Shinjuku Nichome, Japan’s LGBTQ Community, presented by PELIArea Guide
Shinjuku-Nichome is known as the largest gay culture district in Japan with many people displaying the rainbow color to show their support to this community. In addition, this beautiful district of Shinjuku attracts both Japanese and foreigners alike to visit and enjoy.
Around 400 years ago, what is known as Shinjuku-Nichome today was a red-light district in Japan with a plethora of adult entertainment options. However, due to WWII, prostitution became illegal in Japan and the Japanese gay community started to build their own presence in this area until it has expanded to cover an entire block of Shinjuku today.
Venues such as Japanese style bars, music bars, and restaurants, are aplenty throughout each small alleyway and are popular anytime and any day of the week filled with customers having a great time.
We would like to introduce PELI, a master DJ and producer of fashion brand PAMEO POSE to you and learn about the in and outs of how to enjoy Japan’s famous Shinjuku-Nichome.
- Please tell us what you think about Shinjuku Nichome.
PELI: It is like Disneyland for me! The entire atmosphere reminds me of a theme park but would take a couple of visits for people to feel really comfortable. There are so many things to experience here that cannot be found anywhere else. There are many bars and izakayas and both Japanese and foreigners drop by, of course some are gay and some are straight. It is truly an international destination.
- When did you first venture into this area of Shinjuku?
PELI: I believe it was when I was around 20 and came often as I was attending a fashion school close to here. During my partying days, I was introduced by my friend DJ Anita to start working at a bar produced by Chiga-san who ran the largest girls-only party called “Gold Finger” in the 90’s. From that moment on, I learned about the joy and wonders of being a DJ and keep that lesson at heart to this very day.
- In addition to this area being known as an entertainment district, there are also many DJs playing different kinds of music right?
PELI: That’s right! There are so many different genres of music being played and it is this community that taught me to be open-minded about different styles. Of course, in addition to music, we also have the biggest variety of things to do in all of Tokyo. Without this community, there would be so many lessons I would have missed in my life so far.
- What are some of the most memorable moments you’ve encountered here?
PELI: During my partying days, there are many moments I’ve come across when I felt uh-oh. This is from my own personal experience, but, what’s good about this place is that even if you drop your wallet, it will always return to you. No money is being taken out and sometimes bar master will directly bring it back to you. While there might be “bad people”, honestly, I have not personally met one yet. People take great care to follow the rules here and have respect for everyone they meet.
- Looking at the different people passing by, I get a strong feeling that everyone is enjoying themselves. Do you also get that feeling too?
PELI: Naka-Dori and Hanazono-Dori are the two crosswalks most often used by the people in or coming to Nichome. You can meet all different kinds of people here such as Drag Queens who sometimes use these crosswalks like a fashion runway.
Randomly during our conversation, we met Pali-San’s Drag Queen friends Maxime and Lavian Joro.
- Maxime - what do you think is the best part of Nichome?
Maxime: Dreamland number 2!
- Then where is Dreamland number 1?
Maxime: That would be Disneyland! Then Nichome is Dreamland number 2.
PELI: I said the same thing too! Haha!
Maxime: There are so many attractions in Nichome that I feel like it might be even more fun than Disneyland! Just walking around is super exciting already.
Jorona: Each of the stores found here have their own unique style. And I really enjoy visiting those to talking with different people I meet as I go.
- It is very easy for people to talk with each other here.
PELI: Definitely! All of us met here in Nichome and we bonded right away and became friends easily.
- I also feel that the people who come to Nichome are looking to just have a great time, which I cannot say the same for some other areas.
PELI: I think so too. The store owners all know each other well and act as members of a big village. Of course, that also means that we protect each other too. As this is a community that parties 24 hours a day, the store owners always support each other when help is needed. That is the moment when I feel this community is best connected to each others.
- Is there anything about this community that you are looking forward to?
PELI: I just hope that we can keep this kind of atmosphere and environment going forward - a safe place where lots of friends gather together. Even for myself, I can even go out for a drink without putting on makeup and meet many new friends too!
▷A list of stores in Nichome recommended by PELI
Come check out the bar called “AiiRO CAFE” with the rainbow colored Torii Gate at the intersection of Naka-dori and Hanazono-dori.
Peli says “As it is facing the street, I meet many of my friends here. We get a drink before heading to other places. I also get a drink here first before I go DJ!”This open bar provides a welcoming and relaxed environment with catchy music that creates a great atmosphere for all to enjoy!
Adress: 7th TENKA BLD 1F, 2-18-1 Shinjuku Shinjuku-Ku Tokyo JAPAN
Weekdays 6pm - 2am / Fridays & Saturdays 6pm - 5am / Sundays 6pm -12am
No Table Charge.
（2）BAR GOLD FINGER
“BAR GOLD FINGER” is the oldest and world-famous girls bar in Shinjuku-Nichome with a pink neon sign board.
Peli says “ It’s a LGBTQ shot-bar with a good atmosphere anytime you go. Mrs.Chiga, the owner of “BAR GOLD FINGER” used to live in London so, many stylish customers take a frequent visit here.” The bar serves up delicious alcohol that many women likes and many come for a drink even on weekday night.
Peli has been a regular DJ at the women only party called “GOLD FINGER since 1991.” This year is the 29th anniversary of this party and it is held on every third Saturday in an even-numbered month.
It is currently held at AiSOTOPE LOUNGE, so please check it out!
■BAR GOLD FINGER
Adress: 2-12-11 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo JAPAN
Open Hours:Sun~Thur 18:00～02:00, Fri&Sat 18:00～05:00
Trans men night on Monday, Woman’s only on Satureday.
“AiSOTOPE LOUNGE” is a LGBTQ club which is in its 8th year. The interior reminds people of Japan’s bubble economy period (80’s to 90’s). In addition, the club hosts various kinds of events from the 90’s J-POP, anime-song, belly-dance and pole-dance, drag queen parties, and gay-only / lesbian-only parties held across two floors in which guests can go back and forth in between“GOLD FINGER since 1991”, in which Peli DJs at, and “fancyHIM,” a LGBTQ party famous among people with eccentric fashion, which is also hosted at this amazing venue too!
Adress: Saint Four BLD.1F 2-12-16
Shinjuku Shinjuku-Ku Tokyo JAPAN
Top image: Shinjuku Nichome, Japan’s LGBTQ Community, presented by PELI