Tokyo is the world’s largest city and this sprawling metropolis has something to offer for everyone, from ancient Buddhist temples to state of the art technological wonders.
A hugely destructive earthquake that destroyed almost half of the city in 1923 and the Allied bombing campaigns of the second world war meant that Tokyo had to rebuild itself more than once, as such the city is home to some of the most innovative and impressive architecture and infrastructure in the world. Despite its size, Tokyo has a fantastic public transportation system, meaning locals and travelers alike can navigate the city with convenience.
Tokyo has had a gay district since the 1960s when a number of bars and clubs began to emerge. Growing positive attitudes towards LGBT people in Japan means that Tokyo is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for gay travelers.
Harajuku is home to Japan’s iconic ‘Kawaii’(cute) culture and if you spend any time here you’ll quickly notice the bold and colourful fashion of many of the young people.
The streets that make up the Harajuku district are small and intimate but house a true mix of shopping opportunities from toys and technology to high-end fashion. The area’s main shopping street is Takeshita street and is a must-see for any traveler exploring Tokyo. Although the street can be a sensory overload with it’s blaring music and neon adverts, it’s here that you’ll find some of the best deals that Harajuku has to offer.
Holding the title of the world’s second-tallest structure, the Tokyo Skytree was completed in 2012 and is now the crowning glory of the city’s spectacular skyline. Standing at 634 meters tall it is the tallest building in Japan and is home to an aquarium and shopping center that are situated at its base.
The main attractions in the Tokyo Skytree are the tower’s two observation decks. The Tembo Deck is the lower of the two and as well as boasting 360-degree panoramic views across Tokyo, the deck is also the home of a souvenir shop and the Musashi Sky Restaurant.
100 meters higher is the Tembo Gallery, a sloping enclosed walkway that spirals around the tower as the altitude increases. Tickets for the first observation deck can be purchased on the fourth-floor entrance however passes for the Tembo Gallery are only available on the Tembo Deck.
Tokyo’s primary gay district is Shinjuku Ni-chōme, and with over 300 gay clubs and bars here alone, gay travelers are spoilt for choice. The area is home to the world’s highest concentration of gay clubs and is also known as being one of Tokyo’s busiest and nosiest districts.
AiSOTOPE Lounge is one of Tokyo’s larger gay clubs and is spread over two dance floors. The club offers a diverse range of events including regular themed parties and men’s only nights with dark rooms and cruising permitted. The club is only a 3-minute walk from the nearest train station and is open until late on most nights.
If you’re after an inclusive and diverse clubbing experience look no further than Waifu; a club night started and run by women with the goal of bringing Tokyo’s queer community together in one space. Waifu often features techno and house nights by local DJs and artists. Upcoming events are advertised on the Waifu Facebook page.
VITA Tokyo hosts many of the city’s most popular gay nights and parties. The club often features sets from world-renowned DJs and performers and there are even occasional pool parties. Be sure to check their agenda ahead of your trip to find out about upcoming gay parties.
There’s a good reason why Sensō-Ji is Tokyo’s most visited temple. According to ancient tales, in 628 AD two brothers found a statue of Kannon(the Buddhist goddess of mercy) whilst fishing, and, despite throwing it back into the water, the statue kept returning, as such, Sensō-Ji was built nearby as a tribute to the goddess.
Many of the buildings found throughout the temple are reconstructions of the original architecture, much of which was destroyed during the war. The temple is one of Japan’s most colourful and vibrant and is continually preserved to maintain Sensō-Ji’s original beauty.
Several events are held at Sensō-Ji throughout the year including the Asakusa Samba Carnival in August and the Asakusa Shrine Festival in May.
Tsukiji outer market is a district of Tokyo that surrounds the original fish market and is home to a variety of food stalls, shops and restaurants. It’s here that you can sample the freshest and most authentic sushi available in Tokyo.
For a truly unique experience, consider visiting the central Toyosu tuna auction. The auction opens at 5 am and visitors are welcome to observe the event from an observation area. It’s here that wholesalers and vendors attempt to purchase the best and biggest catches of the day.
Tsukiji outer market is only a short walk from Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Oedo Subway Line.
Since opening in 2018, teamLab Borderless has become a must-see for anyone visiting Tokyo. The fully immersive, “interactive light museum” is a permanent exhibition at the Mori Building Digital Art Museum which plays with light and colour to create a truly jaw-dropping experience.
The installation combines textures with light to create a unique maze of environments each with their own curated mood and atmosphere. TeamLab Borderless is frequently described as Tokyo’s most instagrammable spot and with its state of the art visual displays it’s no surprise.
To get the most out of teamLab Borderless wear white or light coloured clothing as it will allow you to blend into the displays as though you are part of the installation. Visitors must also wear flat shoes because parts of the experience feature unstable surfaces, a rule that is strictly enforced by the exhibition staff.
by George Pizani | More: Gay Tokyo