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Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo, Japan

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.

 

HIV Prevention Sign, Ni-chome, Shinjuku, Tokyo

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.

 

Club signs in Ni-Chome, Shinjuku, Tokyo

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.

Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo, Japan

Streets of Ni-chome, Shinjuku, Tokyo

 

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.

November 6, 2015 0 comment
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Entrance to Taco Ché

The first thing I saw was a pygmy about to cut the nipple off of a captured Japanese girl’s left tit. And that’s just the door sign. If this doesn’t clue you in as to what you are about to get yourself into, nothing will.

Entrance to Taco Ché, Nakano Broadway Mall, Tokyo, Japan

TACO ché has a certain reputation amongst manga fans in Japan and beyond. Standing inside the small shop located on the third floor of the Nakano Broadway Mall’s escheresque building, I couldn’t really understand it. Is it the “rummage sale” indy feel? The artistic rebellion against established market themes? The “I’ve-been-there-and-you-haven’t” hipster cachet? I’m not into manga, so I tend to treat it the same way I treat all art–I may not know technical terms or styles or what’s in or out of fashion, but I know what I like when I see it. So let’s have a look.

As one would expect, the shelves are stuffed full of manga books. Some separated by topic, or artist, or other themes. The books themselves ranged in quality from professional publications to self-published pamphlets. It’s all in Japanese, so unless you have a good grasp on the written form of the language, you’re not going to find any reading material here. Illustrations range from simple line art and text to complex ink spills detailing someone’s mental illness and/or sexual hangups. Dragonball Z this ain’t.

I chose a book at random and discovered the incomprehensible adventures of Chinko-man, an apparently ordinary man with a head shaped like a penis. On the page I turned to, he was answering a phone. Exactly how talking on a phone works when your face is a foreskin is a question that I found impossible to avoid. Dude has no ears. So what, vibration? How does that not end, you know, happily? And what about the rest of his life? Blind dates have to be awkward, at least.

I turned my attention to the paintings over the shelves. The most prominent artist on display was partial to creepy nautical themes. Fish and various marine-styled monsters riding bicycles, or going to an aquarium, or enjoying a street festival. I liked the one that had a person in a dive suit driving a water-filled aquarium bus. If you like somewhat creepy art, this could be just the thing for your wall.

TACO ché doesn’t limit their artistic offerings to manga and canvas. There is a small but significant selection of grindcore and underground music labels on the shelves in front of the clerk’s desk. Across the shop are a handful of shelves devoted to DVD and VHS films–some I recognized, most I didn’t. I also found a zip-up bag shaped like a brain, a selection of buttons whose mottos seemed to be inside jokes of some sort, and a selection of T-shirts and leggings featuring characters from the books in the shop.

TACO ché is for varsity-level manga collectors who follow that scene, but it is not without its charms to people on the lookout for the strange and different. I, for one, could go for that painting of the aquarium bus.

TACO che Location Information

Website (via Google Translate) | Facebook | Twitter (Japanese) | Online Store (Google-translated)

Nearest Station: 4-minute walk from Nakano station. On the 3rd floor of Nakano Broadway Shopping Center, access through the Sunmall. (click on the Google Map for directions)

Hours of Operation: Open every day 12:00 am – 8:00 pm

“Why Go?”: For indie manga with that anti-establishment feel

Click on one of the links below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

February 16, 2015 0 comment
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M’s is one of the few adult stores located in Tokyo.  Found in Tokyo’s electronic/otaku district, Akihabara, M’s is seven stories tall filled with adult videos, toys, and even used panties.  Couples and singles alike come from all over the city to peruse its shelves, looking for that next exciting fetish.  Not intending to buy?  No need to worry because browsing is free at M’s, and there is definitely much to be seen.

Starting at the top, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara ‘s fifth through seventh floor are dedicated almost completely to DVD’s.  Three floors covering every niche imaginable.  Making way down to the fourth floor, cosplayers will be delighted to find an extensive collection of adult cosplay uniforms and accessories.  The third floor houses two rooms full of women’s lingerie.  Things get a bit fancy on the second floor where customers will find a large collection of sexual aids.  Needless to say, M’s carries a wide variety to choose from.  Finally, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara ‘s first floor features a plethora of fake vaginas, anuses, along with many other orifices, each promising to be as realistic as the real thing.

