Gay bars in Shikoku, Japan

Gay bars in Japan

Gay visitors to Japan often have trouble finding and visiting gay bars. Many of them are unlisted, very tiny, and are more like little private club houses for friends than public watering holes. I was very fortunate to be welcomed into Tokyo's scene by a popular, longtime resident and despite the warm welcomes and introductions to these intimate spaces, you're basically being invited to sit at the counter in Cheers and you've never met Norm and the gang before. His photo series about Shinjuku's gay bars is over on Vice if you'd like to check it out.

If your Japanese is good and you're an extrovert, you're all set. If not, well, most people at a bar after a long day at work likely don't want an awkward throwback to their high school English class, so you're going to need to use a combination of that Duolingo Japanese you did on the plane, charades, karaoke, iPhone picture show-and-tell, and maybe a little flirting to get you through the evening

Often you'll simply be told at the door that they're "full". More often than not, this is because they're trying to spare everyone a bunch of long, awkward silences. Some visitors see this as racism (and maybe it is some of the time) but try to imagine a Japanese tourist who speaks zero English walking into an 8 seat dive bar in the East Village and they can't even order a beer... Their experience would depend greatly on how much "kindness of strangers" their luck brought them in that moment. The same holds true in Japan. 

One thing I've found very helpful is to meet up with a bi-lingual local and see if they want to drag their new tourist friend out to the bars with them that night (don't be crabby if they don't, though). 9 Monsters and Jack'd are much more popular in Japan than the usual apps used in the US and are a great place to meet locals. If you're going out without a local buddy, you can use (and Google Translate) to help find bars all over Japan. has lots of info about public places for meeting and cruising.

TIP: you'll probably encounter these two kanji 凸凹.
You can probably guess they mean top and bottom. Put 'em together and they mean 'versatile'

Gay bars in Matsuyama, Kochi, Takamatsu, and Tokushima

Going to gay bars in small Japanese towns is very similar to Tokyo – though, given their small and clubhouse-y nature, it's probably more fair to say the opposite: gay bars in Tokyo are a lot like gay bars in small towns. On our recent visit to Shikoku, we visited a couple of bars and managed to have a great time despite our limited Japanese (we're both second-year students). It helps that we went early so our arrival didn't derail the conversation in the bar. 

We visited Happy Dragon, a great Matsuyama bear bar where, in addition to a fundoshi fitting and great conversation, we also got a couple of printed gay guides for Shikoku's largest cities. If you'd like to check them out, visit this page and then click the PDFをダウンロード link for a set of colorful maps identifying the bars. has great maps of Shikoku gay bars

The previous edition of their printed 'zine has gay bar maps for Okayama and Hiroshima. 




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