ManAboutWorld Global Correspondent Paul Teixeira and his partner Jose are in the midst of an 87-day global gay adventure. He agreed to document his trip here with highlights from many destinations around the world. In his own words:
ManAboutWorld’s March 2013 issue has an impressive and informative exclusive on Gay Japan, including a long weekend article on Tokyo. For our first visit to Tokyo we relied heavily on this article and we were not disappointed.
If we were to add anything to supplement this article, it would be that even though you will be promptly and completely overwhelmed with sensory input, complicated city navigation and a myriad of choices for everything, the city and its people are extremely pleasant, orderly, and helpful. Taking care to plan what you are doing and looking for help will quickly show that it is actually not that difficult at all, even for first time visitors.
If you add in using Google maps and the Hyperdia rail planner mentioned in the article, you’ll be set. The city seems to have signs, directions, and automation for almost everything, and we found them all correct and useful. Additionally, we felt the JR rail pass was the best thing we bought; it is absolutely necessary as the city is so vast and the rail system can get you almost anywhere quickly. It is also a great deal for anyone considering taking a trip on the Shinkansen bullet train.
Where We Stay
The Citadines – Shinjuku
We stayed here and these serviced apartment studios’ quality is far above the price point. This place is truly the perfect location if you plan on enjoying the gay nightlife in Shinjuku and proximity to the Shinjuku main train station. Our only complaint here was that the launderette facilities were terribly inadequate.
The Park Hyatt – Shinjuku
This place hasn’t aged since you saw it last in Lost in Translation and it is super classy. We would caution that it will be a pretty decent walk to the Shinjuku nightlife. Also, if you are planning on getting a bit more feel for the Tokyo culture, this place is doing the exact opposite, trying to be American. We did definitely notice the large quantity of non-local gays here just in our Wednesday evening visit for jazz and drinks at the New York Club at the top. Regardless if you stay here or not, it is a must visit at least for one posh evening.
What We See/Do
There is so much to see and do in Tokyo, it is impossible to do it all in one trip, or even many. We found in general though that picking any city area off a major train station and just exploring parks, temples, and gardens can keep you pleasantly occupied.
The impressive and super tall Tokyo Sky Tree is a new addition to the city, having opened in 2012. Surrounding it is Sky Tree Town which is an upscale mall and food complex including its own new train station. All of this is done in a fabulous modern and futuristic architecture. We were completely surprised at how much we enjoyed the time we spent here shopping, sampling impressive savory and sweet food items of all sorts, and of course visiting the top of the tower for a spaceship’s view of the city. We saw the view at night and would highly recommend doing the same. If you show up at around 5pm you’ll get queuing tickets for about 6:30 to 7. While you wait you can explore the mall and eat.
This is the master location for all things electronic and gaming. There are numerous stores where you can buy every gadget, phone, camera, and computer available. In addition the gay nerd in you will love the impressive multi-story arcades, all anime themed and with games we’ve never seen in the US. If you’ve still got a craving for the nostalgic Nintendo / Sega days, then you can find stores selling just about every game ever made, including original console systems and remakes in handheld or smaller form factors.
If you want to immerse yourself in the culture of a place you visit, then we think this is an excellent place to do so. Transportation via rail is part of this culture and work force, and the mall, deli, and food court inside this station are very impressive. Many are here eating dinner after work or picking up deli items to take home. The selections are impressive, both savory and sweet. Find a picture of something you’d like to eat on the directory and go have dinner or lunch in the station to see how many people work, travel, and finish their day. Some restaurants have large automated ticket machines outside where you first pick your dishes and drinks, pay and then once you have tickets you go inside to eat.
We did as suggested in the ManAboutWorld article and took a day trip for temple viewing to Nikko. We used our JR pass and rode the Shinkansen Bullet train as well. This location is every bit as pretty and amazing as mentioned. We saw all the temple sites and had lunch leaving Tokyo at 10AM and returning by 6PM. We highly recommend sampling a little item from a street vendor just outside the TOBU Nikko train station on the walk up to the temples. It’s a sweet red bean ball tempura fried and salted. We think it was the most amazing item we ate in Japan.
Where We Play/Meet
We found the ManAboutWorld article to be spot on for the suggested Shinjuku nightlife. We like to add that the gay bar scene here is truly a social drinking nightlife event, versus a typical dance club style party. You can actually meet people and talk. Dancing is truly illegal in Shinjuku, although you’ll find people and gogo boys still semi-moving on the dance floor in certain clubs. We found the following site to have accurate location information on the area, as Google maps does not search well here. A couple of clubs we’d like to comment on are the following.
The Annex / Arty Farty
This is one of the venues we liked the most both for the people and the general layout/ambiance. They require a one drink minimum purchase for entry, and seemed to be a hopping place to go almost any night. They also mix some of the better cocktails we had in the Shinkjuku area. It’s a younger mixed local / tourist club.
This place has a Firday party called “Banana Fridays” in which to go onto the main club floor you are required to take your shirt off. This is not necessary for the bar area. The entry fee is a bit steep, but you get two drinks in exchange for it. They had many gogo boys and half naked servers for the evening and even though there is technically no dancing, this the one place in which we saw the rule broke a bit.
Where We Eat
Cocola Café – Shinjuku
This restaurant which is open late night has a fun fusion menu and is supported by the gay local crowd of all types. We found it innovative and a great place to observe people of all sorts. The food was very good, and they play pop music videos in the main dining room.