Hoshio is not just any bar in Shinjuku Ni-chome; it’s also an art gallery, music venue and event space. The gallery focuses on young, up-and-coming artists while the exhibition changes every fortnight – plus, it’s manned by a different arts practitioner every day, be it a musician, photographer or visual artist. From Monday to Thursday, you can also drop by Hoshio for lunch (11.30am-2.30pm). A collaboration with travelling curry specialist Spice Hut, the curry menu by chef Kobayashi has been a hit with the locals. The curry dishes (from ¥800) are made with fresh seasonal ingredients, and since it’s not too oily or heavy, you can easily pair them with a cold beer.
Tokyo's best LGBT bars and clubs
First-time visitors to Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo's famous gay district, could do far worse than shimmying into this ooh-la-la joint run by celebrity cross-dresser Bourbonne. Campy! Bar opened in January 2013, and the name couldn't be more apt. Bourbonne's staff of decadently attired drag queens (some more convincing than others, it must be said) keep the campiness cranked up to eleven, while the ‘gay mix’ policy means that straight customers won't feel out of place. Unlike some other gender-bending bars in the area, there's no seating charge (unless you want to reserve a sofa at the weekend, in which case it's ¥1,000), and drinks are paid cash-on-delivery. Sat on Ni-chome's main drag, Campy! Bar would make an ideal place to start a night out – or to end one.
Run by LGBT activist and spokesperson Fumino Sugiyama, Suzu blends right in among the hundreds of tiny watering holes along Shinjuku's Golden Gai. Still, it's newer (opened in 2014) and spacier than most of its neighbours, in addition to giving off a unique vibe with its '50s folk craft decor and stained-glass lamps. We recommend the fruit cocktails, made with a professional's firm touch. If you're feeling peckish, try the signature Suzu Katsu Sandwich.
Ideal for a late-night rendezvous, this café and restaurant is a popular LGBT hangout that gets points for its 18 different kinds of tea, Vietnamese coffee and homemade fruit cake that changes monthly. They also serve both light grub like salads and more substantial stuff: try the always-popular Cocolo Plate or the delicious Taco Rice.
Shinjuku Ni-chome's newest club opened in April 2012 on the site formerly occupied by Geisha. Aisotope Lounge is run by the company behind Arch and Alamas Cafe, which should give you some idea what to expect. With two dancefloors, it's one of the area's bigger clubs, and the unisex toilets and strongly mixed cocktails add to the fun.
'Alamas' means diamond in the Thai language, but this chill café on Shinjuku Ni-chome's main drag exudes more of a Balinese vibe with its hip ethnic decor and laidback staff. Look out for the seasonal edibles or go for one of the classic curries, which are voluminous enough to fill up even big eaters. The drink menu ranges from coffee to cocktails, while neighbouring Diamond Studio boasts a DJ booth and daily performances from the likes of DJs and drag queens.