1. Footbath Cafe & Bar Donyoku
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa
  2. Irregular Rhythm Asylum
    Photo: Irregular Rhythm Asylum
  3. Shinjuku Dialogue
    Photo: Yuki Nakamura
  4. hoshio
    Photo: Hoshio

7 best things to do in Shinjuku Ni-chome during the day

This LGBTQ+ neighbourhood in Tokyo offers far more than just great nightlife. There are gay-friendly cafes, bookshops and more

Emma Steen
Written by
Emma Steen
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Tokyo’s LGBTQ+ hub of Nichome is synonymous with a booming nightlife scene, often hosting some of the most legendary parties in the city (pre-pandemic, of course). But, believe it or not, Nichome has more to offer than just jaw-dropping drag performances and all-nighter karaoke sessions. 

The neighbourhood can be quite peaceful during the day, though don’t take that to mean boring. There are cafes where you can revive your tired feet with a footbath and artsy hangouts for book lovers, not to mention Japan’s first permanent LGBTQ+ centre which opened less than two years ago. Here are some of the best places in Nichome that make it worth visiting before sundown.

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Things to do

  • Things to do
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

The community’s emphasis on being able to have fun and express themselves freely with no discrimination are part of what makes parties in Nichome great, so it’s easy to forget that this attitude doesn’t normally extend beyond the neighbourhood. 

Pride House Tokyo Legacy – the first community centre of its kind in Japan – is here to provide the support LGBTQ+ minorities desperately need when it comes to seeking equal rights and opportunities. While the centre places an emphasis on aiding sexual minorities through counselling and regular events, it welcomes anyone (including heterosexual allies) to browse its library of 1,400 books and have a dialogue with the staff to educate themselves on LGBTQ issues in Japan.

  • Things to do
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

With its abundance of flashing neon lights, arcades and attractions like the giant Godzilla statue towering over Toho Cinema, Shinjuku can feel miles away from the more traditional aspects of Japan. There are a few sacred spots, however, like this Buddhist temple on the edge of Nichome, that provide opportunities for peaceful reflection and a chance to delve into the history of Shinjuku. 

This isn’t just any old temple, mind you. The statue of the deity enshrined here, known as Datsue-ba, is said to have been worshipped as a god of commerce in brothels during the late Edo-period. According to scholars, this is because Datsue-ba was responsible for removing the clothes of the deceased (effectively stripping them) to weigh their sins before they were allowed to enter the after-life. 

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  • Things to do
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

A mish-mash between a bookshop, record store and gallery space, this anarchic infoshop five minutes from Shinjuku Gyoen Station is stocked with all sorts of goods inspired by social movements. You’ll find books in English as well as Japanese, where the material covers not only LGBTQ+ issues but also rhetorics on feminism, capitalism and utopianism. 

The venue has a space reserved for semi-regular exhibitions and pop-up events. You can also browse some of the zines, music and artworks from the shop’s online store.

Cafés

  • LGBTQ+
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

Hammocks, craft beer and foot baths – does it get any better than this? It does indeed, because in addition to the aforementioned features, Donyoku also has a designated dog day where a pair of shiba inu are brought in every Wednesday to hang out with cafe’s patrons.

On top of coffee and cocktails to sip while you flip through books from the café’s travelling bookshelf, there are also mouthwatering bites you can nosh on like Donyoku’s signature banh mi sandwiches and roast beef rice bowls. Coupled with friendly patrons, it’s the sort of place that you wish you could stay in forever.

  • LGBTQ+
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

This former laundromat-turned-café has everything you could want out of a casual space to relax and chit chat – good drinks, good books and great company (there are three resident cats). 

The staff here speak Japanese, English and Spanish, and make it especially easy for international visitors to feel comfortable. However, you could also just spend an afternoon quietly reading the titles from the bookshelf that takes up an entire wall in the café. The space is also frequently used to host events like book club meetings, spoken word poetry sessions and DJ sets. 

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  • LGBTQ+
  • Shinjuku-Sanchome

Located just a few minutes' walk from Ni-chome, this café and bar is all about creating a better world. It focuses on raising money and awareness for sustainable development goals such as clean water, gender and LGBT+ equality and green energy.

Shinjuku Dialogue is headed by transgender spokeswoman Syun-san, whose upbeat personality you can catch during its bar opening hours from 6pm to midnight. This safe space prides itself on being a place anyone can visit and have an open dialogue while enjoying tasty food and drinks. A portion of the proceeds from every drink order is donated to the social cause of your choice. The café menu includes seasonal Japanese-style rice dishes, Western sweets and snacks starting from ¥250.

  • LGBTQ+
  • Shinjuku-Nichome

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.

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