and there was constant debate about the gentrification and shrinking of the famous Castro neighbourhood. The same could be said about West Hollywood in L.A., Chelsea in NYC and “Boystown” in Bangkok. The article seems to imply gay people are retreating and going underground. I think this is far from true. There is so much more visibility than 25 years ago when I first started to deal with my feelings of coming out. (Much to the dismay of the growing vocal homophobes around!) The Internet has been a positive and negative force in the growth of Nichome. I’m sure many gays/lesbians don’t feel the need to go to a smoky bar in Nichome when they can meet on line. However, the internet has also provided a tremendous amount of information regarding the gayest neighbourhood in Tokyo with bar locations and specific type of bar. The author quoted 4 sources for this information, but every time (once every other month) I visit Japan, I find the area pleasantly bustling with lots of activity. I often said to myself: “hmmmm no recession here”. Fortunately for me, NOT all 20ish designers feel they will get hit on by some “chubby old gay”. Can’t wait to verify what I’ve said above in mid-May when I return again to Shinjuku Nichome! Only wish I still lived in Tokyo to monitor all of” this decline” much better! :-()

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From what Ive heard from gay friends, they dont go there anymore because it is deadly dull and boring.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I disagree. Young people will spend what little money they have on fun and booze. I dont think the money is a factor at all. Its more likely expanding social networks online. Gay people no longer need to go to gay bars and clubs to meet other gay people, they can meet people online. Only a small minority of gay people go to such areas - for various reasons. There's FAR MORE people registered online than you'll ever find in 2 chome, so what ever you're looking for, you're more likely to find it online -be it a relationship, or something more casual. It also feels like as much as 30-40% of the people at the gay club in 2 come are white/foreigners over the age of 30. No doubt this turns away the Japanese crowd that aren't interested in foreigners. A larger club with more scope would overcome this. In a city the size of Tokyo you'd think they'd have more than one actual club. The little bars don't attract anyone but an exclusive few, and most are invisible from the street. But, the main problem for 2 chome is the internet. They'll have to think of some tricks to combat it, or at least reduce the impact. Good luck 2 chome! Would be a shame to see it disappear or shrink much more, makes for a fun night out with friends!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gays、gay bars, Shinjuku's gay town, ban the lot. It's an outrage to moral people. What if a normal person went to one of the gay bar places and didn'T realise it weren't for normal people. They would be well offended. Close down the whole bleeding area i say, even better tear down all the gay bars, it only encourages them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We can start tearing down all the gay bars right after the morally correct ones tear down the hostess clubs, porno shops, "massage rooms", Kabukicho, and all the obscene manga featuring what looks like younger individuals.

Your moral high ground isn't as clean and righteous as you think.

The gay clubs and areas give a relatively safe area for some individuals to feel like themselves and not have to worry what others may think or do. It would be a shame if the area entirely disappears.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nothing special to do or see anymore. Like lots of Tokyo's nightlife areas. also way overpriced.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would agree that there are probably many factors that are causing the decline of 2-chome, and unnacceptance of homosexuality isnt one of them I bet. It is a proven fact that in economic decline alcohol consumption increases, but not usually at bars. When I went to Japan at new years a fifth of Absolute was about 1000 yen. Who would want to spend 700 yen on a bottle of beer plus door charge (if there is one), when you can get a whole fifth that would last someone a few days at the same price?

I would like to see these 2-chome "statistics" versus any other "young people hotspots" in the greater Tokyo area. They are probably all doing equally bad. Just focusing on 2-chome only points out that social stigma of homosexuality 'could' be the issue, than the actually overbearing problem of no one having money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For all the hypocrites who are saying that homosexuality is wrong need to take a good look at themselves.

Are homosexual people hurting anyone by being homosexual? No, they arent.

So what makes homosexuality bad morals? Because some guy in a white robe told you? Because some book that has been translated hundreds of times told you? When you can find an actual argument where someone being homosexual threatens YOU in some way then we can talk about how to deal with it. But I have yet to see a case, and probably never will.

Here is a moral lesson you "bad moral" spouting people never seem to remember, "You if dont have anything nice to say, dont say it at all."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites