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18 Photos of the Secret Gay Scene in Tokyo
Shinjuku changes from a business atmosphere in daytime to adult entertainment area in evening.
Shinjuku, in Tokyo, is one of the busiest neighborhoods in the world; 3.4 million people travel through Shinjuku station every day. Shinjuku Ni-Chome, or second district of Shinjuku, has the highest concentration of gay and lesbian bars in the world, with an estimated 350 bars in one city block, providing for every different kind of taste. The book Shinjuku Story is a result of interviewing gay and lesbian bar owners and bartenders over the past three years.
Bars in Shinjuku Ni Chome are like living rooms, through often even smaller than those you'd find in homes in the United States. Many of them are smaller than 40 square feet, the size of a walk-in closet, and seat only four to 10 people. Each bar has a different clientele; some have a specific theme or serve a particular sexual fetish, but all of them have bar owners who are called "Momma" and who are the center of the bar. The Momma greets newcomers, keeps the conversation moving, decides on music and entertainment, and connects the people in the bar. The Momma sets the stage for us, and then all of us entertain each other on that stage. Bars in Shinjuku are also secret living rooms where we can share our stories, where everyone can be who they want to be.
Kaz Senju is a Brooklyn-based photographer who recently published his book Shinjuku Story, where more than 45 gay bar owners from Tokyo were interviewed and photographed. Kaz will be displaying his Shinjuku project at Bureau of General Services - Queer Division, at the LGBTQ Center in New York September 25-30. His book signing event will be at the BGSQD, September 28, starting at 7 p.m.
Haruki at Bar Fukuro. Bar Fukuro has a few different bartenders.
Tuesday is Visual Kei, Wednesday is a photographer, Thursday is a publisher, and the weekend is by Haruki. Many of the clients are straight, writers, some professional wrestlers, and from the publishing industry.
Haruki at Bar Fukuro.
In the 3rd grade, Haruki's classmate was good in sports, and handsome, but Haruki had a fight with him. So Haruki kicked the boy and made him cry. Haruki found his crying friend so attractive.
Dekaken at Bar Dekaken.
Dekaken's father liked horse race gambling. One day while he was in middle school, his father accidentally brought him into gay sauna in Asakusa after a horse race, thinking it was a regular sauna. His father grabbed his arm and walked out, grumbling "It's a homo sauna."
Katsuki at Bar Kusuo.
Katsuki became a mama at Kusuo five years ago when a legendary mama, Matchan, transferred the bar to the second generation of "mama-ship". Kusuo is one of the oldest and largest. Pretty much every gay man in Tokyo has some fond memories of Kusuo. It's been here for 41 years now.
Shunichi at Bar Homesick.
Shunichi is from Yamagata, in the northern countryside, where there was no cell phone reception until 10 years ago.
Margaret at Café Okamaruto.
Margaret is a famous drag queen in the evening, but is known as Toh OGURA-san during the day as he runs his Cafe Okamaruto. Margaret collected more than ten thousand gay, lesbian, homosexual, and drag queen theme books. He displays a small part of his collection at his cafe.
Toshiyuki at Bar Sambo.
Toshiyuki's first gay experience was during summer camp, when he was 14.
Bar Eagle Tokyo with a mural drawing by Jiraiya.
Shin-chidori-gai — a back alley where more than 20 bars are located, each about 10’ x 10’, seating 4 to 6 people maximum.
Maily Moo from Bar Zairu.
Growing up on Okinawa island, Maily Moo knew he was gay, but couldn't come out to his father when asked about his sexuality. Maily Moo didn't mean to hide it, but decided to move away from the small island.
Nanase at Bar Ellvi.
At around 25 years of age, Nanase decide to try a lesbian bar in Shinjuku 2 Chome. Searching for info on her phone, she went to one bar, held the door knob, but it was a metal fire proof door and felt so heavy. She couldn't open the door so she went to a regular bar, had few drinks to relax, went back the bar where she heard people were talking and laughing, and decided to open the door. Once she was inside, it was packed for the weekend, everyone was friendly, and Nagase suddenly felt at home.
Arata’s Bar Bumpy, at anniversary party with his friends.
Ken at Bar Dragon.
Ken was born in Tokyo and has six brothers. His father passed away when he was 7. Ken stopped going to school at around the 7th grade and started to hang out in the Kabukicho porn district. When Ken was 15, he walked into porn theater to watch straight sex, but noticed other men were chasing him. He realized he could make his living by hanging out there.
At Bar AND.
At Bar AND.
Aki at Bar Penguin.
His bar measures 8.5 feet x 8.5 feet, and seats only 6 people. It's so small that everyone has to get up when a customer at the end of the bar wants to go home, or use the toilet. He started his bar 32 years ago right after he had his first heart attack and was told that he had only 5 years to live.