If you’re looking for the best gay bars in Shinjuku (Tokyo), you need to go to Ni-Chome. This is the gayest part of Tokyo, the writer of this article has been going there almost every week (more than once a week) for the last four years. So you can trust that this list is actually accurate and up to date. This article will talk about just one thing — the best gay bars in Shinjuku 2-Chome.
What Is Shinjuku Ni-Chome?
Shinjuku’s gay neighborhood is called Ni-Chome (also written as ni-chöme or 2-chome and is pronounced NEE-CHOH-MAY). It’s the the gayest place in Tokyo. In fact, you could argue it’s the gayest place in all of Japan, not just Tokyo. There just aren’t any other places in Japan with as many LGBTQIA+ bars.
2-Chome is famous for having around 200 gay bars all in this one relatively small area. Keep in mind though, many of those bars are very small. Some (many?) of them are not foreigner friendly either. But don’t worry! Some of the are.
The Best Gay Bars in Shinjuku 2-Chome
This is a list of the writer’s favorite bars in 2-Chome, based on how foreigner friendly they are, the atmosphere, the drinks (drink prices, too) and more. Hopefully it helps you decide where to go!
1. AiiRO Cafe
Any gay person (or anyone else! no discrimination here) who goes out on the weekend knows WHERE to find me people around 6pm (even a weekday) in Ni-Chome — AiiRO Cafe! This place is a personal favorite for many regulars, and there is a steady base of regulars. But why is it so great?
First of all, the staff are really friendly — including the manager. Also, the staff are very diverse — racially, nationally, gender-ly(?), orientation-ly(?). A couple of those words are made up, but you get it.
And not only are the staff diverse, the clientele is, too — in all of the same ways as the staff. You can speak English or Japanese, and usually there are people from other countries speaking other languages, too! Tourists and expats both come to this bar — along with Japanese natives.
More About AiiRO
This is also a “mixed” bar by Japanese definition. What this means is that the customers are not just limited to gay men (as “gay” bar would imply). So you can bring anyone on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — yes, even the straight allies (the “A” in the LGBTQIA, right? Not 100% sure).
Also, the drinks! They serve pretty much anything anyone likes to drink, but they also have their own signature cocktails. Currently they’re serving these delicious frozen cocktails in flavors like mango and passion fruit. Yummy and perfect for this ridiculously hot summer.
PLUS, for prices, you really can’t beat them if you go with the famous beer blast (from 6pm-9pm EVERY day). You get all you can drink beer for ¥1,000 (that’s less than $8.00 US right now). I don’t even know a straight bar with a deal this good. It could actually be the cheapest place do drink in ALL of Tokyo if you go with the nomihodai (all you can drink beer) “beer blast.”
And Just a Bit More Info…
The atmosphere is part outdoors and part indoors, so you can pick which you prefer. It’s not huge, but it’s always festive and fun. They have live DJs playing at night a lot, and occasionally there are drag shows. The music really varies depending on the night you go. It also gets pretty busy almost every day of the week (it helps that tourists are returning to Japan again). However, Saturday is usually the busiest (best) night to go if you want a big crowd.
Annnddd that’s the pitch for AiiRO Cafe. This list’s number one best gay bar in Shinjuku (and the best one in Tokyo and basically all of Japan, too). Note: You can smoke inside and outside here.
2. Arty Farty
Despite the terrible name . . . whatever it means . . . Arty Farty is still one of the best gay bars in Tokyo. After having a few drinks at AiiRO Cafe, this is a great bar to stop at next — BUT read this first before you go.
First of all, you need to go on the right night. Most of the time that would be Fridays or Saturdays (honestly Saturdays are the best). It is packed full of mostly guys (and a few girls/other genders).
The crowd tends to be a lot younger than many clubs in 2-Chome, too. Also, a much more Japanese clientele. However, foreigners go, too, so it’s definitely foreigner friendly!
Arty Farty’s drinks are good — average price you could say — around ¥1,000 (about $8 US as of this posting). A very full bar with most anything you could want.
Oh, and this place is also HUGE! It’s possibly the biggest bar in 2-Chome, actually. And if you like dancing (with a live DJ), this is probably the best place to do it.
With a really fun dance club-type atmosphere, playing mostly pop hits (including K-Pop, J-Pop, US Pop and more — but mostly American pop), this bar is highly recommended. Note: You can smoke anywhere you like at this club.
