Asia » Japan
Gay Guide Japan
Sex with minors (17 and younger) is strictly prohibited in all prefectures of Japan. Voluntary, private homosexual acts between adults are not punishable. The reason for this is probably to be found in Japanese history. More than 200 years ago, the samurai used to practice anal intercourse ("shudo") and regarded it as a higher form of love. During the Meiji period, homosexual acts were discouraged due to Christian influence, but were not punishable. The present social attitude resembles mainly somthing like "don't ask - don't tell". Despite the continuing taboo, Taiga Ishikawa was the first openly gay politician to be elected to a Tokyo district parliament in April 2011. Japan does not have any anti-discrimination laws - in the city of Osaka it is even forbidden to rent cheap city apartments to people of the same sex. The current development of gay social life is encouraging. In Sapporo, a parade takes place every September, while the annual gay festival in Tokyo seems to be pausing at present. There are also gay street festivals in Nagoya (June) and in Shinjuku Ni-chome (August). It also hosts the Tokyo International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival every July. Many gays are forced into a double life by the pressure of family, job and society. Another serious problem is the increase in HIV infections among men. Politically independent interest groups and gay information centres are working hard to persuade gay men to practise "safe sex". In general, Japanese sexual morality is considered open - the protection of privacy and the right to do as you please in your own home are sacred to many Japanese. Homosexuality is often very stereotyped. Many homosexual Japanese do not identify themselves with the image of homosexuality Western culture provides. In manga culture, homosexual relations are an important component, but here, too, very rigid role models prevail. Mangas about gay men, which are aimed at female readers, often consist of two androgynous men - usually one is dominant and the other submissive and sensitive. Characters in mangas for gay readers often belong to the bear scene. Foreign tourists are generally granted many liberties that are not given to Japanese. Nevertheless, one should always respect the customs of the country. Many gay bars often put a sign outside declaring "members only" to deter heterosexuals. Gay bars are often very hard to find. Most urban addresses consist of the name of the district and three numbers such as Shinjuku 2-12-3 for a bookstore in Tokyo. The first number means that the shop is located in the 2nd district of Shinjuku. The second and third numbers indicate the block of houses there (12) and the building itself (3). There are occasionally green signs on lampposts or power poles as additional orientation indicating the district and quarter. On the houses themselves there are then blue plaques with the exact address. Tokyo has the only designated gay district in Japan: Shinjuku ni-chōme. The gay traveller will find bars, saunas, sex clubs and hotels here.
Cities in Japan
Location: Between Sea of Japan & western Pacific Ocean
International country code: 81 (omit 0 from area code)
International access code: 001, 0061 or 0041
Language: Japanese. English (commercial language)
Religions: 80% Buddhist or Shinto
Climate: Spring (Mar-May) is cherry blossom season. Autumn (Sep-Nov) is an ideal time to travel, with pleasant temperatures and the autumn colours. Winter (Dec-Feb) can be very cold.
Important gay cities: Tokyo, Osaka