Shinjuku has quite a deep, dark, and complex history. From the 1960 riots and protests, to the controversial dark Kabukicho and performance arts, Shinjuku is an area littered with drama, controversy, and heresy. The most infamous area of which is Ni-chome.
Walking through Ni-chome during the day seems like your normal, everyday stroll through Tokyo. Actually, you wouldn’t even notice that you’re in Ni-chome if it wasn’t for the few blatantly LGBTQ targeted signs and shops outside. But Ni-chome wasn’t always a neighborhood haven for this community. Rather, it was once a popular area for prostitution until it was made illegal in Japan by post-WWII allied forces. After that, the gay underground culture soon flourished in the void left by the absence of prostitution.
Ni-chome is an exciting area full of bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, saunas, love hotels, gay pride boutiques, host clubs, nightclubs, massage parlors, parks, and gay book and video stores. I’ve been to Ni-chome on two occasions (I am a heterosexual man, by the way) and I enjoyed myself both times. If this is your first visit, I advise you to go with a LGBTQ friend as they can show you the ropes and take you somewhere safer than where you might wander into by yourself. Ni-chome can be just as dangerous as Roppongi or Shibuya, so you’ll have to be careful when you’re out there enjoying the evening/night, which means watching your drink, wallet, or purse.
In addition to its nightlife, Ni-chome has a variety of restaurants, lounges, and cafes. So if clubbing isn’t your thing, head over to one of the other popular establishments, including famous Uoya-itchō (うおや一丁) and grab a bite, or the local cafè if you fancy a cup of coffee instead.
Ni-chome isn’t for your run-of-the-mill individual: you have to be seeking something a little extra if you are wanting to brave this storm. Ni-chome’s nightlife is the one of the best to be found in Tokyo, and perhaps in Japan. So prepare yourself for a wild night of fun, excitement, and—if you were like me, a heterosexual guy who has had very limited interaction with members of the LGBTQ community—a night you won’t soon forget.