By Yuki Keiser
Beyond their reputation as LGBT hot spots, neighbourhoods like San Francisco's Castro, LA's West Hollywood and Le Marais in Paris are known as trendsetting areas widely impacting mainstream culture. Although that's still not the case for Tokyo's Shinjuku Ni-chome nor for the city's overall 'rainbow scene', Tokyoites of all stripes and orientations can benefit from knowing where the LGBT crowd likes to gather in the capital. Following up on the recently concluded Rainbow Week, we've picked out ten of the city's top LGBT-friendly restaurants and bars – many of which are open to all comers.
The top ten
Ideal for a late-night rendezvous, this café and restaurant is a popular Ni-chome hangout that's also a great spot from where to start exploring the area. Everyone is welcome to sample Cocolo's healthy grub and imaginative drink selection: try the always-popular, seasonal Cocolo Plate, sip on some Vietnamese coffee or choose from 18 different kinds of tea. The homemade fruit cakes and ice cream parfaits are highly recommended, too.
'Alamas' means diamond in the Thai language, but this chill café on Ni-chome's main drag exudes more of a Balinese vibe with its hip ethnic decor and laidback staff. It hosts various performances and is equipped with both free wi-fi and electrical outlets. Make sure to try out the roadside terrace during the warm season.
Running on a regular basis since 1991, Japan's first women-only party Gold Finger (currently held on the third Saturday of every month at Ni-chome's Aisotope) is also the force behind this eponymous bar. Formerly a women-only spot, Gold Finger now keeps its doors open to the entire LGBT community – although Saturday nights are still only for members of the fairer sex. It's decorated with vintage furniture themed on a ’70s motel and staffed by fashionistas.