With Tokyo’s largest collection of adult goodies, M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara certainly caters to all of its customers.  Perhaps the greatest element of M’s is how casual the environment is.  It’s not an awkward atmosphere, unlike in many other adult stores.  The staff is also friendly and more than helpful.  M’s is definitely a must see for anyone in the Akihabara area. And if you’re too shy to go in person, there’s always the online option–

M’s Adult Concept Store Akihabara Location Information

Website (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 2-minute walk from JR Akihabara (click on the Google Map for directions)

Hours of Operation: Open daily 10am – 11pm

“Why Go?”: Oh…you know why. 😉

Click on one of the links below to explore other shopping options in Tokyo–

October 21, 2014 0 comment
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Roppongi is known for the bar and club scene. This part of Tokyo rules the night with parties that would not stop until the sun rises and people leave while laughing with their friends at 24-hour izakayas to try to beat that hangover.

Since then, Roppongi has gotten a reputation for being a place that’s a little too expensive to go shopping at during the day, and a little too seedy to go out to at night. The groups of people, young and old, that used to walk the streets have been replaced with hosts and waitresses practically pulling you into their establishments so you can spend a little cash.

While the old club scene of Roppongi is a thing of the past, there are a few places opening up in this area that are trying to revamp the all night long party. Ele Tokyo, located just north of Azabu-Juban Station, is a club like Roppongi has never seen.

Ele Tokyo has made itself out to be the most upscale and classiest of clubs around, so be warned – they enforce a strict dress code and make no exceptions. No T-shirts, plain old jeans, hoodies, or open toes sandals are allowed here.

If your outfit is up to par, your I.D. accepted (you will not be able to get in without one), and you have paid the cover charge (guys up to ¥4000 depending on the DJ that night, free for ladies), it’s time to enjoy the club! Everything inside of Ele Tokyo is new, modern, and almost too beautiful. Step up to the titanium bar and order yourself a hand crafted one-of-a-kind cocktail, or a small snack to munch on. When you have had your fill of cocktails and chit-chat in the lounge area, move to the dimly-lit dance floor and dance to the great music spun by world-class DJs (see their upcoming line-up here).

Ele Tokyo Location Information

Website (Japanese and English) ||| Facebook (Japanese) ||| Twitter (via Google Translate) ||| Instagram ||| Tumblr (via Google Translate)

Nearest Station: 4-minute walk from Azabu-Juban Station Exit #7 (click on the Google Map for walking directions)

Hours of Operation: Open evenings 8pm – 1am

“Why Go?”: If you want a taste of what the new club scene in Roppongi is like, then head to Ele Tokyo and have a good night!

October 20, 2014 0 comment
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New York Bar & Grill

The New York Bar is located in the upmarket Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku and is famous for being the bar that was featured in the movie Lost in Translation. This makes it a very popular tourist destination, but as opposed to the film, not the place you come to meet people. Guests tend not to mingle with each other, and this ensures each party feels like they having an intimate and private evening.

Only premium alcohol is served here, at premium prices; beers start at 1400 yen each and cocktails at 1800 yen each. After 8pm there is also a cover charge of 2200 yen per person, this does not include any drinks or guarantee of a window seat, but it does mean you can listen to the live Jazz band that usually plays here after this time.

As expected of a top-notch hotel, the service is excellent and they do the best to make your evening special and relaxing. The servers also have great English skills, so it is easy to make special requests or ask about recommendations they have. With the romantic view, music and ambience, this is the perfect location for a date; but it is also suitable for a relaxing evening with a friend or two.

In my opinion, the food here is not worth the price, so if you’re a fan of Lost in Translation or just want a nice view and music then I recommend just coming here for drinks. The drinks are top quality and worth the price-tag, but sadly the food could be improved. I had the best cocktail of my life here; an exquisitely made espresso martini, and I have failed to find one elsewhere that compares. The view is also hard to match – even other sky bars in Tokyo don’t have such a panoramic view; and if you’re lucky enough to get a window table, you can admire the view all evening long.

International Ratio: About equal
Male / Female Ratio: About equal
Average Price: 1400-3000 JPY
Comments: Sky Bar
Style: smart casual/dress to impress
Entrance Fee (Male): 2200 yen cover charge after 8pm
Entrance Fee (Female): 2200 yen cover charge after 8pm
Happy Hour: No
Music Genre: Other (Lounge)
Suitable For couples, great drinks, sophisticated night-out

Address:3-7-12 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo-to, Japan
GPS:35.6859225, 139.6915113
Telephone:03-5323-3458
Web: http://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkGrill.html

October 20, 2014 0 comment
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