3. Dragon Men
When you’ve already been to the previous two bars (or maybe they just didn’t seem like your thing) the next best spot to hit up is probably Dragon Men. This place is popular with Japanese people and foreigners — young and old (although leaning a bit on the younger side).
It was remodeled a couple of years ago after a fire (a dramatic story that deserves it’s own write-up — unfortunately nothing on the internet about it in English or Japanese). Anyway, since the remodel it looks really good inside. Sort of a blue light atmosphere with a dance floor and (sometimes) a DJ. The music they play is normally pop hits (US).
This one is best on Friday or Saturday, as well — if you want a crowd. Other nights could get busy, but it’s hit or miss. Just swing by and take a peek — you can sometimes see through the window to see if it’s busy.
There is a cover here on Saturday (and maybe Friday, too), but it includes a free drink (sometimes two). So, don’t feel too overcharged for the cover. It’s between ¥1000-¥2000 for men — women cost more. Why? Japan. Speaking of women, yes they are welcome, but there are a lot more men at Dragon. Maybe that’s because of the higher charge they have to pay?
Anyway, this place can be really great, so you should check it out! Note: Smoking is no longer allowed indoors, as they closed the smoking room.
4. King Tokyo
Better known as just “King,” this bar is one of the newest on this list. It opened one or two years ago. What’s great about it is the atmosphere and the mixed crowd (leaning younger).
To start with, King is modern. It has nice, wood board flooring in the front (outside) and a well-designed, modern feel inside. There is a dance floor and DJ booth, too.
The drinks are about average price and taste fine, although they can be a bit too if we’re being honest. If you like beer on tap, this is not the place to get it. It’s too expensive for the small glass they serve it in (¥800 — or around $6.50 US at the time of this posting).
There are a lot of male, female and other gendered customers at this place. Both men and women work behind the bar, too. Mostly men though — and definitely younger then the other bars mentioned on this list so far. There are people of various nationalities, too (staff and customers) — not only Japanese.
Most people like this place, so you should stop by and see if it’s your vibe. Note: Smoking is allowed in front of the bar on the wooden patio only.
5. Eagle Tokyo Blue
Okay, not to be confused with Eagle Tokyo (also owned by the same company and located in 2-Chome) this is the underground bar nearby. Eagle Tokyo Blue (usually just called “Eagle Blue”) was opened a few years back, and you’ll recognize it by it’s blue neon lights on the street level. You can see the stairs going down to the basement from the front (through the windows), too.
This bar is definitely catering to a bear audience (as is Eagle). If that’s your kind of scene, you should definitely check it out. Women are seen here, too, but definitely not as much as the men. Customers range in age from young to old, and the staff is about the same. The staff are mostly Japanese, but the customers are a mix of both Japanese and foreigners.
The atmosphere is cool — half the room is dimly lit, with karoake, tables and chairs. The other half is more well-lit (also with tables and chairs). And the bar in the middle is huge and long (get your mind out of the gutter). See more on their website (both Eagle and Eagle Blue share the same site FYI).
Drinks are a bit pricy here. For example, a beer on tap will cost you at least around ¥1000 yen ($8 USD), but the prices go up from there depending on the size you get. Not a great value, but hey, if you like the vibe it’s worth it, right?
As far as when to come here, Eagle Blue is usually busy on Saturday nights — but if you go really late (after midnight) it seems to pick up most any night (based on this writer’s experience). Note: Smoking is allowed in the extremely small smoking room — it gets crowded, which could be good or bad depending on who you’re in there with.
Yamato Permanently Closed
Note: This bar is closed now, but keeping this review here up in memoriam. There is a new bar called Mr Peach or something in it’s place, totally remodeled, but not the same vibe. You can do karaoke there, though.
This one was a bit more hidden away and obscure, unless you were a regular in the area. It was a great place to go because the guys were hot, and you could sing karaoke.
Yamato was not huge, but it had seating along the bar — along with some couches in the back. It was on the basement level, so you had to go downstairs from the street entrance to get in.
There was a cover charge (actually called a table charge) here. It was ¥1000 yen — or about $7.50 US. But, the drinks were not too pricey. If you like beer, that was only ¥500 (around $4.00 US).
The atmosphere was fairly dim lighting — mainly the blue light of the karaoke screens lighting up the place. However, it could be really fun! The customers were usually singing.
The staff were from various Asian countries (including Japan), and the customer base was about the same. There were non-Asian foreign customers, too.
There were some frisky moments to have in this bar, too — if you know what I mean. You never knew what could happen at Yamato.