Japan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world thanks to its rich and vibrant culture, incredible food, and stunning scenery, which means that people from all walks of life want to make the journey to Japan at some point in their lives.
However, preparing for a trip to Japan can be exhausting, especially when it comes to learning about the social cues and laws that you must abide by during your time there.
One of the biggest concerns that some travellers have when it comes to visiting Japan is whether or not it is accepting of LGBT people.
There are some parts of the world where LGBT people aren’t welcome or accepted, which can be potentially dangerous to visit, so it’s important to understand a country’s stance on LGBT people before you visit.
So, if you want to know more about Japan and whether or not it is LGBT friendly then read on, as we’ll provide you with all of the details you’ll need to know.
Is Japan LGBT Friendly?
The concerns that surround the question about Japan being LGBT-friendly tend to stem from the fact that the country is inherently conservative.
However, this doesn’t mean that Japan is an anti-LGBT place, so let’s take a deeper looker into how LGBT people are viewed in this incredible country.
If you’re LGBTQ+ and traveling to Japan, then you should face no hostility, violence, or any form of discrimination during your time in Japan.
However, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the customs and traditions that surround the expression of LGBTQ+ identity in Japan.
The conservative values held by many in Japan mean that LGBTQ+ people who live in Japan don’t tend to outwardly express their identity or sexuality, which is a part of the much broader social rules that tend to look down upon public displays of affection, no matter who it is between.
Same-sex relationships are completely legal between two consenting adults in Japan, however, same-sex marriage is still illegal. However, some districts, particularly those in larger cities, such as Tokyo, do recognize same-sex marriages.
For the most part though, LGBTQ+ representation outside specific queer neighborhoods or entertainment for young people is almost zero, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see the same sort of representation for LGBTQ+ people as you would see throughout some of the Western world.
Tokyo Queer Culture
If you’re looking for the hub of Japanese queer culture, then you need to make your way to Tokyo!
Unsurprisingly, the capital city has the largest number of queer neighborhoods in Japan, some of which you might be lucky enough to explore during your time there, although, there are a number of reasons that might make this impossible.
Some of the gay bars you can find in Tokyo tend to avoid catering to customers who can’t speak Japanese, which for most travelers to Japan, severely limits their chances of being able to hang out in a gay bar in Japan.
Shinjuku Ni-Chome was the former red-light district of Tokyo, and is now the most established queer neighborhood in the capital.
However, what you’re able to participate in also depends on your identity too, because whilst most cis gay men will be able to enjoy the bars and saunas open to foreigners, very few of the bars in here will cater towards people who aren’t a gay man, but those who do are welcoming of all LGBTQ+ people, as well as allies!
So if you’re looking for some drinks, food, and a dance whilst you’re in Tokyo, this district is most definitely worth paying a visit to.
Osaka Queer Culture
Much like Tokyo, Osaka’s very own Doyamacho also has its very own thriving queer scene, it also means that many of these establishments tend to be aimed at cis gay men, but most are welcoming of others from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, as well as their ally friends!
You might notice that the higher-end places in this district will only cater to local gay men, so you want to try and make your way to the more casual spaces, which will be open to anyone no matter what their identity, sexuality, or nationality is!
Saunas And Bathhouses
If you’re someone that enjoys saunas and bathhouses, then you need to be aware of the proper etiquette if you want to make sure you’re not denied entry.
Don’t be surprised if you get turned away from a sauna, as they tend to be even less welcoming than some of the bars you’ll find in the queer districts, which mainly stems from the prejudice held towards foreigners, as well as the fear of HIV, which is considered a foreign disease in Japan.
When you arrive, remove your shoes, and place them into a shoe locker box before putting on a pair of slippers, then you can purchase your admission ticket, and make your way to the front desk to collect your locker key, towels, and your bathrobe.
If you forget to remove your shoes and approach the front desk, then you’ll likely be denied entry as it will be seen as a form of ignorance to local customs and traditions.
How To Plan A Queer Trip To Japan
If you’re looking to incorporate some of Japan’s queer culture into your trip to Japan, then you can make use of amazing guides such as OutAdventures or Out Asia Travel, who will be able to help you create an incredible experience of Japan’s thriving queer culture.
So, to summarize, Japan is an LGBT friendly place despite being a conservative country, and as long as you follow the social rules surrounding public affection and sexual expression, then you should face absolutely no form of hostility or opposition during your visit.
Key places to visit include Tokyo and Osaka, both of which have a thriving queer culture!